When Ukraine celebrates a quarter of a century of independence today, it'll be under the barrel of a gun.
When Ukraine marks a quarter-century of independence today, it will be in the face of a massive disinformation campaign aimed at smearing and discrediting it in the eyes of the world.
When Ukraine celebrates a quarter-century of independence today, it'll be in the shadow of threats from its larger northern neighbor.
And all this is because the very idea of an independent Ukraine is offensive to Vladimir Putin, who has famously said that Ukraine "isn't a real country."
But Putin is wrong.
Despite its very real problems, Ukraine is indeed a very real country -- and it is a country that has, over the past quarter-century, represented the path not taken by Russia.
Since winning its independence following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has become increasingly more democratic.
Russia has become markedly less so.
Since winning its independence, Ukraine has had five free, fair, and competitive presidential elections.
Russia has had none.
Since gaining independence, Ukrainian civil society has become stronger, more vibrant, and more influential.
In Russia, civil society has been steadily marginalized.
The Putin regime clearly sees the alternative model of governance that an independent Ukraine represents as a mortal threat.
And it is determined to crush it one way or another.
But thanks to Ukraine's resilience, it's failed so far.
So happy Independence Day, Ukraine.