Staunton, Aug. 27 – When Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine, many predicted that Kyiv would either surrender immediately or face a coup that would bring to power those who would. Such predictions have proved ridiculous, but what is not is that the outcome in Ukraine will have profound consequences for the future of Russia, Abbas Gallyamov says.
The former Putin speechwriter says that what happens in Ukraine and what happens in Russia are now inextricably intertwined with at least six outcomes now possible for Putin’s own country (tjournal.ru/opinions/726422-shest-scenariev-dlya-rezhima-putina-ot-kndr-do-polnogo-sloma-kak-zatyanuvshayasya-voyna-mozhet-izmenit-sistemu-vlasti).
The first scenario, Gallyamov says, is that the war will drag on, the Russian economy will continue to sink into recession, and protest attitudes will intensify. As a result, angry voters and “some of the most determined elites” may force the Putin regime out and the government replacing his will begin peace talks with Ukraine.
The second scenario also involves a prolonged conflict, with economic decline and an increasingly angry population. In an effort to prevent “a revolutionary coup” Putin names a successor. That individual concludes a ceasefire with Ukraine and begins peace talks. But the new man, closely tied to Putin, can’t make as many concessions and the talks collapse.
The third scenario, which Gallyamov calls the Politburo Option, involves the transformation of the regime from a personalist to a collective dictatorship, with the other members of this group pushing Putin to adopt a Chinese model. This new leadership refuses to conclude a peace agreement, is delegitimated, collapses and Moscow finally starts talks.
The fourth involves the defeat of the Russian army by Ukraine. Putin resigns and tries to install a successor via elections. But his weakness means that his nominee doesn’t win. That allows someone else to come to power, probably from the KPRF, and that successor begins talks with Ukraine.
The fifth scenario is the “North Korean option,” the commentator continues. The Russian army loses but Putin manages to hang on, “gradually transforming Russia into something like North Korea.” After his death, his regime disintegrates and its successors whoever they may be begin talks with Ukraine.
And the sixth scenario is what Gallyamov calls “reversal.” Putin declares victory and attacks all those who are pressing for more expansive action as “dizzy with success.” Because Putin remains in office, any talks between Moscow and Kyiv make little progress and “drag on for years.”
Other scenarios are possible, although most of them will combine some elements of one or more of these, the commentator continues. But perhaps Gallyamov’s most interesting predictions involve what a peace treaty might look like and how the West would respond to a post-Putin Russia.
As to what an agreement might look like, Gallyamov says it is likely to reflect the notion of “taking the people but leaving the land,” that is, Russia after a certain interval agrees to pull out of Ukrainian territory while Kyiv agrees to give Moscow time to resettle people east of the Urals.
And as far as how the West will respond, one thing is clear: if Russia moves to establish a democratic system after Putin’s departure, Western countries won’t adopt a hands’ off approach as they did in the 1990s but rather take active steps to ensure that any Russian democracy will not degenerate into authoritarianism and lead the coming to power of another Putin.