Putin predicted to use Syrian playbook
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Russia’s next leader is unlikely to stop the war in Ukraine, according to a team of experts. Wikistrat, which describes itself as a “crowdsourced consultancy” often carries out “Death of a Leader simulations” to learn about “internal power dynamics” and the “regional influence” certain leaders have. The team of experts is given a number of different scenarios for how the leader dies and is then asked to discuss how each scenario would affect their country’s foreign policy towards their allies and adversaries. Amid heavy speculation about the state of Putin’s health, Wikistrat decided to use the Russian leader’s hypothetical death for their latest simulation.
In a blow to Ukraine and its allies, the experts came to the conclusion that the war is no longer “Putin’s war”.
Commenting on the simulation’s findings, Oren Kesler, CEO of Wikistrat said: “I think one of the main insights the simulation gave us is that this is no longer Putin’s war.
“The first week of the war kind of shifted things.
“Russia has invested too much prestige and too many resources for any leadership to come after Putin and to basically just say, ‘Oh, this was Putin’s war’ and to do a U-turn.
“That’s wishful thinking. Whoever is going to come after Putin is going to represent the same mindset, which is that Russia cannot lose this war.
“At the very least, they need to have some sort of a narrative of victory in order for them to agree to a ceasefire.”
The simulation found that unless the war provides Russia with political gains or some narrative victory, the Kremlin will likely try and draw it out for as long as possible.
Mathieu Boulegue, Senior Research Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House and one of the experts involved in the simulation said: “There is probably very little evidence at this stage that the foreign policy course of the Kremlin will change with Putin’s death unless there is a software change inside the Russian system.”
Despite the masses of speculation surrounding the state of Putin’s health, it is not clear who the Russian leader’s successor could be.
Keir Giles, Senior Consulting Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House and another expert involved in the simulation said that there is “no doubt that Vladimir Putin will have given serious thought to who will succeed him, even if that thought is motivated more by preserving his fortune for his family than by preserving the future of Russia.”
Mr Giles added that Putin is unlikely to have told anyone other than his most trusted associates about the plan since “publicly revealing the identity of the chosen successor would precipitate precisely the kind of infighting among the leadership elite that Putin would want to avoid in order to keep his system stable and functional”.
Mr Kesler added that the West should be careful in the way it reacts to Putin’s successor.
He told Express.co.uk that there is the assumption that if a new leader comes to power in Russia before the end of the war, then the West should increase sanctions and attempt to pressure Putin’s successor to improve its relationship with the West.
However, he said that this could be a “fatal mistake”.
He explained: “One of the key assumptions floating around is that if Putin dies, his successor will take the opportunity to take a step back when it comes to Ukraine.
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“Another assumption is that it would be a good time to press on the gas and increase tensions and to try to force Russia to come to the West and that if we pressure them enough, this might work.
“And I think that that could be a fatal mistake because, after Putin’s death, the leadership will be in a weak position because it will be trying to stabilise the country.
“So I believe that if the West becomes harsher in its response to Russia then the new leadership could use this opportunity to make the West out to be a bigger threat than it is and that will give them the excuse to become more hawkish.
“Essentially, the idea of the West becoming more and more aggressive under sanctions will only provide more of an opportunity to certain elites to increase the narrative of Russophobia that they’re pushing.”
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