Opinion | It’s time to ban Russian visas

Ban Russian visas till they halt their invasion of Ukraine.

Peter Anders, Opinions Contributor

Months after Russian president Vladimir Putin started the Russia-Ukraine war, Russia has become increasingly irrational. Russians have fled the country they once called home.

Neighboring countries had been reasonably open to Russian immigrants, but in the last few months, neighboring countries have begun to scale back their acceptance of Russians, and some have begun to deny them refuge.

Russians can enter other countries through two different types of visas: tourist visas and regular visas. Tourist visas are for a shorter period in the country, and regular visas can lead to getting permanent residency. 

While numbers are not published, Russians have reportedly fled to the U.S. since the war started in February. This includes the Mexico-U.S. border.

It is time to follow our European counterparts’ example and ban tourist and regular visas for the time being. 

Russians who were against the Russia-Ukraine war have likely already left Russia, and I think anyone who flees from here on out are possibility opportunists. They could be fleeing Russia because of the sanctions and the draft, not because they’re against the war crimes being committed.

Many of the countries that banned Russian visas brought up the fact that Russia has become masters of disinformation, and these people could spread pro-war propaganda across the west.

In fact, Nordic countries already have examples of Russians who crossed their border, posing security risks. Norwegian authorities detained a man who had been flying drones sighted around the country for weeks.

Russia has a history of using our immigration systems to place spies and agents in our government. Earlier this year, 22 Russians were expelled from the U.S. for likely being spies. It’s a terrifying prospect of Kremlin spies trying to sabotage our infrastructure here in America.

Some would argue that punishing all of Russia for the decisions of their unelected leader is unfair. 

With around 80 percent of Russians, according to surveys, supporting Putin, it’s safe to assume many Russian immigrants leaving from Russia here on out also do. The old systems of the KGB long used the willingness of the west to take in those seeking refuge to exploit for Russia’s own interest.

Discerning Russian people from Putin is something we strived to do early in the conflict, but maybe it’s time to stop trying. At this point, it’s safe to assume any dissenters have already long left Moscow.

Putin bears responsibility for the war, but so does Russia overall. Lest we forget, he was actually elected in 2012. 

It should be reiterated that Russians who fled after or prior to the Ukraine invasion bear no fault. Many of them likely left on moral grounds and disgust at the prospect of the war. They deserve to be supported by people and countries with open arms.

But, it’s time for Russia and its remaining population to finally face the consequences of its cruel invasion of Ukraine. Only they can change their country’s current course.

As Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview with The Washington Post, “[Russians] live in their own world until they change their philosophy.”

And if they don’t, then so be it, but we cannot continue to treat them and welcome them into this country like they’re not a security risk.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.