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It’s a stunning comparison that, in some ways, explains everything about the crisis in Ukraine. Back in 1990, average per-person incomes in Poland and Ukraine were roughly equal, about $8,000 in each country. By 2012, they no longer were, reports economist Anders Aslund of the Peterson Institute. Poland’s per-capita income had jumped to about $18,000; Ukraine’s had dropped to $6,000.

These figures make it easy to understand why so many Ukrainians want closer ties with Europe — and why Russian President Vladimir Putin feels threatened. It’s not just geography and history. The hope is that adopting Europe’s more open economic and political system will promote faster economic growth and more freedom.

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