Imagining Russia’s future after Putin

Possible outcomes of a defeat in Ukraine
Chatham House briefing Published 24 May 2023 Updated 2 October 2023 ISBN: 978 1 78413 573 7 DOI: 10.55317/9781784135737
Two soldiers are shown in silhouette against the Kremlin’s Spasskaya tower and St Basil’s cathedral.

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.