The turning of the year 2022-23 is an apt moment to reflect on the course of Putin’s botched
invasion of Ukraine because (1) the central consensus among the western community of strategic
commentators a year ago failed to interpret the signs of Russian mobilisation correctly and also
failed to appreciate the vigour of the Ukrainian resistance that it would stimulate and (2) there are
lessons to be learned as this is not the first time in modern history such events happened. There are
real advantages to be gained from studying geo-strategic and geo-political precedents.
The paper’s purpose is to examine the making of decisions of consequence at four crossroads in
history when all participants knew that the stakes were high but where there was little consensus on
anything else; and to illuminate and help interpret current events in light of lessons they provide.
Therefore, the paper is structured around four historical couplets where each historical narrative
is linked to a contemporary analogue. The echoes heard between the four episodes provide four
matched historical couplets that offer us lessons from convergent directions as we ponder what
comes next and what different interested parties should do in Ukraine.
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