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UPDATE: Probably not effective to end the war sooner but could be still effective to help Russians who disagree with Putin's war (see Alex' comment). Thanks Alex!

Epistemic status: I just thought of this 15min ago and wrote it up relatively quickly - good chance this intervention is not effective or maybe even net negative.

Russia's military power is at least partly limited by skilled workers (besides technology, money, fuel, ..), especially those working in the military itself as well as those in related jobs (weapons, ammunition, logistics, ..), but also by everyone else who pays taxes in Russia and thereby helps finance the war. Many of those people might disagree with Putin's war, and many others might be apolitical and would leave Russia for a better life abroad. This article elaborates on the case from a US perspective: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/03/24/welcome-russian-talent-skilled-workers-to-relocate-here/

Is this a good idea? Any reasons to believe this could be net negative? Maybe if it weakens the political opposition in Russia, or if risks the collapse of essential infrastructure that many Russians depend on? How should we weight that up?

And if people emigrate, where to?

Neighboring countries like Georgia where many speak Russian? Finland or other Nordic countries? Germany? I'm German and in our cities, English-speaking skilled Russian workers could easily get jobs and find friends without ever learning German and 3m people (4% of the German population) already speak Russian, so Germany might be a good destination even for Russians who do not speak any other language yet (caveat: I have not looked up the visa situation yet). English speaking countries? Any other suggestions?

If that's a good idea, what are bottlenecks right now? How difficult is it for the average Russian to get unbiased information on the pro's and con's of (temporarily) leaving Russia and how difficult is it to do so? How welcoming are other countries towards Russian opposition members and apolitical Russians? (I'm confident that German society would welcome them, don't have much insight in other countries)

Are any Russian EA community members considering emigrating? Can we help? I'm happy to help if you're considering Germany, just message me! :)




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Recently someone asked me to comment on an article "Want to hurt Putin? Back a brain drain from Russia". It's a slightly edited version of my response.

From a personal perspective, I would be happy to support refugee quotas or immigration quotas for Russian in Europe or the US. One of the EAs from Russia even wrote a post on that. Right now, it's even more challenging to get a visa to Europe if you have a Russian passport than before the war. Baltic states stopped issuing tourist visas for Russian, and Norway stopped issuing residential visas. I've been waiting for a UK visa for two months to attend EA Global and didn't get it, probably due to rising concerns about issuing visas to Russian citizens. I'm not mentioning that it's problematic even to pay a visa fee right now, because Visa/Mastercard stopped working in Russia.

But from a big-picture perspective, I don't think the goals described in the article would be met by this kind of action:

  • The role of the IT sector in Russian GDP is negligible, ~1%. Putin relies on the army, repression mechanisms, and oil exports. Not on well-educated tech industry workers who can relocate and be welcomed in the West.
  • The state made multiple announcements that society is "cleaning itself" from traitors with Western values, who are relocating abroad right now. So Putin is even happy that these high-skilled people are leaving the country. Because it's the same people who support independent media, join street protests, and ask for change. He doesn't care about decreasing GDP, he cares about staying in charge. 
  • Almost everyone who is working for the military is banned from traveling abroad. They can do it only 3-5 years after dismissal. Keep in mind that after 22 years of Putin's regime the militaries are pretty loyal due to the negative selection processes.

Thanks for your inside view, Alex, really appreciate it! 
Your points seem reasonable and I no longer think this could help end the war sooner. 

Sorry to hear that you did not even get a visa to come to EAG London, that sucks! :/ 
If there's anything we can help with, let us know! 

Thanks also for linking that forum post! 

In the US they'd probably be good candidates for asylum if they can make out the case for why they fear persecution in Russia. I don't think the argument about weakening the Russian opposition holds any water; it's not a democracy and their opinions are frankly irrelevant to Russian politics unless they are armed and have personal access to Putin. So we should not encourage dissident Russian generals or palace guards to to seek asylum but everyone else might as well. 

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