In the current circumstances, opening the borders of European countries to large numbers of Russian men is not possible without considerable risks, writes Reform MEP Urmas Paet.
The question of whether or not to offer asylum to those men leaving Russia, who do not want to go to the front in Ukraine, is increasingly being debated in Europe. In some quarters, the arguments for (accepting them) sound very naive, as if lessons from recent history have still not been learned.
My view is, that offering asylum to men who are leaving Russia at this moment in time would, in any case, be too risky for Europe, and therefore it should not be done.
What arguments have I also put forward to my colleagues from other European countries, whose positions on this issue are not yet clear or, are even the complete opposite (to mine)?
The first argument is, that there are no grounds to draw an equivalence between those men leaving Russia now for fear of going to war, and those who are automatically against attacking Ukraine or oppose Vladimir Putin's regime.
A second argument, that might make one wonder, is that, if Russia really wants to achieve the maximum result possible from its announced mobilization, why has it not closed its borders? Why are these hundreds of thousands of men being allowed to leave Russia?
Logic would state, that if you want to get the maximum (number of recruits), you close the borders and take this maximum from the (entire) population.
It is also quite clear that, among those who have already left Russia, are some whom the Russian authorities themselves wanted to include. There have already been anti-government protests in Moldova for instance, with the involvement of figures who have just arrived there from Russia.
Where will their loyalty lie and how will they behave, if there should be a direct conflict with their home country?
The third argument is, that if, for example, the war in Ukraine were to escalate into a conflict between the West and Russia, Europe could find itself in a situation where hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of young Russian men are already here. Where will their loyalty lie and how will they behave, if there should be a direct conflict with their home country? One can try to guess, but in any case, the risks are very high.
It should also be mentioned that, although by now quite a number of Russian men have already left the country, even after having reaching a safe environment, there are no signs of significant anti-war demonstrations or condemnation of Russian policy.
At the same time, it is also not true to say, that if they cannot get into Europe, Russian men are unable to leave their country. It should not be forgotten that the entrance to Europe is supposed to be closed anyway, but large sections of the Russian border are open in other directions, especially towards Asia. It is therefore possible to go to Mongolia, China or any other country where Russian mobilization does not apply. So, Europe is far from being the only direction in which they can go.
In summary, given that Russia's war against Western values is continuing and deepening, in the current circumstances, opening the borders of European countries to large numbers of Russian men is not possible without considerable risks.
Editor: Michael Cole