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Geopolitics

How To Welcome Russians Fleeing Conscription? Europe Should Be Careful

Europe should welcome the exodus of conscientious objectors from Russia. But the conditions vary across the continent, and there needs to be some security precautions.

Russian-Georgian border

Russian nationals entering Georgia at the Verkhny Lars checkpoint on the Russian-Georgian border.

Jacques Schuster

-Analysis-

BERLIN — Russia's President Vladimir Putin is currently suffering his greatest defeat in the battle for terrain, but also public opinion.

The Kremlin may spread as much propaganda as it likes, but the pictures of kilometer-long lines of cars at the borders and thousands of young men fleeing abroad to avoid the draft with hastily packed bags show clearly what the Russian population thinks of Moscow's war of aggression.

In this sense, one can only hope that the stream will continue to flow for a long time.

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But how should European governments deal with the mass of fleeing conscientious objectors?


It's a question that won't necessarily go away soon, especially with some likely to wind up staying for a long period if they are threatened with imprisonment, or worse, at home.

Are Russian conscientious objectors a threat?

Countries like Finland, but also the Baltic States with small populations, rightly point to the security problem that those Russians can present. They recall that many of these newcomers welcomed the war, except that now they don't want to join.

Countries like Germany and France, on the other hand, are more relaxed: they have larger populations, a tradition as countries that provide protection to refugees, and a distance from Russia that is now perceived as a blessing. The German government has already indicated that it will grant residency to conscientious objectors.

So who is right: the Western and Central Europeans — or the Eastern Europeans?

Russian-Georgian border

An aerial view of cars waiting in line on the road for the Verkhny Lars checkpoint on the Russian-Georgian border on Sept. 28, 2022.

Valery Sharifulin/TASS

From Russia with a cautious welcome

The answer is disappointing because both sides are right.

It suits the EU to give protection to Russians seeking help. No one leaves their country lightly, giving up work and their previous life to enter a situation in which the new country does not become home, but one becomes a foreigner in their homeland. For the overwhelming most part, these people are neither collaborators nor spies.

It suits the EU to give protection to Russians seeking help.

Nevertheless, a country like Finland, with a population of about 5.5 million, cannot be expected to accept a large number of Russian refugees.

Helsinki should be allowed, within the framework of a EU conference of interior ministers, to pass on the majority of refugees to other EU members. But every Russian admitted should be subjected to strict security checks by police authorities and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

Putin can be trusted to send sleepers across the borders, who, depending on Russia's needs, can also wreak havoc. In Germany, the memory remains clear of the 2019 murder of a Chechen in Berlin's Tiergarten park by Russian operatives.

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Future

Some Historical Context On The Current Silicon Valley Implosion

Tech billionaires such as Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have lost far more money this year than ever before. Eccentric behavior and questionable decisions have both played a role. But there are examples in U.S. business history that have other clues.

Photo of Elon Musk looking down at screens featuring Twitter's blue bird logo

The rise and fall of Elon Musk

Daniel Eckert

-Analysis-

BERLIN — Life isn’t always fair, especially when it comes to business. Although he had already registered dozens of patents, during the global economic crisis of the 1930s, tireless inventor Nikola Tesla found himself struggling to put food on the table. Sure, investors today associate his name with runaway wealth and business achievements rather than poverty and failure: Tesla, the company that was named after him, has made Elon Musk the richest man in the world.

Bloomberg estimates the 51-year-old’s current fortune to be $185 billion. While Musk is not a brilliant inventor like Nikola Tesla, many see him as the most successful businessperson of our century.

And yet, over the past month, many are beginning to wonder if Musk is in trouble, if he has spread himself too thin. Most obvious is his messy and expensive takeover of Twitter, which includes polarizing antics and a clear lack of a strategy.

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