EU should offer a reward to Russian soldiers who lay down their arms

The European Union should follow Ukraine’s example and promise to offer a reward to Russian soldiers who surrender. The EU’s reward programme should go further than Ukraine’s by offering not only money but guaranteeing asylum in the EU, and soldiers who also surrender valuable equipment should be given an even bigger reward, writes Dr. Sanna Kurronen, lead economist at the Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA, in her blog.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence is offering a reward of five million roubles (around EUR 35,000) to Russian soldiers who surrender.[i]

If motivation is already weak, surrendering may feel like a suitably attractive option to Russian soldiers, provided that the conditions for surrender are sufficiently good and the soldiers can trust the terms they are given.[ii]

Therefore, we need to make sure that:

1) the Russian soldiers feel they can trust the EU’s offer;

2)  the reward is sufficiently high considering the risk that they may be severely punished in their homeland for surrendering and that the punishment may also extend to family members; and

3)  the Russian soldiers will hear about the offer.

In terms of trustworthiness, the EU is in a strong position. It has the resources to pay large sums in rewards and the credibility of being trustworthy. In fact, the EU should offer a lump sum of EUR 100,000 and asylum in the EU to the surrendering soldiers.[iii] It could also offer asylum to the soldiers’ immediate family.

Paying to end the war also makes sense for the EU from the economic perspective.

In addition, more money should be paid for any weapons and equipment that are surrendered at the same time.[iv] Although Ukraine may not be able to use such Russian equipment because of tracking systems, for example, demilitarising the equipment would also weaken Russia. The Russian air force has particularly desirable equipment and air force personnel have the opportunity to make independent decisions. The crew of a battle tank could also agree to surrender.

Even in the optimistic scenario in which almost all of the 200,000 Russian soldiers currently taking part in the military operations were to surrender, the costs would only add up to EUR 20 billion, which is just over one thousandth of the EU’s GDP. Paying to end the war also makes sense for the EU from the economic perspective, as the war is slowing economic growth and the sanctions that have already been imposed are having an impact not only on Russia but also on the rest of Europe.

Informing the soldiers of the offer would be challenging but not impossible. It could be announced over radio frequencies in the war zones, and also through conventional and social media.

In order for the EU to be able to keep its promises, the soldiers would need to be brought to safety in EU territory as quickly as possible, which means that at least to begin with, the reward campaign should be concentrated primarily in western Ukraine, around Kyiv, for example, where the route to Poland and elsewhere in the EU remains open.

References and sources

[ii] Ramakrishna, K. (2002). Bribing the Reds to Give Up: Rewards Policy in the Malayan Emergency. War in History.


Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA is a pro-market think tank – Aiming to promote the long-term success of the Finnish society

EVA aims to impact current public debate through the production of informed opinions and knowledge, and by proposing reforms to political decision-makers.

Founded in 1974, EVA is a non-profit association. The members of Elinkeinoelämän valtuuskunta EVA ry (Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA) are the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), the Confederation of Finnish Industry and Employers (TT) Fund, Finance Finland, the Finnish Commerce Federation, Finnish Forest Industries, and Technology Industries of Finland. EVA works in close cooperation with ETLA Economic Research.