“Kill the tyrant!” The desire for Putin’s removal from power is strong and widespread. If only he were finally gone, peace could return, that is the hope of many. But that is a very naive view of the Russian leadership.
Of course, Putin is the central factor in ordering and continuing the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. But there is also a far-reaching consensus in the country’s security and military establishment behind it. Russia’s aggressive and militaristic foreign policy would probably continue even without Putin.
While it is an illusion to believe that Putin’s departure could end the war, how could he be removed from power? It is clear that there will be no popular revolt against Putin. Only a minority of Russians are against the war and in favor of Putin’s resignation. This is the urban, better educated middle class. The hurdles for open protest, the personal risk are very high – from administrative penalties to police custody to disadvantages at work and training centers or imprisonment.
The majority of the population takes note of what is happening during the war – some out of political apathy and resignation, others, disinformed about state propaganda, support the war. The political opposition has been largely crushed by the repression of recent years. Many members of the opposition were driven into exile or are imprisoned, above all Aleksej Navalnij. Many critical and highly qualified Russians have left the country in recent months. This means that the opponents of Putin in the country are becoming fewer and fewer.
Gerhard Mangott is a professor of political science with a special focus on international relations and security in the post-Soviet space. He teaches at the Institute for Political Science in Innsbruck and is a lecturer at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna
The replacement of Putin or his fall are only possible from his immediate surroundings. These are not the oligarchs. Their fortune is in itself only a fief of the feudal lord Putin. Anyone who opposes him will be financially destroyed. The banker Oleg Tinkoff had to find out. He condemned Russia’s war against Ukraine in April. He was then put under intense pressure to sell his shares in the bank. He couldn’t sell at stock price, having to sell his stake to a pro-Putin oligarch. Other oligarchs have left the country – like Anatoly Chubais, Mikhail Fridman or Pjotr Aven. Those who remain in Russia must fear the fate of Tinkoff if they oppose Putin.
The only ones who could overthrow Putin are his previous henchmen from the intelligence and military establishment. Even if they supported the decision to go to war, they could turn against Putin if Russia were to suffer a devastating defeat in Ukraine. Should the Russian army be thrown back from the areas of Ukraine occupied since February, or should Crimea be attacked by the Ukrainian armed forces, Putin’s power will be severely damaged and threatened. However, he would then be followed by someone who is partly responsible for this war.
Of course, Putin could also die. The rumors about his allegedly incurable diseases are countless. Leukaemia, thyroid cancer, Parkinson’s disease – this is speculated. A former high-ranking official in the British foreign intelligence service even wanted to know a few days ago that Putin only had a few months to live. Often the rumors are just wishful thinking, mostly the rumors are part of the information war between Russia and the western states. Putin will surely die, but probably not soon.
Putin is largely protected against an assassination by his security service. Of course, treason could undermine that; but then the tyrannicide would have to come from the inner circle of power itself. In all of this, however, it must be remembered that Putinism can also exist without Putin.