Skip to main content
What in the World?

Russia is desperate and its young men are fleeing


Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist


Seven months after Russia invaded Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has called up to 300,000 reservists to support its struggling military. The draft has led to a massive exodus of young Russian men, with some reports estimating the number fleeing the country exceeding the total number of troops in the original invasion force. Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan breaks down Russia’s familiar war strategy of throwing bodies at a problem. However, in this modern industrial age of transportation, the strategy may not work as well.

Excerpted from Peter’s Sept. 29 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

When it comes to conventional warfare, Russian leaders have relied upon the same tactic for centuries: throw people at the problem. Russian territory has poor defensibility–so do the lands of the countries Russia has between its own borders and most overland invasion routes. The solution? Plug the gaps with bodies. Lots of them.

What foreign forces didn’t get mucked up in, well, the mire of the Northern European Plain, usually had to contend with the poor souls Russian leadership was able to place between itself and those forces seeking to invade. The advent of modern warfare has diminished the effectiveness of these tactics, from machine guns to modern artillery and drones, but Russian military leadership has to contend with another wrinkle: the mobility of modern Russian men. Gone are the days when you could corral villagers and locals and send them off to front lines. As we’re seeing along all roads out of Russia, those who can run away from mobilization notices are choosing to do so. In the hundreds of thousands–to say nothing of those who are likely avoiding call up notices within Russia itself.

Hey, everybody, Peter Zion here coming to you from home in Colorado. It’s been about a week since the Russians activated their draft for their partial mobilization. And so if there are, things are not going well, every plane out of all Russian locations to any other location are full. Every ticket for the next month is basically been sold on every possible plane, people are chartering private flights at 25 grand a seat in order to get out and there are miles long traffic jams at exit points, especially in Georgia, and Finland, where you can still drive out. So not great. The angles for this are both military, and demographic. So the Russian strategy for all of its Wars has always been about numbers. The Russian core territories are very, very poor, not in resources necessarily, but the weather is awful. So if you’re talking to agricultural output per acre, it’s among the lowest of the major agricultural producers. And that means that the strategy the Russians have to use is not necessarily for high value added equipment in order to prosecute their wars. But instead for just mass numbers, human wave tactics, subjecting their voters wave after wave after wave of poorly skilled, poorly trained, poorly equipped soldiers until the numbers win the day. Now, the industrial revolution changed the math of this somewhat. Because once you get to the Industrial Revolution, and things like steel and railroads and machine guns, movement becomes easier and faster, you can deliver damage at range. And so you can become a little bit more precise. But in the case of Russia, it hasn’t been as much of a game changer as you might think. Because most of the countries that Russia borders have been just realized deeper and more quickly going back to the dawn of the industrial revolution itself, and there is no exception there today. So it’s still a numbers game. The problem is, human wave tactics don’t work when the other side doesn’t simply have machine guns, but artillery and air power. And because of the Russian incapacity to train and because of their logistical incompetence. Now on the Eastern Front in places like Denon skimo oNsc. In most battles, the Ukrainians are fighting as a near pure power, they’ve managed to capture enough Russian equipment that the Russians are no longer enjoying a 10 or 20 to one artillery ratio, it’s something much more close to even. So we’ve already had some reports that some of the draftees had gotten one day of instruction, and then were shipped off to the front and have already charged into the Ukrainian lines and gotten massacred almost to a man, how reliable those reports are at this point. It’s a warzone. And it’s Russia. So we really don’t know. But it does kind of fit the historical pattern.

Second, there’s another aspect to the revolution and how it has empowered the individual. It’s not just about tanks, it’s about passenger cars, people are a little bit harder to corral in the industrial age, and they were in the pre industrial age. So when you want to go and draft someone, and if you’ve got a car, you don’t want to go into the army, especially if you’re just going to be used as cannon fodder,

you run. And so we’ve got those traffic jams at the border. And even if you’re just in your car, going from city to city, it makes it a little bit more difficult for the Russian authorities to find you. So far, the low end estimates that I’ve seen one week after the draft started are the 300,000 Russian men primarily in the 20s have fled the country so far. That is supposedly how many people the Russian draft is supposed to activate in this first phase will probably be more than that in time. But the Russians only have 6.8 million men in their 20s. So losing people in the hundreds of 1000s is not a rounding error. And if you combine this numbers game with human wave tactics and the industrial ability to either flee or mow down the troops, you need a lot more numbers than you would normally and 6.8 million just isn’t probably enough. And that’s before you consider that Russia was in a state of advanced demographic decay and no longer has the numbers that it needs and volume.

The bottom line of all of this still rushes war to lose. They’ve may not have the numbers they’ve had relative to their foes in the past, but they still have more than enough. But if they continue to underperform, not only are they looking to lose this war, but this will absolutely be the last conventional war they fight because they simply don’t have a replacement generation being built. And the age group that would normally be doing the building is running right now. Okay, that’s it for me. Until next time.


More from Peter Zeihan

Latest Commentary

We know it is important to hear from a diverse range of observers on the complex topics we face and believe our commentary partners will help you reach your own conclusions.

The commentaries published in this section are solely those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of Straight Arrow News.

Latest Opinions

In addition to the facts, we believe it’s vital to hear perspectives from all sides of the political spectrum. We hope these different voices will help you reach your own conclusions.

The opinions published in this section are solely those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of Straight Arrow News.

Weekly Voices

Left Opinion Right Opinion


Left Opinion Right Opinion


Left Opinion Right Opinion


Left Opinion Right Opinion


Left Opinion Right Opinion