Russian President Vladimir Putin described the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe in history. Though it may not be true of all of history, it is certainly true of modern Russian history, because it cost Russia what it needs most: strategic depth. Until 1989, Russia’s western border was effectively in central Germany. The Caucasus shielded Russia from the south. Central Asia was a vast buffer against South Asia and potentially China. The Russian heartland, in other words, was secure from every direction.