Wars have consequences. Make no mistake about it, one result of the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine will be the demise of the Putin regime. It might not happen next week or next month but it will happen.
Three factors will cause Putin’s ouster even if he manages to conquer Ukraine, which in itself is far from clear.
First, militarily. He can be toppled without our troops on the ground. The Russian army is stalled. The Ukrainians are mounting a war of attrition and will fight door to door, building to building, causing Russian deaths as they do. The war will inflict suffering and loss of morale among his soldiers not seen since before the former Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989. The social media photos of Russian body bags will cause tremors throughout Russia.
Second, economically. Severe sanctions, the fall of the ruble, the departure of young, skilled men and women fleeing Russia for Turkey and Georgia, will bring about domestic production losses and shortages. Already the economy has faltered and wiped out economic gains of the last 20 years. How much longer can the sanctioned oligarchs risk losing their fortunes and the average Russian face difficulties in obtaining bread and vodka?
Third, and perhaps the most important factor to bring down Putin will be the information war. Having worked years ago in Radio Liberty, which merged with Radio Free Europe in 1979, I saw how responsible and accurate information influenced people behind the Iron Curtain and the USSR, even under Stalin. True, Moscow jammed broadcasts but persuasive information got through. And now times have changed. This is a social media war. The Russian people are protesting, witness the many public arrests. Astonishingly, the woman a Russian TV studio who brandished a “No War” sign may be a harbinger of the future.
Even if Putin closes the borders, the young will protest, making it difficult for the dictator to halt a youthful revolution.
Ouster of Russian leaders has occurred before: Czar Paul I, murdered by his own officers in 1801; Nikita Khrushchev, stripped of power in 1964. The removal of Putin, whenever it happens, might surprise us. But it will happen.
Ben G. Frank, a resident of Boynton Beach, is a journalist, lecturer and author of books on Russia and Ukraine.