A question I am often asked after presentations, or on Twitter, is one on the subject of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s removal. Is it a question of when or if? Why hasn’t it happened yet? Who would do it?
No less than sitting United States Senators have voiced their opinions on this topic publicly. And Major General Kyrylo Budanov, of Ukraine’s Intelligence service, has not been shy of mentioning his views that such a move in Moscow is imminent. (For what it’s worth, it seems he’s been happy to share this story every few weeks to whomever will listen. Broken clocks, I guess…) Western outlets speculate on a whole host of issues affecting Putin: blood cancer. Parkinson’s disease. Degenerative bone or neurological symptoms. Is Putin a lizard person?
My two cents? it doesn’t matter. Russian aggression against Ukraine is not unique to President Putin. The weakness of Russian geography shapes Russian geopolitical imperatives. The Soviet Union had no shortage of horrors it was willing to inflict on Ukrainians to keep them close and subjugated. Imperial Russia’s leaders had similar expansionist tendencies as Putin today. The desire to control Ukraine is not Putin’s particular bit of fancy; it’s been a part of Russian regional strategy for centuries.