Hello everyone.

Five months ago, there was a question posted to EA reddit asking about supporting Russian protestors and whether this was a good cause for altruism: https://www.reddit.com/r/EffectiveAltruism/comments/t5csvr/supporting_russian_protestors_as_the_safest_way/ (I also noticed some interest on this forum as well, e.g. here).

Recently, one of the protest groups that I'm involved with has created a Russian Resistance website that explains what is happening and provides some options to support Russian antiwar protesters by throwing money at them. The Russian protesters are mainly operating covertly, since the degree of political repression has increased drastically since the beginning of the war, but are doing many amazing things.

(Did you know that some brave people have managed to sabotage the Trans-Siberian Railway? And the date of that event was June 29, the Russian Partisans and Underground Fighters Day? Unfortunately, we don't have the technology to safely financially support these sorts of things yet, but it actually looks like a job for something not quite unlike Assassination markets)

Could it help stop the war? Could it hasten the regime change and/or increase the odds of Russia finally moving away from authoritarian rule? Is it more effective at preventing suffering than donating to Ukrainian refugees and/or drafting a letter about new sanctions/arms delivery to your politician of choice?

I don't know, honestly. I'm afraid it's your call to make. However, putting out this information wouldn't hurt, would it? By the way, if you have any ideas or good scholarly sources on tackling this sort of questions - I would be glad to hear them.
 

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Could it hasten the regime change and/or increase the odds of Russia finally moving away from authoritarian rule? 

Could it push Russia to be even more totalitarian (the standard response of governments towards sabotage)?

That's a valid concern, but I don't think so. Some things to consider: 

  • Resources are already stretched pretty thin with the actual war going on. There's going to be a moment when there's no money for repression machine. That wasn't realistic before, but now, with various sanctions, it is.
  • From the "After Putin: Lessons from Autocratic Leadership Transitions" paper: "Though authoritarianism typically continues when authoritarian leaders exit, one positive note is that repressive conditions tend to ease in the five-year period afterwards".
  • There's a difference between sabotage and terrorist tactics. The latter do not really work except in a "we will force you to spend a lot of money on security" sense. The former not just "sends a message" -- more importantly, it directly denies resources and makes governing harder.


Additional viewpoint that might be relevant:  if you believe the duration of the war to be mainly time-dependent (e.g. "everything will end the day Putin dies or the day Ukraine gets a shipment of modern weapons") instead of resource-dependent (e.g. "everything will end the day there are no Russian volunteer soldiers anymore") then each railway delay means some amount of civilian lives saved.

Resources are already stretched pretty thin with the actual war going on. There's going to be a moment when there's no money for repression machine. That wasn't realistic before, but now, with various sanctions, it is.

Have you looked at North Korea?

Do you know of any historical examples where governments being short of money led to less repression?

Money also doesn't appear to be stretched thin: https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/53559/did-the-russian-government-have-a-20-billion-euro-budget-surplus-in-the-first-has

I think this question is irrelevant, as the group in question almost certainly doesn't do any sabotage.

This post first says in the second paragraph that the group operates covertly. Then it follows up by saying in the third paragraph that brave people committed sabotage. That's a plausibly deniable way to suggest that some of the money will lead to supporting sabotage. 

Or it's a misleading way to attract funding. The hard thing about sabotage is that it's dangerous, not that it's expensive. Either they are doing it, then publicly fundraising for it shows they have poor judgement and money they get will soon be confiscated by the government. Or they're not doing it, then talking about it is (perhaps unintentionally) misleading. I think it's the latter, because overwhelming majority of opposition activists are not capable of executing that kind of thing. 
On the other hand, I heard quite a few stories about Russian opposition activists stealing laptops, borrowing money and never returning etc. Not saying Russian opposition is unusually untrustworthy, but they are no more trustworthy than an average person. Meaning you should apply your regular amount of caution to check that you are not donating to a scam. And if you send money hoping they will be spent on X, even though no one actually promised that and officially money are spent on something else, that's not even a scam. That's you scamming yourself.

I looked up what your group does. You hold pickets and spread antiwar agitation like this one:

Writing says "No to war"

There is no way to know if you also sabotage railways, but I'm guessing you don't, because if you sabotage railways, it would make sense to keep a low profile and not draw attention to yourself by making a website and writing things on fences.
 

So, what is your theory of change? I.e. what sequence of events do you imagine will lead from you writing things on fences to the war stopping?