Who would take control of Russia if Putin lost power today?
The Hundred #30: September 15, 2022
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“We have no idea. There is no regularized succession mechanism and Putin has assiduously avoided appointing a successor. If Putin were to exit, the jostling for power would begin. One can assume that someone from Putin’s hawkish inner circle would emerge as the leading candidate and would continue Putin’s war. Or maybe there would be collective rule. But there could also be a prolonged power struggle, as there was after Stalin’s death and a different leader could eventually emerge, possibly a younger technocrat who would understand that it is not in Russia’s interest to be at war with its neighbors.”
“Data on autocracies like Putin’s Russia suggests his departure is unlikely to unleash instability, coups or wide-scale protests. Violent conflicts are no more likely to erupt in the years after comparable leaders leave office than while they were in it. If Putin is forced out by his own elites, someone from the same group will likely replace him. If protests accompany his ouster, the prospects for political change are greater. Either way, a new leader will create a chance to re-establish some guardrails. The West should not pull any punches in fear that what follows Putin would be worse.”
“Vladimir Putin is a master of Russian political culture because he recreated the traditional practice of power: elites more afraid of each other and the population than him. If he's lost power, it's because he's dead or under arrest. Whether he's in the ground or behind bars, the next person is going to have to convince the people that better days are ahead, deter rivals from the sensible fear that this leader is going to purge and expropriate them, find accommodation with the West to relax sanctions, and ensure no rivals revisit territorial disputes. Choose your poison and good luck!”
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