Rumors that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be ousted in an imminent coup have been percolating as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drags on. The growing unpopularity of the war (and the staggering death toll) paired with a sinking economy, have helped to fuel the idea that Putin would be forcefully removed from power.
The rumors received a boost earlier this year when Abbas Gallyamov, a former speechwriter for Putin who is now a political commentator, told CNN that a coup was possible.
“The Russian economy is deteriorating,” Gallyamov said in an interview. “The war is lost. There are more and more dead bodies returning to Russia, so Russians will be coming across more difficulties and they’ll be trying to find explanation why this is happening, looking around to the political process and they’ll be answering themselves: ‘Well, this is because our country is governed by an old tyrant, an old dictator.”
And in Gallyamov’s view, due to the compounding circumstances “a military coup will become possible.”
“So in one year when the political situation changes and there’s a really hated unpopular president at the head of the country and the war is really unpopular, and they need to shed blood for this, at this moment, a coup becomes a real possibility,” Gallyamov said.
Ukraine invasion has gone horribly for Russia
Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has not gone well. Aside from the suffering inflicted upon Ukraine, Russia has also unleashed a set of corollary problems upon itself. In military, economic, and geopolitical terms, the invasion has degraded Russia’s standing. “The war has badly damaged Russia’s military and tarnished its reputation, disrupted the economy, and profoundly altered the geopolitical picture facing Moscow in Europe,” Steven Pifer wrote for Brookings Institute.
Russia had invaded Ukraine with hopes of forcing an immediate capitulation. But Russian failures (plus intense Ukrainian resistance) has turned the conflict into a war of attrition featuring the most vicious fighting on the European continent since World War II.
The conflict has resulted in significant casualties on the Russian side – perhaps as many as a quarter-of-a-million so far, with no end to the conflict in sight. Similarly, Russian equipment has been decimated. Estimates hold that Russia has lost upwards of 9,000 fighting vehicles (i.e. tanks, armored personnel carriers, etc.).
And Russia’s aggression has resulted in international condemnation, which has manifested itself in economic sanctions. The result: Russia’s economy has been pushed into recession.
Aside from the material damage Russia has incurred, Russia has also ruined its reputation, becoming a pariah within the international community. “It will take years, if not decades, to overcome the enmity toward Russia and Russians engendered by the war,” Pifer wrote.
Understandably, given the calamitous outcome of the invasion so far, the climate has become ripe for coup speculation. But a coup still seems unlikely – especially considering that Putin is aware of the prospect. Last year, Putin removed over 100 Federal Security Bureau agents to send a “very strong message” to those who opposed war in Ukraine. Similarly, Putin placed the former leader of the Russian Fifth Service under house arrest. You can expect Putin to continue taking steps to make a coup less likely.
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Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.
May 9, 2023 at 10:14 pm
If he was a real man he would sign up for front line service.
Talk is cheap Puzin.
May 10, 2023 at 12:22 am
Such a coup would almost certainly result in a step-up/escalation in Russian efforts in Ukraine, not a diminution of exertion.
May 10, 2023 at 12:25 am
Perhaps you should re-read Luttwak’s book on coups… a palace coup is about all that could be viable here with the structure the Russians have in place. This would almost certainly result in a more hard line proponent of the war/Russian nationalism coming to power.
May 10, 2023 at 3:34 am
Russia has succeeded in making itself very small in every way. It’s become a pariah state for sure, but a laughably weak and backward rogue, too.
Putin becomes smaller on the world stage every day. Seems like if he vanished few would know or care.
May 10, 2023 at 5:56 pm
Tamerlane, Russia has committed all it can to the war, there is almost nothing more to give. Ukraine is now taking back Russian gains in Bakhmut and the “spring offensive” hasn’t really begun yet. You Russian trolls have been wrong every time. A coup won’t lead to a more west aligned leader, it will likely produce an even more extreme authoritarian. But such a person isn’t going to get any better results in Ukraine for you. I can provide a simple proof to this. How many Generals has Putin fired in Ukraine for lack of progress? What moron would think that changing leaders is going to do anything that changing generals doesn’t do? Yep, you got it, you! I welcome a replacement to Putin because it will actually make things in Russia worse. And only then will Russian people wake up to the fact they just like you, they are wrong about everything. Only when the next leader goes after Russians to consolidate power will you all realize that the problem is not the west, the problem is every Russian. And by that I mean every Russian supporting Russia itself. Yep, only the “Patriots” are the problem. Because they are the fascist imperialists. And they will be the ones that the state comes after for “not being patriotic enough”.
May 11, 2023 at 1:20 pm
Walker, Russia has not committed all it can to the war, there is much more to give. I don’t know which officers you’ve been speaking with or had indirect contact with within the Russian military, but the ones doing the training/fighting are quite committed, and the population is substantially more united in support of this war attriting the west than say, our own was ever united regarding Iraq. It is you Ukrainian trolls who have been wrong every time. Those of us who serve the United States in our armed forces are well aware of the obscene lies you foreign bots are spreading here in an attempt to lure our population into a war which will only strategically harm our American interests.
Look, I don’t fault you, you want us to come save you, and to get into the war on your side. You don’t really care what happens to the United States, and your loyalty is to a foreign state. I get that, I don’t hold that against you as a foreigner. But we here in the United States, particularly those of us who have fought in wars for the last two decades and who know the status of our own supply chains here and capacities, understand that Ukraine is being attrited here. It is being bled, and the United States’ strategic focus is being distracted. Something you as an ignorant foreigner might understand would be, as an analogy, at the close of the third Lord of the Rings, when the King of Gondor rides out to the “black gate” of Mordor to face Sauron… he does so, without any hope of actually prevailing against Sauron on the field, but his actions have the effect of distracting that despot from protecting what is truly important to him, that mountain of fire where his power can be melted away.
That’s what’s occurring here. You’re asking us, a non-ally, to bleed out our limited popular support (in our fragmented society where almost half the country represented by our left wing hates the very American exceptionalism which makes projection of force possible) and misdirect limited production capacity to Ukraine, a non-strategic interest, over preparing for the ChiComs, which is our strategic interest. Ukraine is a side show, and it’s not worth any more of our rapidly devaluations dollars.
Who controls Ukraine is of little consequence to the United States and our national/strategic interest, but China is another story, and your preferred policies weaken our ability to conduct a defense against our own existential threat. A coup in Russia won’t lead to a more western-aligned leader, it will likely produce an even more extreme nationalist, one unnecessarily fiercely opposed to the United States and committed to backing up the chicoms. This need not be. As the United States continues losing the ability to borrow, produce, and project, the Russians will continue to attrit and bleed Ukraine, and without American aid, they will succumb. Russian strategy is to continue precisely what is occurring, a simmering, arms consuming war of attrition.
You wish things in Russia to become worse for the Russian people? You are quite a pos. One need not be loyal to a foreign people to oppose the further radicalization of them into a block which is dedicated to your destruction. This continued policy will only harden the Russian people’s conclusion that they are correct in their conclusion that the west is seeking to implement an anaconda strategy of national suffocation, and they won’t be willing to effectuate any compromise. You’re seeking a solution which breaks national will akin to WWII while fighting a WWI war. The impact of following your strategy will merely be to harden anti-American sentiment and dedication the developing world over. The problem is not every Russian who wish for a Russia which is sovereign and capable of self-defense, the problem are folks like you who wish to impose their vision of what other peoples in other countries should want, by force. It is you who is the fascist imperialist here, and by refusing to countenance that other countries have legitimate security concerns about being surrounded by hostile alliances, you condemn the people of Ukraine. Without our American assistance (something which WILL end in time), Ukraine is toast. Your lack of realism in any meaningful way condemns these people which it is the stated policy’s goal of saving.