More on Offering Asylum to Russian Soldiers Who Surrender in Ukraine

Russian soldiers were captured in Ukraine (Ukrainian Armed Forces).


Last week, I wrote an article arguing that Russian soldiers should be granted refuge if they surrender to Ukraine. The idea originated by Duke’s economist. Timur Kuran. Since then, more people have adopted the idea. Time This article explains the topic:

As the world leaders seek to sanction and punish Russia by imposing sanctions on its trade and threatening Ukraine’s invasion, some American academics propose a novel idea. The United States and Europe should be able to provide shelter to Russian soldiers that defect or surrender.

Peter Schuck, a former Yale Law School professor, and Ilya Somin, a George Mason University’s Anontin Scalia Law School, each published op-eds on the subject—in The Wall Street JournalThe New York Times Times, respectively—and Timur Kuran, an economist at Duke University tweeted the ideaFebruary 26, 2006. He said, “Don’t assume Russian soldiers or officers like the work they do.” “Some…must be willing to break ranks, if only they have options. Let us [European Union]NATO and Russia offer refuge to military defectors.”

Michelle Mittelstadt, the Director of Communications at The Migration Policy Institute (a nonpartisan research institute), says this is something that countries should seriously consider. “Countries should certainly offer safe harbor to Russians who run afoul of the Russian government and have protection needs,” she says….

It TimeThe article includes suggestions for how the proposal might be implemented.

Somin suggests that Russian defectors could utilize the U.S.’s humanitarian parole program, which offers temporary protections from deportation for people on humanitarian grounds—a quick fix considering the state of the U.S.’s refugee system. Most Afghans resettled in America since last summer’s withdrawal are there on humanitarian parole.

However, it’s possible for Congress to act in order to receive Russian military defectors. This is common sense. Kuran tells TIME that it’s neither a right-wing or left-wing idea.

His Wall Street JournalPeter Schuck (Time) outlines several advantages to the plan in this article. He explains how even a small percentage of defectors can make a big difference.

Because even one or two initial defectors may have an effect that cascades, it is possible for such a program to work. This is especially true if the other troops are concerned about its time limitations. It would not present any risks to NATO forces, in fact it could be beneficial for them. The cost of the scheme is minimal, even if defectors spread across NATO. The idea in the U.S. should be supported by both parties. It exploits America’s “soft power”, which liberals say America has lost, and serves U.S. foreign policy interests.

The proposal was also supported by Bryan Caplan, an economist who suggests improvements and Scott Gilmore, a Canadian political commentator (I discuss his ideas here). David FrumYou can also find other information here. Tom Dannenbaum is a legal scholar who argues that Russian soldiers surrendered to Russia have the right to asylum under international refugee legislation, due in part to Russia’s illegal war of aggression.

Paul Matzko is another supporter. He points to the success of American attempts to induce defections from Hessian German forces hired by Britain during the Revolutionary War.

Nearly as many Hessians survived American wars and even more remained in kinder situations. Many Hessians arriving in lush, unrestricted land soon realized that they were not fighting on the right side. Around 3,000 Hessians fled during the conflict, which was a full tenth the total force.

It was partially due to a policy change, one of first acts of the Continental Congress. Congress ordered agents with German ancestry in August 1776 to hand out handbills close to Hessian camps on Staten Island. They would be offered clemency for deserting. A few of them fled the established German immigrant settlements that were already in Pennsylvania and other mid-Atlantic countries. The German princes of the former country were frustrated as they tried to find suitable replacements to prevent defaulting on their mercenary contract. It was an excellent strategic decision. It meant that one less Hessian soldier was needed to fight for American Independence, whether he died on the White Plains battlefield, New York or if he lived and farmed a Lancaster field.

The Time article points out that the concept is only supported by academics and commentators. It is not yet being adopted by either the US government nor any allies. However, it is possible that they will soon adopt the plan. It’s better to act sooner than later. Time has a good explanation: it is a quick and cheap way to destroy the Russian military at minimal cost, if not any.