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The Russians Who Are Leaving

Regardless of whether Russia wins or loses its war of aggression in Ukraine, the country and its problematic political culture will remain. And while the growing Russian diaspora could play an integral role in domestic reform over the long term, it first will have to prove that it can put realism before nostalgia.

WARSAW – In the broader discussion about Russia’s war on Ukraine, an important but overlooked element is the exodus of Russians from their homeland. Though it is impossible to determine the scale of this phenomenon, we can expect the outflow to continue, especially if the United States pursues a policy to lure highly skilled specialists and sustain a Russian brain drain, as President Joe Biden has proposed.

The Russian diaspora could be a key partner in building a new Russia after Vladimir Putin no longer rules. But the emigrants cannot count on a warm welcome in Europe, where resentment against even “ordinary Russians” is now widespread.

To be sure, the sentiment is somewhat understandable, given that Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine apparently commands high support among the Russian public. Such findings from pollsters cannot be ignored. Though the Kremlin has unleashed the full might of its propaganda machine, it is not as though we are living in the 1940s. Russians who want the truth can easily get it.

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