Offer Asylum to Russian Soldiers Who Surrender
Economist Timur Kuran has an excellent idea for how the US and its European allies can help Ukraine resist Russia at little cost to ourselves:
Don’t assume Russian soldiers and officers like what they are doing. Some—we can’t know many, because preference falsification is inherently invisible—must be willing to break ranks, if only they have options. Let EU and NATO countries offer asylum to Russian military defectors.
Kuran, author of Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification, is the world’s leading expert on “preference falsification” – the effects of situations where people have incentives to misrepresent their true beliefs. And there is good reason to believe that many Russian soldiers indeed would prefer not to be fighting Ukrainians. Political scientist Jason Lyall, an expert in the field of military morale, has a helpful summary:
Why has Russia struggled? While analysts have mostly focused on hardware and doctrine, many of Russia’s problems can be traced to a single source: low morale….
Evidence is mounting that many Russian soldiers are reluctant to fight.
Social media is littered with videos of lost and hungry soldiers looting, begging for food or ditching their tanks and trucks. Captured soldiers have expressed confusion about the war’s purpose and have surrendered once they discovered they were not on a training exercise. Hundreds of armored vehicles have been abandoned or captured by Ukrainian forces and, in at least one case, by a local farmer.
Many of Russian equipment losses have been because of abandonment and capture, not destruction. Indeed, dozens of videos of lines of stranded military equipment can be found on TikTok. Russian military authorities have threatened physical abuse or worse to enforce discipline in some units.
The rest of Lyall’s article details ways in which morale problems impede the Russian military’s effectiveness.
A shift in incentives from a situation where surrender is likely to mean eventual repatriation to Russia (where they m