The Moscow Times on Tuesday reported that Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is organizing funds for President Vladimir Putin’s pet project of building a “national genetic information database.”
According to the report, Mishustin expects answers from the Education and Finance Ministries to his funding requests by the end of July, while Russia’s FSB security service claims a prototype of the system could be ready by 2024. Putin wants every Russian to carry a “genetic passport” by 2025.
The Moscow Times noted there is some confusion about what Putin means by “genetic passports,” but the system would evidently include “genetic markers to identify individuals or a detailed list of individual traits and health risks.”
Putin is also notoriously obsessed with the idea that hostile powers, including the United States, are planning biological warfare against Russia, so the genetic information database would be part of Russia’s defensive effort.
Coincidentally, Putin happens to have numerous friends and relatives who oversee genetics-related projects and therefore stand to benefit from the estimated $3 billion he is allocating for the genetics database project.
Putin said in May that developing a global leadership position in genetics would help Russia “secure the future” of its distinctive “civilization.”
“Russia is not just a country, it’s really a separate civilization. If we want to preserve this civilization, we should focus on high-level technology and its future development,” he said.
One application Russian scientists have discussed for a national genetic database and “genetic passports” would be finding superior candidates for military service. Russians would be analyzed for their “genetic predispositions” to combat and military discipline, with analysts measuring their “resistance to stress” and “ability to perform physical and mental operations” under combat conditions.
“It is about understanding at the genetic level who is more prone to, for example, to service in the fleet, who may be more prepared to become a paratrooper or a tankman,” Alexander Sergeyev, head of the Russian Academy of Sciences, explained in 2019.
“After all, the war of the future will largely be a war of intellects, of people who make decisions in conditions far different from those in the past,” Sergeyev added, proposing that high-intensity physical and cyber conflicts of the future could demand different qualities from soldiers than those favored in earlier forms of warfare.
Some observers find Putin’s talk of genetics supremacy and defending Russia’s “civilization,” above and beyond its interests as a nation-state, to be uncomfortably suggestive of eugenics. Such critics note the Russian government appears to have a higher comfort level with outright genetic engineering than any other major power, including totalitarian China.