Is Putin coup-proof? That depends on how much hardship Russian elites will stand.


As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine grinds into its third week – with mounting civilian casualties, more than 2 million refugees fleeing and untold numbers of internally displaced people still in the country – there is a growing realization among Western policymakers that the quickest way to end this war is for President Vladimir Putin to leave office, and most likely not of his own volition.

While no Western government is openly pursuing a policy of regime change, all of them hope that sanctions will encourage Russians of all stripes to show Putin the door. Which invites the question: Is Putin coup-proof? Because if there were ever a set of circumstances that might induce a change of power in Moscow, we are seeing them now.

The reasons Putin went to war remain inscrutable. Whatever else it might achieve, this war will make Russia poorer and less secure, bring NATO closer to its borders – rather than pushing it away – and strengthen the resolve of governments throughout Moscow’s former empire to seek protection from rival powers, be they the United States, the European Union or China. But it is also radically reshaping the structure of power in Russia itself, in ways that could consolidate Putin’s authority for years to come, or possibly bring his rule crashing down.


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