But Maybe a Different Response

John Deni, of the Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, speculated in Sunday’s Wall Street Journal about whether a coup to overthrow Russian President Vladimir Putin would improve much. He opened with

Some Western observers hope Vladimir Putin will be overthrown in a coup. While the likelihood of such an event is debatable, one thing is certain: if Mr Putin were removed in a coup, whoever replaces him would face the same domestic political incentives and disincentives, which would likely lead to a continuation of Russia’s confrontational approach to the West.

He concluded with

So although a coup in Moscow could bring an end to Russia’s disastrous war in Ukraine, a new ruler or regime would face the same domestic political incentives and would likely end up behaving in similar ways.

Were a coup to bring that end to Ukraine’s misery, that alone would make the coup worth the cost.

Beyond that, though, a new Russian government might be able to recognize that no one in the West has any designs on Russia, no one in the West is any security threat to Russia. That lack stems from a single incontrovertible fact that plays on what Adam Smith termed the invisible hand: our own self-interest.

Russia has absolutely nothing that anyone in the West wants that can’t be gotten far more cheaply and far more beneficially to us in the West—and by the way, for the Russian people, too—through free and open trade.

It’s a long shot that a replacement crop of Russians at the top of that government would recognize that, but that replacement crop is unlikely to be worse than the Putin-led syndicate that is, empirically, bent on war and conquest.

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