cover image: Imagining Russia’s future after Putin


Imagining Russia’s future after Putin

24 May 2023

The structure and dynamics of Russia’s future state system could take many forms and have been the subject of much analytical debate. The inner workings and decision-making processes of the Russian state are opaque and inaccessible, and challenged the understanding of Western governments even before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.This briefing paper attempts to investigate how one single tightly defined scenario constructed by the author – which assumes that the phase of active conflict in Ukraine ends in Russia’s defeat and that Vladimir Putin is subsequently replaced as Russia’s president – could shape the country’s political and economic systems and its foreign policy orientation.The paper concludes that in this scenario – which is categorically not a forecast – by the end of 2027, core features of the Russian state system would be broadly recognizable on the basis of what we see in mid-2023. However, there would be considerable uncertainty, leading to a spectrum of plausible outcomes across the principal policymaking domains. If Russia suffered military defeat in Ukraine and Vladimir Putin were removed as president, by the end of 2027 core features of Russia’s state system would be recognizable on the basis of what we see today. But even a managed leadership succession would unleash considerable uncertainty, leading to a broad spectrum of plausible outcomes across the political, economic and foreign policy domains.Russia’s political system would remain essentially authoritarian. The guiding principles would be top-down stability and order, although the potential for elite divisions would be real. Political evolution would occur in the space between a limited easing of controls and an even more repressive model.Russia’s economic system would continue to be based on a state-dominated mechanism of rent distribution, reliant on the oil price and unlikely to generate high GDP growth. Change would be at the margins, involving slightly less or slightly more state control. Economic relations with the West would be greatly reduced, pushing Russia towards even closer ties with Asia.A radical reappraisal of foreign policy would be unlikely without far-reaching domestic political change. Russia’s new leaders would still view their country as a great power despite its reduced circumstances. Foreign policy would unfold along a spectrum between authoritarian retrenchment (focusing on internal recovery and a limited rapprochement with the West) and hard-line isolationism (a militantly anti-Western stance). The gap between Russia’s ambitions and capabilities would widen.
democracy and political participation russia russia and eurasia programme european defence


Duncan Allan

978 1 78413 573 7
Published in
United Kingdom

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