After the near-certainty of President Vladimir Putin’s re-election in March, personnel changes may indicate the Russian leader’s intentions.
In his mind, President Vladimir Putin has ‘made Russia great again’, or at least created enough stability to allow him to groom a successor for the 2024 election. Perceptions of success in Syria will boost Russia’s confidence that it is in some respect a match for the United States, and perhaps mitigate the hyper-sensitive responses that have led to conflict in Ukraine and tensions around other borders. But Putin’s project will not be plain sailing: Russia remains over-dependent on its oil and gas, the economy is unlikely to grow at more than a sluggish pace; and demographic decline will drag down productivity.
- Can Putin credibly assure his people that things are getting better given that they are not doing so at any great speed?
- For how long can Putin abstain from radical economic reforms and avoid letting any faction – the energy sector, security services or free marketeers – gain the ascendancy?
- When will Putin reveal his succession plan?
- Will Moscow re-engage with Europe as a counterpoint to China and prickly relations with the United States?