I am a Canadian of a certain age who remembers clearly what it was like to live in Toronto in the era of Vietnam Draft Dodgers.

In the 1960’s and 70’s young men of draft age beat a steady path to Canada to preserve lives, education and future opportunities. Estimates of about 125,000 men came into Canada and made changes to Canadian culture that echo to this day. Canada was clearly the beneficiary of this substantial cohort of well educated, energized and ethical young adults.

Now that I am a Canadian migrant (returned to Scotland, land of my ancestors) I watch with fascination the war-caused Brain Drain out of the Ukraine into Europe – landing in eastern, central and western Europe in numbers never before seen. Last week’s estimates were 4 million people – that is an enormous influx of people who are well educated, skilled and encultured to high living standards.

It seems to me that Mr. Putin has badly judged the expected ease and style of his military campaign to invade and capture Ukraine. He has single handedly re-energized an unexpectedly strong response from NATO and the EU. But more than these reactions, he may have inspired the fastest, most highly qualified Brain Drain from Russia as well as Ukraine.

Because the young people of Russia, who are also well educated, skilled and world travellers know well that the “military operation” is war. Where they can do so, they are departing their country quickly. Like the former Vietnam Draft Dodgers they want to save lives, education and future prospects.

Russia, with its declining population before the war, cannot afford to lose the conscripts in its military – but more critically they cannot afford to lose the hearts, minds and bodies of their young adults who were the centre of their newly thriving middle class. In less than 2 months Russia has lost 2 decades – a whole generation – of investment in its social and cultural capital.

These Russian immigrant/refugees may not be as quickly or warmly received in Europe as their Ukranian cousins – but their brains and hearts offer significant assets and intelligences to whatever cities and nations will offer them opportunities.

It seems to me that there will be many unintended consequences of Russia’s war. Unfortunately for Russia, when it comes time to rebuild, it will have lost the best heads, most open hearts and most qualified hands. They will be rebuilding other places – who seek solutions to climate change, pandemic resilience and how to guarantee peace in our time.