In light of the enormous military repercussions that would ensue if the United States intervened militarily to counter Russia’ unjust war against Ukraine, a number of leaders have argued that the best solution is for somebody to assassinate Putin.

On the “Hannity” show, Sen. Lindsey Graham called for Russians to “step up” and kill President Vladimir Putin amid Russia’s “scorched earth” invasion Ukraine – then reiterated his comments Friday morning. 

“Somebody in Russia has to step up to the plate. Is there a Brutus in Russia? Is there a more successful Colonel Stauffenberg in the Russian military,” Graham, R-S.C., said on Thursday.

Brutus was a Roman politician assassinated his colleague, dictator Julius Caesar. Claus von Stauffenberg was a German army officer who attempted to assassinate his superior, Adolf Hitler. 

On Sunday’s “Life, Liberty & Levin,” Ret. British Col. Richard Kemp, CBE, elevated the call, explaining why he thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin should be assassinated.

“Why shouldn’t we take him out?,” Kemp asked. “He’s the military commander, he’s the commander-in-chief of the Russian forces who have invaded — unprovoked — invaded Ukraine, killed many, many Ukrainians and [are] going to kill many, many more.”

“Why would we not take him out if we think that could end this terrible situation and Putin’s further aggression?”

In response to Kemp, there are two reasons why Western powers—and, in particular, the United States—should not “take out” Putin.

First, to do so would be an act of warfare, and the United States cannot justly enter the war at this point. Although many criteria have been met, two have not:

There is little to no probability for success if the United States were to enter the war. Russia and its allies would not only match but exceed the personnel and resources we would be willing to expend. There is no realistic chance of victory. Thus, since the attempt would very likely be futile, we are not justified in risking the lives of American troops.

Further, even if we could win the war, the consequences would be disproportionately severe. The good which the United States might achieve would be less than the losses we would sustain. To enter the war against Russia would be to trigger a third world war and thus would cost our nation and other nation significantly more than we would gain. Additionally, Russia and its allies would retaliate by making every attempt assassinate our own President.

Second, if the United States were to assassinate Putin, we would violate international law. The law of nations rules out assassinations for two reasons.

International law is built on the type of “just war” principles enumerated above. A just war must meet eight criteria, including the two criteria mentioned above—probability of success and proportionality of results.

International law also recognizes that the political leaders of the enemy state—which, in this instance, is Russia—are the very leaders with which we would one day need to negotiate the peace.

Thus, although Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an egregiously unjust act of violence, the United States must find a different way to help end the war and punish Putin for his crimes.

There are few statements more mistaken than “all is fair in love and war.” The moral law applies in every realm, including even the battlefield. Just as we would not want other nations to target our President for assassination, so we also should not consider assassinating theirs.

However, this is not to say that the United States should not take drastic measures in its retaliation against Putin. The Russian president’s unjust and immoral actions against the Ukrainian people should prompt us to act. Our response can be multi-faceted—including severe economic sanctions against Russia and economic and equipment assistance for Ukraine—but it must not include assassination.


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