Horror warning for West not to play into hands of Putin’s successor

Ukrainian soldiers shoot down Russian jet

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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. A team of experts are given a number of different scenarios for how the leader dies and are asked to discuss how each scenario would affect their country’s foreign policy towards their allies and foes. With countless rumours flying around about the state of Putin’s health, Wikistrat decided to use the Russian leader’s hypothetical death for their latest simulation. The experts came to the conclusion that the war in Ukraine would not end with Putin’s death.

Speaking about the findings of the simulation, Wikistrat CEO Oren Kesler told Express.co.uk: “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.

“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, for example, the thing with the visas.”

Last week EU foreign ministers voted to suspend a visa agreement with Moscow, making it harder for Russian citizens to enter the bloc.

In response, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Glushko said the EU was “shooting itself in the foot” and the move would not go unanswered.

Keir Giles, Senior Consulting Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House and one of the experts who took part in the simulation said that after Putin’s death, the Russian elite will be faced with a choice: to do what’s best for the country or to preserve the Putinist regime that has guaranteed them wealth and power.

He said: “Putin’s close colleagues may therefore be faced with a choice – preserving the Putinist system that until now has guaranteed their power, wealth and personal safety, or instead putting Russia as a country first and placing their bets on change.”

However, Dr Mark Galleoti, Senior Associate Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and another expert involved in the simulation stated that it is more likely that Putin’s successor will be a nationalist figure who will further Putin’s ideology of hatred toward the West.

He said: “It is more likely that a nationalist figure would emerge, or a nationalist government or at least a nationalist policy would be adopted by the new government, and essentially force the elite to maintain Putin’s very harsh stance.”

Following the end of the Cold War, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, relations between the West and Russia became friendlier.

During this period, Russia began to embrace Western culture and chains such as McDonalds began operating in the country.

However, Mr Kesler said that Russia has gone through a “metamorphosis” in recent years.

He said: “Putin in the year 2000 and Putin in the year 2022 is not the same.

“Russia in the year 2000 and Russia 2022 is not the same.

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“The country has gone through a process primarily in the last five to 10 years from, you know, well it was never a democracy but from some sort of a power-sharing of different groups into a dynamic which is very authoritarian, all the way to totalitarian.”

Thus, with the simulation predicting that Russia is likely to continue in this direction, Mr Kesler has warned that the West should be careful in its response to Putin’s death, “to avoid playing into the hands of whoever is doing the power grabbing in Moscow”.

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