The Economist writes Gerhard Schröder, Germany’s chancellor from 1998-to 2005, is seeking rapprochement with Russia not only due to his beliefs, but money might also be a factor. Even after Russiaʼs full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Schröder retained his sits as head of Russian oil giant Rosneft and a chairman of Nord Stream 2. He is also nominated to join the board of Gazprom. And he is obtaining these positions not for free – his annual salary from Rosneft only is about $600,000. Moreover, Schröder seems to be a good friend of Putin – he even celebrated his 70th birthday in St.Petersburg together with the Russian President. Apparently, Shröder does not care of his image, though he is facing humiliating consequences in Germany – even his favored FC Borussia Dortmund canceled his honorary membership.
Brian D Taylor, the author of The Code of Putinism book, published a column on Foreign Affairs discussing the inevitable leadership crisis in Russia after Putin. While there is no reason to think Putin faces an immediate risk of assassination, he allegedly is ill with thyroid cancer and at some point, he either will die or be deposed and Russia will be left without its’ longtime dictator. As Putin has done everything to weaken institutions and orders, his resignation would lead to a perilous moment for the country, as it is hard to predict what happens next. Legally, when Putin dies or leaves, the Prime Minister would become an acting President, and the State Duma will have to organize elections within two weeks. In reality, this time will most probably be when elites are engaged in a fierce battle behind the scenes to determine a suitable candidate. “The whole point of electoral authoritarianism, after all, is to know the winner in advance.” – writes Taylor. If this happens soon enough, Mishustin, the current Prime Minister would probably have good chances of winning the “elections”. He is a relative newcomer to the heights of Russian politics, previously led the Federal Tax Service. There might be other candidates as well, maybe someone from the Security Council – Sergei Shoigu or Dmitry Medvedev. In a most unthinkable scenario, Russia might witness presidential elections in which the results were not decided in advance. If Putin does not die at his post, he could plan his departure and designate a successor – after all this is how he himself got the presidency. It is not clear who might be chosen, but not likely it would be Mishustin. Taylor refers to a study, that found that 56% of autocracies experience regime change within five years of the ruler’s death, therefore when Putin’s leadership ends one way or another – what happens next would be unpredictable and might be dangerous.
War On The Rocks features a column by Andrew Goodman, an American diplomat with over 30 years of experience with the USSR and Russia, who claims Putin had strong reasoning to invade Ukraine exactly when he did. According to Goodman’s experience with Putin back in the early 1990-s, he is a person “who consistently sought to minimize risk” and makes meticulous preparations for what he does. He is also vindictive and ruthless, a combination that leaves no chances for his rivals. Goodman sees consistency in Putin’s policy towards Ukraine: in 2004 and 2014 he was trying to shift Ukraine towards Russia but failed both times. Goodman thinks it is a mystery why after annexing Crimea and the proclamation of “D/LPR” Putin did not immediately try to topple the new pro-Western government – it might be that he needed more time to prepare. The final decision to launch the invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, was probably caused by a number of factors: including Biden’s commitment to NATO and personal irritation with Zelensky, who not only appeared to be pro-Western but who also has openly mocked Putin – something that he can’t stand. Putin has been preparing for the invasion for a while – completion of Nord Stream 2 offered a chance to split Western unity, long-term energy deals with China decreased dependency on the European market. External factors also mattered: weak American response in Afghanistan raised Putin’s hopes for the inability of the US administration to oppose effectively; the retirement of Angela Merkel and her replacement with the Social Democrat, which for long has been a party that sought normalization of cooperation with Russia, also was a factor. If the turnover in the German government recommended December as a launching time, the Beijing Olympics constituted an obvious reason to delay. Goodman finishes his review by stating that even if Putin fails this time as he partly did in 2014, he will not stop and most probably make another attempt to bring Ukraine to the heel.