# The Ukraine Really Is Weak

Feb. 24 2014 12:31 PM

# The Ukraine Really Is Weak

Until breaking into the news recently, the country of Ukraine was probably best known to most Americans from its role as a territory on the Risk board. In particular, Ukraine-From-Risk is central to a very memorable Seinfeld scene:

This naturally raises the question—is the Ukraine weak? The answer, I believe, is yes.

Key to analyzing this question is Garrett Robinson's paper performing mathematical analysis of Risk (h/t to Walt Hickey whose summer 2013 writeup of the paper I recalled when looking into the issue). To understand the weakness of Ukraine, we need to start with the map. Here's Robinson's version, slightly annotated by me to make an important point:

One issue that arises here is that many Risk boards out there don't have a Ukraine territory. That's because the territory traditionally labeled "Ukraine" on Ukraine-having Risk boards is not even close to replicating Ukraine's location in the geography of the planet Earth. The same territory is sometimes called "Russia" (and it does, roughly, correspond to European Russia's location) or "Eastern Europe." You can consider this ambiguity over Ukraine vs. Russia to be somewhat emblematic of the current political crisis over there. But for our purposes, that's Ukraine all the way up to the Arctic Sea.

To analyze the situation correctly you want a schematic. Here's Robinson's:

Now what you see here is that the different territories have various different numbers of neighbors but this maxes out at six. Ukraine is one of a handful of territories that can be attacked from six different places, an extreme vulnerability in a game where the odds are generally on the side of the attacker.

Which is to say that Kramer was right: The Ukraine is weak (in Risk, at least).

*Correction Feb. 24, 2014: This post originally misstated that Ukraine was uniquely vulnerable to attack due to the number of territories that could attack it and that (unlike Ontario and China) it's not on the interior of the continent. West Africa, Southern Europe, the Middle East, and East Africa are equally vulnerable by this measure.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

Sports Nut

# Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

Future Tense

Food

# How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

# The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant

The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant
News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
Life
Outward
Sept. 18 2014 4:15 PM Reactions to a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Reveal Transmisogyny
Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.