When considering the complex issue of whether the CIA will take out President Vladimir Putin of Russia, it is important to look at the historical, geopolitical and current context. As a former KGB agent and powerful leader, Putin has ruled Russia for more than 10 years and is widely seen as an autocrat who violates human rights and oversees a highly authoritarian system. Recent revelations of Russian interference in the US election in 2016 have added to tensions between the US and Russia, xenophobia and frosty diplomatic relations.
But will the CIA really take out Putin? First, there is the legal question: assassinating foreign leaders is illegal in the US, so taking out Putin would be a serious violation of domestic law. Second, there are ethical complications. While Putin is widely criticized for his bad behavior, taking out agreed upon leadership to insert their own can be viewed as a form of imperialism.
When viewed from a practical standpoint, the feasibility of the CIA taking out Putin is, in fact, quite low. Putin is deeply entrenched in Russia’s power structure and his security measures are second to none. Even if the CIA wanted to take out Putin, the risk of being caught is extremely high, as Russian security services are on high alert for any suspicious activity. Moreover, killing Putin could also have serious repercussions for US-Russian relations, as it would lead to further deterioration of an already strained relationship.
The final factor to consider is the opinion of experts. Many commentators agree that the CIA is unlikely to take out Putin due to the legal, ethical and practical ramifications. John Feffer, director of Foreign Policy in Focus, said that “although it makes for a good action movie plot, it’s highly unlikely that the CIA would or could ‘take out’ Putin.” Harvard professor Stephen Walt echoed this sentiment and noted that there are “plenty of Russians in the Russian system who would be glad to assume power” if Putin were taken out.
Taking into account the legal, ethical and practical implications, it is highly unlikely the CIA will take out Putin. Although the US government has a strained relationship with Russia, the risks associated with directly targeting its leader are simply too high.
Relationship With The US
With the surging tensions between the US and Russia, it is essential to examine the real implications of US-Russian relations in terms of the potential CIA intervention. It is clear that US-Russian relations have been going downhill since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Further deterioration happened after the alleged poisoning of the ex-spy in the UK, leading to the US and the EU passing new economic sanctions against Russia.
In addition, the Syria conflict has been a source of increasing hostility between the two powers, as the US has accused Russia of helping the Assad regime’s war efforts and of committing war crimes. Furthermore, allegations of Russian interference in the US elections have created a deep distrust of Russia amongst US citizens.
Overall, it is clear that US-Russian relations are in a state of severe strain. Despite this, experts such as Robert E. Hunter, a NATO expert and Senior Adviser in the RAND Corporation believe that the relationship between the two powers is not “destined to become a hot conflict.” As such, it is unlikely that the CIA will take out Putin – even if it is legally, ethically and practically feasible – because it could result in even greater hostility between the two superpowers.
The Sanctions Quandary
In regards to the CIA taking out Putin, it is vital to analyse the sanctions that have been imposed by the US and the EU against Russia in the past few years. The primary aim of these sanctions is to limit the Russian economy and to limit Putin’s power base. However, it is difficult to quantify the success of these sanctions – while some experts argue that they have weakened the Russian economy, others argue that the majority of Russian citizens still support Putin even in the face of the sanctions.
Moreover, the efficacy of the sanctions is difficult to determine from the US’s perspective. On one hand, some argue that the sanctions have been working in deterring Putin’s aggressive behavior; on the other hand, the same sanctions could encourage Putin to become even more belligerent.
Evidently, the sanctions that have been imposed on Russia are not a viable solution to the US-Russian tensions as they could potentially rebound against the US. In this case, it is unlikely that the CIA will take out Putin as the risk associated with it is too great, especially when other options exist.
The Quest For Reform
Critics of Putin’s rule argue that a democratic revolution is necessary in order to implement true reform in Russia. However, it is important to consider the difficulties associated with a democratic revolution in Russia. Chief amongst these is the strict laws and regulations that Putin has implemented to inhibit the growth of civil society and democracy. Under such restrictive laws, mounting a successful revolution would prove to be a challenging undertaking.
Though the idea of a democratic revolution in Russia is appealing, it is crucial to consider the alternatives. Engaging with Russian civil society and providing support for the development of a more open and free society is one possible solution. This approach has already been attempted by the US in the form of the Open World Leadership Program, which seeks to promote the exchange of knowledge and dialogue.
Though this project and wider initiatives to engage with civil society will not directly “take out” of Putin, they are part of a wider endeavor to promote democratic reforms and human rights in Russia. This, in turn, could create a platform for peaceful change in the country instead of possibly devastating, violent revolution.
Can The West Move Forward?
When analysing the issue of whether the CIA will “take out”, or assassinate, Putin it is useful to consider the changing international context. Crucially, the US will have to move beyond its ‘unipolar moment’ and adopt a multipolar world vision if it wants to gain meaningful traction on the world stage.
Indeed, as China continues to rise and powers other than the US increasingly become global players, it is essential for the US to move away from its aggressive stance and instead endeavour to work in collaboration with other global powers. Processes of engagement rather than confrontation with countries such as Russia and China will be far more effective in the long run than targeting their leaders.
Consequently, it is clear that the Western approach to Russia must change if it wants to truly reform the situation. Assassinating Putin is not the only solution – rather, it is necessary to focus on small but meaningful steps that contribute to a larger process of diplomacy, dialogue and engagement.
The Human Rights Issue
Though the issue of human rights is often overshadowed by the intensifying political and diplomatic tensions between the US and Russia, it must be recognized as a core cause of the dispute. Putin has been long criticized for regime’s refusal to implement meaningful human rights reforms, as evidenced by the deteriorating situation for opposition figures and human rights workers in the country.
Crucially, the US must realize that human rights violations are a greatly pressing concern in Russia. Taking out Putin – as opposed to working together to solve the underlying issues – would do little to address these concerns.
American-Russian relations are undeniably complex and it is important to consider the difficult issues at hand. Though the CIA taking out Putin is a compelling plot line of a Hollywood movie, it is highly improbable. The risks associated with such an action will be massive, particularly for US-Russian relations and for the reform of the underlying issues.