Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s successor could be just as or more dangerous than he’s been, according to one expert on the country and its politics.
Amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine—and its effects on Russia’s status on the world stage—rumors have swirled about Putin’s health. That, along with speculation over his possible ouster by other Russian officials, has many discussing the prospect of his successor.
Speaking with the Express for an article published on Saturday, Keir Giles, a research director and author of the book Moscow Rules, said it’s entirely likely that Putin’s hypothetical successor will be at least as hardline as him.
There are “plenty of candidates” to take office after Putin’s reign comes to an end, and a good number of them “would make Russia’s relationship with the West, and with its own people, even worse than Putin has been doing over the last few years of his reign,” said the author.
Russia has been moving away from its initial embrace of the West following the Cold War and back toward hostility, the author said.
“The last few years have seen a growing crackdown on Russia’s own population that ran parallel with the growing hostility to the outside world,” Giles told the Express. “But in both of those respects, Russia was just returning to its historical norms and its comfort zone. Because this is a country that has always behaved in this way toward the outside world and towards its own subjects. That time of close relations or better relations with the West was the aberration and now we’re returning back to what is far more normal in Russian history.”
A potential successor to Putin, he added, would likely come from a similar background and continue to bring the country “back to the normal default state of its opposition to the West.”
In late June, Major General Kyrylo O. Budanov, chief of intelligence for Ukraine, claimed that Putin is suffering from a “grave” illness and likely has around two years to live. He surmised that the leader “doesn’t have a long life ahead of him.” In May, Budanov specifically claimed that Putin was grappling with a serious bout of cancer, along with some other unspecified diseases, which had left him in “very bad psychological and physical condition.”
At the end of May, a classified U.S. report said Putin seemed to have reemerged after undergoing treatment the previous month for advanced cancer, three American intelligence leaders told Newsweek.
Newsweek reached out to Russian officials for comment.