American flag in Times Square in New York City (Image: Ilya Varlamov / zyalt.livejournal.com)
Historically, wars were fought over territory; in the 20th century, they were mostly about resources; today, they are about brains, Ilya Varlamov argues, adding that Vladimir Putin doesn’t understand this, that he is fighting with the wrong goals and means, and that as a result, his Russia is already losing the real third world war.
The Russian blogger says: “Let us be honest: it is completely unimportant whether Crimea returns or not. It is unimportant whether Putin gives up or doesn’t give up the Kuriles. And even if tomorrow we took back Alaska, nothing would change on the global scale.”
As the more recent crisis has shown, having oil or other natural resources is “not so important” either, Varlamov continues.
But there is one resource that matters now above all: the brains of its citizens. The country “which creates good conditions for work and life” for the most talented people is “going to win.”
People today are “mobile and educated. Cultural barriers are ever lower.” In the past, moving to another country “was a serious step” that imposed real problems for individuals. Today, however, “this is not such a big deal and for young people, it is a new normal because present-day technologies allow us to feel ourselves at home almost anywhere in the world.”
“For young people,” Varlamov writes, “there are in general no borders. For them, it is simpler to fly to London than to Omsk, and they will choose where things are better.” Of his own class, “the cleverest and most talented ones” have already gone to Europe, the US, or Israel. “This is a problem: they could have remained in Russia, but they have left.”
“They have left because there are more possibilities for them abroad, because there are fewer risks, because there is less arbitrariness and chance of losing one’s business, because there is a court which won’t simply impose the decision it is instructed to take via the telephone” from the bosses.
The departure of such people is a defeat for Russia, he says. It may not be as immediately obvious as the loss of territory. That can be shown on a map. But even if these losses can’t be shown that way, they are “much more serious for the country than they may appear to many.”
What is especially distressing is that Russia is making the situation worse for itself by the adoption of laws and the taking of steps which convince ever more of the most talented that they have no future in Russia, he says; and they are thus voting with their feet, against Russia and for other countries where their possibilities are greater.
Indeed, the Russian blogger says, “every one-way ticket they buy is a defeat for Russia,” even if the Kremlin doesn’t see this.
That has been clear to the most thoughtful for some time, but the ways the regime has chosen to fight it aren’t working. Rather they are making the situation worse. And “even if tomorrow the FSB took away all passports, introduced exit visas, and closed the borders, nothing of a principled nature would change.”
That is because, Varlamov says, “for a strong country now, what is important is not only what its citizens can achieve themselves at home but whether the country can attract an influx of fresh blood.”
The countries that are going to win in this war are going to be those who “attract the best” by creating conditions so that the best will come to them. “Any successful project in the US, Europe and China is the work of an international team of the best, by it an IT start-up or the Large Hadron Collider.”
In this respect, “Russia in general cannot offer anything,” and Varlamov says that he “does not see what [his] country could do in order that talented and intelligent young people would want to live and work here.” Others including China are competing for these people; Russia is driving them out.
“Does the third world war frighten you?” he asks rhetorically. “How do you imagine it will look? Will it involved radioactive rubble, cosmic lasers or robots? No. The Third World War has already begun. This is a war for brains. And [Russia] so far is losing it.”
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