The United States may not be fighting against Russia in Ukraine with weapons, but there is a key tool the Biden administration should deploy to counter Russia: green cards.
Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a multipronged invasion of Ukraine, striking major cities, killing more than 100 people, and displacing thousands. The campaign has been widely condemned by international leaders and met significant resistance from the Russian public. In a nation that routinely and brutally cracks down on dissent, thousands of Russian citizens participated in protests against Putin's invasion of Ukraine. "No to war," chanted some 1,000 demonstrators in Moscow, as more than 1,300 people were detained nationwide.
Putin does not have unanimous support for his invasion, and there may well be a mounting appetite among his people to flee the regime. This is a prime opportunity for the U.S. to open its doors, depriving Putin of the brainpower driving his economy and this conflict. What's more, the Biden administration could bolster America's innovative edge by offering refuge to Russian citizens who are disgusted by their government's actions.
National Review's Robert Zubrin proposed as much yesterday in a piece entitled "Drain Putin's Brains," in which he argued that the U.S. should "make the smart move and take away the men and women Putin needs to win" the fight in Ukraine. "The United States could, with a stroke of a pen, totally destroy the capacity of Russia to compete militarily or economically with us by offering a green card to any Russian with a technical degree who wishes to emigrate to the United States," Zubrin continued. Such a move may not stop the current invasion, but it would hobble Russia's ability to participate in the high-tech economy—fully in line with a central thrust of Biden's announced sanctions against the Kremlin.
Getting Russian brainpower out of Putin's hands will undoubtedly benefit America. The U.S. has a history of accepting great minds fleeing rival nations, from the scientists who escaped the Axis and later staffed the Manhattan Project to the many artists, athletes, and authors who defected from the Soviet Union. Immigrants are more likely to start businesses than native-born Americans, a trend that fully applies to Russian migrants. Accepting Russian immigrants, as with other groups, would help create jobs for native-born Americans—not take them away.
Unfortunately, Russia's invasion of Ukraine has already led to a concerning level of skepticism toward Russian nationals on our soil. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D–Calif.) has floated the idea that "kicking every Russian student out of the United States" should be "on the table." That proposal would target the nearly 5,000 Russian students studying in the U.S. as of 2021. It should go without saying that punishing uninvolved citizens for the sins of their government is a terrible idea and one that would do little to deter Putin's aggression.
The U.S. should extend a welcome to the Russians who are interested in fleeing Putin's repressive regime and hope to live and prosper on American soil. War as a form of competition with Russia would only lead to economic destruction on America's part, regardless of the conflict's eventual outcome. Instead, the U.S. can bolster its economy as it deprives Putin of the minds that keep Russia's industrial motors running.