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Post-Putin Possibilities

It is becoming increasingly unlikely that Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime will survive the war of aggression that he started in Ukraine. That means Russia is once again heading for a period of internal tumult and – possibly – a political and constitutional sea change.

STOCKHOLM – Now that Russia has been so greatly damaged and diminished by President Vladimir Putin’s reckless war of choice in Ukraine, what might the country’s future hold? Plausible scenarios range from a power grab by a hardline security adviser like Nikolai Patrushev to an election victory by a dissident like Alexei Navalny. But one thing is almost certain: Putin’s regime will not survive the war he started.

After all, Putin’s so-called power vertical may span many economic and political domains, but it is fully dependent on tight control from the top. The entire structure will invariably start to fracture as that control is weakened, and as different groups and interests start maneuvering to scoop up the spoils from the inevitable collapse. The system’s main strength – all-powerful top-down control – thus will become its fatal weakness.

This new “time of troubles” – a recurring theme in Russian history – will follow immediately from Putin’s departure. But which political forces will assert themselves as he falls remains to be seen. My guess is that the impetus to continue Putin’s Ukraine misadventure will be quite limited. Putin started the war himself, and we know that even his top security officials were never enthusiastic about it. That was obvious as early as the famous televised Kremlin security-council meeting on February 21, 2022.

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