Faced with Russia’s authoritarian kleptocracy to their north and east, Ukrainians — off and on, and with periodic mass uprisings — have chosen a very different political path in recent decades.

Through several cycles of elections and popular protest, Ukraine has moved toward the democratic ideals of the rule of law, protection of individual liberties, freedom of expression and association, free and fair elections, and the peaceful resolution of internal conflicts.

Today, international organizations classify Ukraine as a less-than-full — but aspiring — democracy. Russia and Ukraine’s divergent paths — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ever-tightening dictatorship versus Ukraine’s sometimes-chaotic open society — made the Kremlin’s recent invasion more likely.