This article is by Stanislav Stanskikh, a Visiting Scholar at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Research Fellow at UNC-Chapel Hill, and founder of The New England Institute for Country Conditions Expertise. He may be reached here: stanskikh [at]

There is an ongoing debate about whether Russians fleeing political repressions and the military draft should be granted refuge in the United States and the West, or whether protection should be refused so that these potential refugees rebel against the Kremlin instead. Opponents also draw a line between "real" refugees and those who left Russia merely to save themselves despite their prior loyalty to the regime. While the Baltic countries and Poland are turning away new arrivals, Germany and some other EU members have extended their welcome by generously granting refugee status. The President of the European Council Charles Michel favors opening the EU to fleeing Russians.

What about the United States?

Historically, the U.S. has embraced millions of refugees and immigrants from Russia. The payback in terms of scientific discoveries, technical innovations and artistic talent has been impressive--from television (Zvorykin) to the best helicopters (Sikorsky) to Hollywood, and last but not least, to “God, Bless America” by Irving Berlin.

Even during the Cold War, when Americans were taught in schools what to do in case the Reds "push the button” (duck-and-cover), the U.S. gave shelter to many people from the Soviet Union. These refugees were often well-integrated into the Soviet bureaucratic and political system despite the different forms of discrimination (Balts, Jews, etc.). Could they rebel and knock down the Communist colossus? Unlikely.

The current situation with Russia’s fascism and territorial expansion is nothing new. In a way, the country follows in the footsteps of Nazi Germany or similar dictatorships. The Kremlin has effectively silenced its anti-war and opposition movements, shut down all independent media, and started the largest conventional military action in Europe since World War II. Now Putin is threatening to use nukes.

In light of Russia’s failure to quickly conquer Ukraine, Putin has initiated a partial military mobilization, forcing hundreds of thousands of men to go to war with Ukraine despite their anti-war beliefs. Those who refuse to be drafted or who openly protest against the war face criminal charges, inevitable guilty verdicts, and imprisonment. Fleeing the country seems the only viable option to avoid the draft.

Hence, we are observing an enormous exodus from Russia, probably the biggest since the so-called White emigration between 1917 and the early 1920's. According to the Washington Post, “Putin’s Russia is losing some of its most talented and creative minds, just as Hitler’s Germany once exported many of its best and brightest to the U.S. and other countries. Some of the Third Reich’s refugees, in fact, later returned to their native land as hyper-qualified and hyper-motivated American soldiers to help finish off the Nazis.”

How should the United States and its allies react to this exodus? Shutting our doors in the midst of severe political repression and the ongoing draft campaign would be inconsistent with our nation’s democratic values and security interests. Actively sheltering Russians will help undermine Russia's war effort by encouraging people to leave the country, will demonstrate that the U.S. supports people who refuse to participate in unjust wars, and will reaffirm American's commitment to resettle displaced people from around the world and welcome refugees.

The White House clearly distinguishes between the criminal Kremlin and the Russian people, many of whom have spoken out against the war. On September 26, 2022, the White House Press Secretary responded to a question about whether the U.S. was willing to grant refugee status to Russian men fleeing mobilization. She stated, “Anyone seeking refuge from persecution, regardless of their nationality, may apply for asylum in the United States and have their claim adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.... that’s how we see our role here and our part in this.”

The following day, President Biden signed a Memorandum which kept the nation’s cap on refugee admissions at 125,000 for Fiscal Year 2023 (in FY 2021, the cap was raised from 15,000 to 125,000 refugees, but less than 20,000 have actually been admitted in 2022, despite pressure from advocates and local officials).

The current situation with Russian citizens fleeing mass persecution, especially those who fear being drafted into the Russian army, should be addressed immediately. A first step for the Biden Administration is to designate Russia for Temporary Protected Status, as Russia fully meets statutory requirements based on the ongoing armed conflict. We must ensure that Russian nationals and their dependents currently present in the U.S. are not forced to return to Russia.

Second, the U.S. should ease procedures for obtaining humanitarian parole for Russian nationals and their families who are seeking refuge to avoid the military draft and to escape from persecution. The Uniting for Ukraine Program is a good model for such a protective measure.

Next, President Biden could authorize the admission of up to 100,000 Russian refugees to the United States during FY 2023 under the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program. President Obama had done something similar--albeit on a smaller scale--for Syrians in 2015.

And lastly, the Biden administration should expedite and simplify the asylum process for Russian nationals and their dependents in the spirit of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Such measures are gaining more and more support in the U.S., including in a recent petition campaign demanding that the Biden Administration help deserters and dissidents.

As the Russian mobilization and on-going exodus continues, the Biden Administration has no plans yet to grant affected Russians special humanitarian protection. This approach must be reconsidered if the United States wants to continue as a leader of the free world and wants to help end the war in Ukraine.

The author thanks attorneys Boris Palant and Jason Dzubow for their valuable comments.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: