One of Russia's top job seekers portal Rabota.ru announced the results of a survey among its readers on their readiness to emigrate in search of a job or escape from pending uncertainty at home. The results are stunning - 71% of the respondent answered positively with 26% ready to go asap.
Even if the site's audience intentions should not be taken with a grain of salt and certainly not as representative for the whole of Russia just the sheer numbers involved should be sending jotters across Europe.
Emigration has always been a safety valve for authoritarian regimes for two main reasons - first - their leaders prefer to let discontent leave rather than stir trouble at home and secondly - whatever opinion polls attest on Putin popularity and the role of Russian nationalistic pride as a glue holding together the nation, lack of job, safety and personal perspective override at personal and family level all and any nationalistic reverie - the classic dilemma between the fridge and the TV set.
On both counts a surge in Russian emigration could serve Kremlin good - as the Russian government is neither capable of offering jobs and welfare at least in the short to mid term nor it is likely to change its modus operandi internally and let the opposition develop full fledged anti-Putin campaign. So a controlled exit for both economic and political reasons could turn into a new a mighty weapon for the Russian president in his campaign to impress the Europeans and enforce his vision of where Europe should go.
Add to the equation the immigration flows from Ukraine and the picture will grow even darken.
East Ukraine and Crimea for all the headlines they generate remain a remote conflict for most West EU and US leaders - Russian and Ukrainian immigrants are next door. Not all of the Russians and even less Ukrainians leaving their countries are tycoons or oligarchs. And the European Union is not in the best form to accommodate new millions of job seekers from the East following . The relative neglect for welfare across EU borders has always been the basic existential flaw of the EU - the bloc's success has served as a magnet attracting cross border immigration.
With or without Putin Europe and the US need to think of keeping Russia afloat and Russians home.The options are not many given the resilience to change and accommodation of the Kremlin rules. If we are to avoid a repetition of the 1917 calamity hundred years later the West should act now.