Yes, says Stephen Sestanovich, the George F. Kennan Senior Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy (Agree, Confidence Level 1):
Putin is firmly in control today. But it is hard to be certain of the five-year prospects of a leader who, first, is in the second year of a recession with no real plan; second, faces elections and has just appointed a human rights activist to run his election commission; third, has not managed to unwind Western sanctions; fourth, has still got two small wars going in Ukraine and Syria; and fifth, may or may not be healthy.
But others disagree.
Russia is already controlled by the system that uses Putin as a logo, says Russian political scientist Gleb Pavlovsky (right), an Adviser to the Presidential Administration of Russia until April 2011, in a contribution to a Foreign Affairs symposium.
But Russia’s political regime is unsustainable. It has no capacity to reform, and faces growing economic woes, crumbling infrastructure, and warring elites, analyst Nikolay Petrov writes for the European Council on Foreign Relations:
After widespread protests and ebbing of support, the government began in 2014 to base its legitimacy on winning wars. Putin centralised all power in the presidency, suppressing dissent and weakening institutions in the process. Now, the regime needs to keep delivering military victories or face a loss of support. Excessive centralisation makes the system unstable and inefficient, focused on survival rather than strategy. As sanctions bite and funds run short, the elites are growing impatient, and the chance of conflict is rising in regions such as the Caucasus.
There are two ways out for the Russian regime, he adds: improve its finances by reconciling with the West, or regain legitimacy by replacing the president. Even these will only buy it time, and may not prevent a total collapse. Furthermore, there is no clear heir to Putin, and collapse could be followed by the redistribution of power to various government bodies, companies, and regions, including Chechnya.