To hurt Putin, steal his top students – POLITICO

Mikhail Kokorich is a Swiss businessman of Russian descent and the CEO of Destinus, a Swiss aircraft company.

PAYERNE, Switzerland – The fight against Russian President Putin will be a long one. Sanctions will take effect. The economy will suffer, incomes will fall, but they won’t do much to loosen the government’s grip on the country’s undemocratic media and institutions – at least in the short term. Short-term.

In the long run, however, much can be done to ease Putin’s hold on power and weaken his ability to intimidate neighbors. Much has been written about measures such as refusing to buy energy and raw materials from Russia, or cutting the country off from Western technology, especially microelectronics.

But the Putin regime and its military-industrial complex have an important weakness that is often overlooked: young scientists and engineers who are the future of the country’s technology industry.

Russia is currently experiencing the worst demographic crisis in its history. The shortage of young engineers is the main obstacle to Russia’s technological development – a particularly serious obstacle in the country’s military-industrial complex. If the country is deprived of 10 to 20 percent of its most talented young engineers, the consequences over the next decade and beyond will be dire for Russia’s tech sector.

When I started my first space company, Dauria Aerospace, 11 years ago in Moscow, my biggest challenge was people. Finding talented young engineers with training is difficult, and I don’t think the situation has improved in the eight years since I left Russia.

Inviting young engineers and scientists with bachelor’s and master’s degrees to continue their education in the West could dent Russia’s technological future. The vast majority of young Russians who leave to study in the West never return to Russia. This has been true since the 16th century, when Czar Boris Godunov to the 18 children of the Russian nobility to Europe to study, only for them to decide to stay.

In recent decades, a large number of Russian engineering minds have moved to the West, where they have contributed to scientific breakthroughs, won Nobel Prizes and founded billion-dollar companies. All efforts by the Russian government to attract scientists back, including through massive grants, have been futile. In this sense, Russian emigration is very different from Chinese emigration, which is often roundabout.

However, it is important to attract them abroad at a young age: Target bachelor students, graduate students of master’s programs, PhD students. As soon as a young engineer starts working in the Russian military industry, their passports are taken away and they cannot go anywhere.

According to the Russian Ministry of Education, there are currently 4 million students in the country. Among them, engineering and science account for around 800,000, but many of them attend universities of questionable quality. The strongest engineering and science students are concentrated in the top 15 to 20 universities, and they number no more than 100,000-150,000 students.

In other words, about 20,000 to 30,000 capable students graduate each year from these universities by majors that contribute to the Russian technology sector. Of these, 10 to 20 percent (less than 5,000) are truly excellent students who may become bright futures. So, to catastrophically undermine the future of the Putin regime, all that is needed is to open up the possibility for a few thousand young people to leave Russia and study in the West. Considering the cost of education, that’s several hundred million dollars a year – a small number compared to the possibility of a Third World War. This is the most decisive step the West can take to undermine Putin’s ability to wage war and destroy the future of his regime. To hurt Putin, steal his top students - POLITICO

Fry Electronics Team

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