Can The Cia Kill Putin
The topic of whether the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) can “kill” Russian president Vladimir Putin has generated much debate amongst national security and political experts. On its face, it seems counter-intuitive for the US intelligence agency to assassinate a world leader – especially one occupying a major diplomatic seat. That said, assassinations have a long, sometimes effective, history in international relations. In this article, we will examine the legal, moral, and practical implications of the question:
The International System
The major powers of the world have long recognized the legal and diplomatically accepted practice of assassinating perceived enemies. This practice has been employed in various forms by the Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire, as well as by various others throughout history. It is widely accepted by major world powers that a targeted killing or assassination of a government official is not considered a violation of international law.
In the case of Russia and President Putin, the modern rules of international law do not prohibit assassination. While the laws of certain countries might, the rules of the wider international system do not. That is not to say that it is an accepted practice – but it is one that is deemed lawful.
The legal implications of assassinating President Putin are twofold. Firstly, the US would be in violation of the UN Charter, which states that no country should interfere in the internal affairs of another. Russia would, no doubt, consider the assassination of President Putin as a direct interference in its political processes. Though not explicitly stated in the charter, it could be argued that the US would also be in breach of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which forbids assassinating current or former Heads of State.
In addition, the US would almost certainly be accused of breaching the 1979 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Killing a government leader would be considered as an act of torture; and the US would be held accountable for that.
From a moral perspective, assassinating President Putin is highly controversial. Though it is legal and potentially effective, it is also horrifically unethical. Most moral systems deem the killing of another human as wrong, and most notably, the taking of a life in cold blood. While there may be valid arguments for the extra-judicial killing of a figure like Putin, there is still an overarching moral imperative that opposes it.
Furthermore, assassination, in any form, is likely to be met with a backlash from the Russian population. Whether or not such a response is justified is a matter of opinion, but it would likely cause further strain on the already tense relationship between the two countries. It may also prove to be a catalyst for a broader conflict, or a destabilizing event on the world stage.
From a practical perspective, the assassination of President Putin presents a host of challenges. Chief among them is the difficulty of carrying out the act in such a heavily guarded position. Putin is usually comprehensively surrounded by security forces, and no assassination is likely to take place without those forces noticing. In addition, it would be expected that the Russian forces would be capable of retaliating, if not preemptively stopping, any assassination of the President.
In addition, there is the problem of motive and public opinion. Taking out President Putin may rid the world of a problematic leader, but could also cause a great amount of instability, both domestically in Russia and internationally. It would also raise questions as to whether it was a justified action, and would likely be seen as an exercise in US imperialism. The CIA may have the capacity to carry out such an act, but the practical considerations are such that it may not be feasible.
Regime Change and Civil Wars
One of the main justifications for removing leaders is with the aim of implementing reforms and changes in the country. Such measures, however, rarely lead to successful outcomes. In fact, more often than not, they lead to civil wars, regime changes, and extended periods of instability. The CIA’s decision to assassinate foreign leaders has been the cause of such chaos in numerous countries, and there is no guarantee that it will be any different in the case of Russia.
In Syria, for example, the US-backed assassination of Bashir al-Assad triggered a civil war which has continued for more than eight years and counting. In Libya, the CIA-backed assassination of Muammar Gaddafi resulted in years of civil strife, and the country is no closer to stability now than it was before. In countries where the leader is not just a symbol, but the source of strength and stability, their removal can be the spark that sets off a domino effect of chaos.
The Public Opinion
The initial decision to assassinate President Putin or any other world leader will be met with both support and criticism. There are those who argue that such action is unjustified and will only lead to further chaos and instability. Others argue that the removal of oppressive heads of state can be beneficial, as it can create an environment where reforms can take place without fear of retribution. The popular opinion on the issue will vary from country to country.
In the US, for example, the majority opinion is likely to be against the assassination of any leader. The public perception of the CIA is one of mistrust and suspicion, and any action taken by the agency will be met with cynicism and doubt. This perception was further entrenched with the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the illegal use of torture in the “War on Terror.”
Internal Conflict within the CIA
Finally, it is worth noting that the CIA is staffed predominantly by career officers who have devoted their lives to national security and intelligence gathering. As such, many of these officers have strong ethical codes, and may be opposed to a policy of assassination. It is unlikely that any of them would agree to carry out a mission to kill President Putin – even if such a mission was authorized by the government.
It is also worth noting that the CIA has faced numerous scandals in its history, from the manipulation of foreign elections to the torture of detainees. Any further scandals related to assassination will only serve to further erode public trust in the organization. This ultimately serves to diminish the effectiveness of its operations and risks crippling the institution.
Risks to the US
The risks to the US in attempting to assassinate President Putin are numerous. It could be seen as an act of war by Russia, thus escalating existing hostilities. Or it could raise tensions to unprecedented levels, leading to a protracted and potentially destructive conflict. In addition, there is the risk of domestic backlash, with the US public opposing any action that involves assassination or the US intelligence services.
The US also runs the risk of antagonizing its allies, many of whom have staunch and unwavering relationships with Russia. In particular, countries like China and North Korea have strong diplomatic and military ties with Moscow, and any action taken against Putin would reflect negatively on the US. Such negative repercussions could have a profoundly destabilizing effect on the world stage.
Risks to International Security
Finally, there is the risk of serious damage to international security. Assassinating President Putin could lead to a power vacuum in Russia, an unstable situation in the region, and the potential for civil unrest and conflict. It could also cause a severe deterioration in US-Russia relations, leading to a return to Cold War-style confrontations between the two countries.
In addition, it could lead to increased aggression from Russia towards other countries in the region, or could even unleash a military conflict between the two countries. Such an event could have devastating consequences for global peace and security, and could even spark a World War Three-style conflict.
Risks to Russian Society
Along with the risks to international security, there is also the risk of damaging Russian society. Since President Putin has been in power, he has managed to maintain stability and ensure economic growth. Should he be removed from office, there is a risk that the same level of stability and prosperity would not be achieved. This could lead to a period of unrest and even a potential civil war.
In addition, there is the risk of further authoritarianism in the aftermath of any assassination attempt. This could lead to a decrease in personal liberties and more oppressive laws. Moreover, it could lead to a decrease in the respect for human rights and an even more oppressive regime in place of the current one.
In conclusion, it is clear that the moral, legal and practical implications of assassinating President Putin are immense. Such an action would no doubt lead to severe consequences, both domestically and internationally. It is also possible that it could lead to a period of instability and even a return to Cold War-style tensions between the US and Russia. The risks to both international security and Russian society are such that it is highly unlikely that the US would even consider such an action.