Russia’s Vladimir Putin could be eliminated by his own military brass fed up with catastrophic losses in Ukraine, which would finally bring the war to an end, according to an ex-CIA official.
James Olson, a decorated former chief of counterintelligence, labeled Putin a “dead man walking” in a candid exclusive interview with the Sun.
“It is not going well at all. I believe Putin is in a no-win situation now,” the 30-year veteran of the spy agency said.
According to Olson, Putin will never agree to withdraw his forces from Ukraine until they assume complete control over the four partially occupied regions that were illegally annexed by Russia in the fall.
“If Putin stays in power, there will be a long war because he will not give up — but I do not think that Putin is going to stay in power,” Olson said. “I believe that he will be removed from power.”
Olson said the 70-year-old Russian leader could either be deposed in an uprising or killed.
“I think Putin will be taken out,” he said. “I would not rule out assassination.”
The retired spymaster and author, who serves as professor of international affairs at Texas A&M University, opined that Russia’s military leaders are “disgusted” by the high casualty rate in Ukraine.
Were Putin’s discontented generals to turn on him, Olson said, he would be “a dead man walking.”
“He would not survive that. I think that it is more likely that Putin will be eliminated than a military defeat,” he said.
An update from the UK Ministry of Defense on Sunday stated that since February 2022, Russia has suffered around 200,000 casualties in Ukraine — a number that includes both killed and wounded soldiers.
Ukraine’s latest estimate is higher, with the country’s Ministry of Defense putting the number of “eliminated” Russian personnel at more than 175,000.
Putin had reportedly expected to conquer Ukraine in three days’ time in February 2022. More than 13 months later, his troops have found themselves bogged down in a bloody quagmire, fighting street to street for control of small cities in the east.
If Olson is to be believed, Putin’s fate is inextricably tied to the outcome of the war, which ultimately could be his undoing.
“I believe that there is a strong undercurrent of opposition to Putin in the military, in the intelligence services, among the oligarchs,” he said.
Olson predicted that “some patriotic Russians will decide they need to eliminate Putin” to stop the attritional war.
“Putin is bleeding Russia and he cannot do that forever,” the former counterintelligence chief noted.
Olson also warned that if Putin continues to cling to power for much longer, there is a real risk that the war would spill beyond Ukraine’s borders and engulf neighboring Moldova, which is widely believed to be in Russia’s crosshairs.