In 2024, Vladimir Putin’s second consecutive term will end, and he must decide how and to whom he will hand over his power. Recently, the former leader of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev’s resigned from his post and this has many wondering if, when the time comes, Putin will elect to do the same. And whether, like Nazarbayev, Putin will decide to take on a more security- and military-focused position. Those that do not predict a Putin willing to resign, do so for a number of reasons. One is that compared to Nazarbayev, Putin is not seen as the father of Russia and is rather a manager or geopolitical entrepreneur. Thus, there may need be public demand for him to continue working in the government and he would be less likely to willingly resign. Another is that Putin hasn’t selected a potential successor. For Nazarbayev, while the immediate successor is not a family member, he has many that are simply waiting in the winds if the current leader fails. Putin does not have a familial structure that has integrated itself deep into the political sphere as Nazarbayev’s has done.
Because Putin has not taken an apprentice, many wonder whether his inevitable successor will continue his work and run the nation with a similar attitude i.e. Crimea, U.S.-Russia relations, and NATO. Although Putin has said he is not the puppet master, and that Russia exists and functions outside of him, many are skeptical. A common question is what will happen to Russia after Putin, what will post-Putin Russia will look like? We don’t often ask those questions when US presidents’ terms end and that’s because we believe US institutions outlive and function independently of whoever sits in the Oval Office. The same cannot be said for Putin and Russian institutions and at the very least there exists a (not so) subtle sentiment that Putin controls everything in Russia.
We will have to wait and see how the Nazarbayev experiment resolves and whether, as a result, Putin will eventually follow suit.