May 05, 2022

Is Russia Better Off Without Putin? The Answer is Changing.

By Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Erica Frantz

As the U.S. and its allies increase their commitment to arming Ukraine, there’s growing speculation over President Joe Biden’s endgame. Although the White House has gone to great lengths to say the United States does not have a policy of promoting regime change in Russia, there’s no question that there has been much discussion in private conference rooms and over kitchen tables about whether the United States should, in fact, be rooting for Vladimir Putin to be removed as Russia’s president.

To figure out whether we would be better off without Putin, though, we first need to weigh something else: How would Putin’s departure from power affect Russia? Would a leader or system that came after him be better or worse?

In all likelihood, authoritarianism in Russia will persist beyond Putin.

For years, many within the Russia-watching community have argued that Putin’s departure would likely unleash instability inside Russia and exacerbate its foreign aggression. For instance, a new leader who needed to consolidate power could stoke nationalist or anti-Western undercurrents already present in Russia to boost public support. Or, lacking Putin’s ability to balance Russia’s competing factions, elite infighting could spark political upheaval and violence that could destabilize the country, which after all is a nuclear power. According to this line of reasoning, Putin’s critics should be careful what they wish for: a Russia without Putin could be even worse for the West.

Read the full article from POLITICO.

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