Could Putin Be Removed From Power?

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In 2000, former KGB agent Vladimir Putin came to power in Russia. He replaced former President Boris Yeltsin, who worked to navigate the country from the communism of the USSR to a more capitalist model. Since then, Putin has controlled the government, with only a four-year break as president from 2008 to 2012. As his war on Ukraine approaches ten months in duration, things are going differently than planned, and rumors are flying about the Russian leader’s future.

Some openly wonder if the autocrat could be removed from power. For many reasons, experts doubt a coup is likely, but say it’s not impossible. If it does happen, what would it look like, and how would it impact the country?

Prospects for a Coup

Over the last 20 years, Putin has consolidated power by balancing political and economic influence and interest groups. On November 24, Baltic News Network reported the Latvian Constitution Protection Bureau (SAB) believes an overthrow is unlikely. The SAB noted Russia’s political system has been stable for a long time. Nonetheless, it noted resistance is growing as the country struggles in its war against Ukraine.

Still, the political system ensures stability and protects Putin from criticism. The SAB believes the possibility of a coup is low, citing too many risks for the elite.

Dr. Brent Eastwood is the New Defense and National Security Editor for Eastwood said there isn’t a group of young military officers anyone knows of plotting against the longtime Russian president. He added how media elites rarely go against him, and if they do, Putin bans or silences them.

According to Russian expert Amy Knight, three organizations would need active or passive support for a successful uprising: the military, FSB (successor to the KGB), and the National Guard. She emphasized that in 1953 there was an overthrow of Joseph Stalin’s secret police chief and the removal of the Communist Party’s First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev in 1964. In both instances, she noted it took the support of the armed forces and the security services.

Why a Coup Is Unlikely

Eastwood said one of the FSB’s primary responsibilities is to keep an eye on the military to prevent an overthrow. The head of the FSB is a Putin protege and loyalist unlikely to aid a removal attempt. Additionally, the overseer of the National Guard is also highly loyal to him and would likely find out about any attempted bad actors.

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