Russia Without Putin—Coming Soon?

What would Russia—and the world be like without Putin?

The inherent dignity of life does not manifest in isolation. Rather, it is through our active engagement with others that their unique and irreplaceable nature becomes evident. At the same time, the determination to protect that dignity against all incursions adorns and brings forth the luster of our own lives. Daisaku Ikeda

Putin has been isolated for some time now if the multitude of images of him twenty feet from others means anything. Reportedly, he has been pouring over historical maps of the continent in which his country sits. Changing borders—with and without its dominance and control. Obsessed with returning it to what he believes a sphere of power and influence. Is he losing touch or is that performative behavior intended to rattle the world? It doesn’t really matter.

Dignity, if it ever existed within him, long ago left Putin. He has no qualms poisoning individuals. Nor employing weapons of mass destruction against innocents en masse. It’s all in service of keeping himself in charge and in pursuit of his legacy restoring Russia to its former glory. Oh, and increasing his vast wealth along the way.

But there are good reasons to believe that soon he will no longer be in charge. How soon? Possibly as soon as four to six weeks, but perhaps a bit longer. Is he truly as alone as he appears? Is he delusional or otherwise mentally impaired? Again, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the effects of his invasion of Ukraine.

You already know the suffering inflicted on Ukraine. The deaths, destruction and displacement of its people is shown on all media. Why Putin is not long for his political life, lies elsewhere. Let’s begin with that 40-mile-long convoy of tanks and trucks that has been stalled miles from Kiev for three days. Why?

  • Lack of fuel–and food
  • It’s been under attack by Ukrainian forces
  • Damaged vehicles can’t be removed or turned around off-road

What about the Russian soldiers? Many of them are reportedly conscripts with no combat experience. Ones who thought they still doing drills, only to find out they were invaders. Maybe they were told to expect a warm welcome—not motivated resistance. What happened to them?

  • Some surrendered
  • Some were captured
  • Thousands were killed (Russia denies that)

Forget the sanctions. As much as they will shave off some wealth from the oligarchs and ruin the Russian economy, Putin doesn’t really care about them. At least few think so. Nor does he care what the world thinks or even the Russian people. Opposition parties are not allowed on the ballot in Russia. The people won’t revolt—that’s too dangerous and they are right to fear it. What then?

Consider those within the Kremlin. The highest-ranking military officers. The ones whose sons (maybe some daughters) are leading units in or on the border of Ukraine. Possibly extended family members in Ukraine. The war is not going well. Their children may die. The military leaders—and their children may be charged with war crimes. As things get progressively worse in both Russia and Ukraine, THOSE folks may revolt.

How is it that the US has been able to predict, days in advance, exactly what the next steps the Russian invasion strategy would be? Down to false flags, disinformation, misinformation, troop movements, etc.? Two ways—human intelligence (inside information passed to US agencies) or signals intelligence (messages captured electronically by satellites, wire, etc.). Trump was a high-level KGB officer. He knows this and undoubtedly has been trying diligently to find and remove such people—apparently not completely successfully.

Assuming both intelligence channels have been working well and may still be. Those involved on the Russian side will have been working hard to keep themselves safe. One way to ensure their survival would be to carefully negotiate with those military officials (one or more of which themselves might be leaks) to offer Putin an option—step down or die. That might stop the invasion of Ukraine. But who would succeed Putin? Someone like Alexei Navalny? Don’t hold your breath.

As the war in Ukraine ends, the country can begin rebuilding. That will take time. We can hope—not necessarily expect, that the nations and organizations that have supported them in their time of need against Russia will aid in the rebuilding. Again, as the philosopher/peacebuilder and Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda said:

[I]t is through our active engagement with others that their unique and irreplaceable nature becomes evident.