There is no successor, no living rivals and no retirement plan for Putin


Two things are certain concerning Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
First, he will be reelected as president in the rigged election scheduled to run from March 15 to 17, 2024, by a resounding – if fraudulent – margin.
He will die one day, and he is likely to die in office rather than retiring willingly.
Though we don’t know when that day will come, the world might want to consider the power struggle that will commence the day after Putin departs.
Ever since he took over as president in 2000, Putin has been perfecting the machinery of electoral fraud to guarantee victory.
Vote buying, ballot miscounting, distribution of pre-filled ballots, tampering with ballot boxes, voter monitoring and intimidation, and ballot stuffing are all methods that Putin’s agents employ to guarantee a favorable result.
He has also jailed political opponents, exiled others and denied yet others the ability to challenge him in fair elections.
In the most extreme cases, he has had hands in the murders of opposition figures like Boris Nemtsov and, most recently, the prison death of Alexei Navalny.
There will be no surprises in this election: Putin’s victory will reaffirm his iron grip on Russia’s politics.
But ironically, Putin is a prisoner of the political system he has built around himself for the past 24 years.
Like many dictators, he cannot walk away from power and enjoy a quiet retirement even if he wanted to.
He is too attached to, and dependent on, the mind-boggling wealth and power he has accumulated during his time as a public servant.
Protection against threatsBut even if Putin got to keep his palaces and yachts, there would be no guarantee of safety in retirement.
If Putin gave up power, his successor might come after him.
Putin’s personal authority, charisma and influence would always be a threat to his successor as long as he was alive, a tempting target for the next ruler, and Putin knows it.
The other reason most dictators won’t even name their successor is that it might initiate a bitter power struggle even before the dictator retires or dies.
Imagine if Putin picked a successor: That person would immediately become the target of the unsuccessful contenders not chosen for the job.
There are bitter rivalries even among Putin’s inner circle of cronies.
Usually Putin manages to keep those struggles in check, but the 2023 revolt by Wagner warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin against the Ministry of Defense shows how deadly these competitions can turn.
Prigozhin was killed in an August 2023 plane crash whose real cause may never be known, but Putin’s hand is widely suspected.
Behind each of the wealthy insiders who support Putin – his oligarchs – stands a deep network of corrupt cronies who would stand to lose their power, wealth and perhaps even freedom if a rival succeeded in taking over.
Putin’s departure could set off a bloody power struggle whenever it happened, so why would he risk it ahead of time by naming his successor?
Power over othersPutin is not likely to be removed by any palace coup.
His control over Russia’s security services has allowed him to crush rivals and control the media, judiciary, regional leaders, parliament and community groups.
He has also closely monitored threats from potential opposition figures inside and outside his regime, and made his regime “coup-proof,” as one scholar put it.
His cultivation of anti-Western Russian nationalism has won him the loyalty of the military and citizenry – at least for now.
Putin also uses his control over Russia’s natural resource wealth to keep his oligarchs in line.
He decides which oligarchs are appointed to lead Russia’s major state-owned oil, gas, mineral and industrial producers.
As long as they remain loyal to Putin and support his political and economic directives, these oligarchs are allowed to profit handsomely by plundering the income their companies earn.
The oligarchs’ wealth and freedom are conditional on staying in Putin’s good graces.
Jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky learned that in 2003 when, after criticizing Putin, he was imprisoned and saw his Yukos oil company seized by the state.
In short, the entire Russian elite have nothing to gain and everything to lose by defecting from Putin’s coalition.
After deathIf Putin can’t retire and probably won’t be deposed, what happens when he finally does die in office?
According to the Russian constitution, the prime minister automatically becomes acting president with limited powers when the president can or will no longer serve.
Remember, that was Putin’s first step toward becoming president in 2000 when Boris Yeltsin resigned.
Russia’s current prime minister is Mikhail Mishustin, a rather bland and uncharismatic former tax official who lacks a strong power base of his own.
Should he succeed Putin as acting president, it’s unlikely that he would become the permanent replacement.
Under the constitution, new presidential elections must be held within three months of the president’s death or incapacitation.
But t

Vladimir Putin, the autocrat of Russia, is certain of two things.

He will first win a landslide, if not outright fraudulent, reelection to the presidency in the rigged poll that is set to take place from March 15 to March 17, 2024.

Secondly, he is mortal. He is not going to retire voluntarily; more likely, he will pass away while still in office. Even though we don’t know when it will happen, the world should think about the power struggle that will start the day after Putin leaves.

Vladimir Putin has been honing the apparatus of electoral fraud to ensure victory ever since he became president in 2000. Russia’s operatives use a variety of techniques to ensure a win, including ballot stuffing, voting buying, ballot miscounting, distributing pre-filled ballots, tampering with ballot boxes, voter monitoring, intimidation, and surveillance.

In fair elections, he has also imprisoned political rivals, banished others, and prevented still others from running against him. Extreme examples include his involvement in the assassinations of opposition leaders such as Boris Nemtsov and, most recently, Alexei Navalny’s death in prison. This election won’t contain any surprises because Putin’s win will solidify his firm hold on Russian politics.

I have spent the last 25 years studying Putin’s regime as a scholar of Russian politics and foreign policy. I have seen him establish a brutal and corrupt dictatorship in Russia that is comparable to that of the defunct Soviet Union.

Ironically, though, for the past 24 years, Putin has been imprisoned by the political structure he has constructed around himself. Even if he wanted to, he would not be able to relinquish power and live a peaceful retirement like many other dictators. His obsession with the incredible wealth and power he has amassed over the course of his career as a public servant has made him overly reliant on it.

defence against danger.

However, there would be no assurance of security in retirement, even if Putin was allowed to keep his mansions and yachts.

Putin’s successor might overthrow him if he ceded power. Since he is still living, Putin’s personal power, charm, and influence will always pose a threat to his successor and make him an attractive target for the next leader.

The possibility of starting a bloody power struggle even before the dictator retires or passes away is the other reason why most autocrats won’t even name their heir. If Putin were to choose a successor, the unsuccessful candidates who were passed over for the position would target the new leader right away.

Even within Putin’s inner ring of allies, there are fierce rivalries. Although Putin typically controls these conflicts, the Wagner warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin’s 2023 uprising against the Ministry of Defense illustrates how lethal these rivalries can become. Putin is most likely to have had some involvement in the August 2023 plane crash that claimed Prigozhin’s life, though the precise cause is unknown.

Beneath each of Putin’s oligarchs, who are wealthy insiders, is a vast network of corrupt cronies who stand to lose everything in the event that a rival were to succeed in seizing power, including wealth and possibly even freedom. Why would he take the chance of a violent power struggle ahead of time by appointing his successor when Putin’s departure could trigger one at any time?

authority over people.

It is unlikely that a coup from the palace will remove Putin. Because he controls Russia’s security services, he has been able to crush opponents and exert control over the media, judiciary, parliament, local leaders, and community organizations. Along with keeping a close eye on threats from possible opponents both inside and outside his regime, he has also made it “coup-proof,” in the words of one academic.

He has gained the support of the military and the populace through his promotion of anti-Western Russian nationalism—at least for the time being.

In order to maintain control over his oligarchs, Putin also makes use of his wealth from natural resources in Russia. He selects the oligarchs who will head the main state-owned manufacturing, mining, oil, and gas companies in Russia. These oligarchs are permitted to enrich themselves richly from the money their businesses make as long as they stay faithful to Putin and follow his political and economic orders.

The wealth and independence of the oligarchs are dependent on their continued good standing with Putin. You risk losing everything if you cross him. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the imprisoned tycoon, discovered this in 2003 when the state seized his Yukos oil company and he was put in jail for criticizing Putin.

In addition, none of the oligarchs defy Putin because, over decades, he has accumulated a cache of compromising materials, or “kompromat,” which he can use to blackmail even his closest advisors, in case any of them did cross him despite their reliance on his generosity.

Put simply, the Russian elite as a whole stands to lose everything and gain nothing by leaving Putin’s coalition.


If Putin is unable to step down and is unlikely to be removed from office, then what will happen when he passes away in office? The Russian constitution stipulates that in the event that the president is unable or unwilling to continue in office, the prime minister will take over as acting president with certain limited powers. Recall that, following Boris Yeltsin’s resignation in 2000, that was Putin’s first move toward becoming president.

The transition would appear substantially different this time. Mikhail Mishustin, a somewhat drab and unenthusiastic former tax official without a significant personal power base, is currently Russia’s prime minister. It is unlikely that he would take over as president in a permanent capacity should he succeed Putin as acting president.

In accordance with the constitution, fresh elections for president must be conducted three months after the president’s passing or incapacity. However, behind the scenes rather than at the polls, the real struggle for dominance will take place.

It is plausible that the potentially explosive power struggle could be settled prior to the election, but three months is a short time frame for a Putin replacement to solidify their position and fill the vacuum. Additionally, it’s feasible that a candidate chosen by consensus will be declared the winner and that the actual conflict between the opposing groups will be resolved in the coming months and years.

Alternatively, an informal alliance of leaders vying for major positions of authority like the presidency, premiership, and security services tries to govern as a whole. In Russia’s past, coalitions that proclaimed “collective leadership” briefly held power following the deaths of both Josef Stalin and Vladimir Lenin. However, in each instance, one coalition member—first Stalin, then Nikita Khrushchev—was able to outwit and destroy their allies. Autocratic succession is typically a messy process, as these cases serve as a reminder.

However, it’s possible that things will become even more unstable than anticipated in the coming days, weeks, and months after Putin leaves office. Never before has one Russian leader held so much personal power and there been so little support from other institutions to help maintain stability during a leadership change. Unlike the last royal family to rule the nation, the Romanovs, there is no monarchical succession. Additionally, unlike the Soviet era, there are no longer the powerful institutions of a one-party state to restrain opponents.

Putin is the only one.

The author’s opinions alone; they do not reflect the official stance or policies of the Army, Department of Defense, or the federal government of the United States.

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