Weighing the Future of Vladimir Putin

Sinan Arda, RANGE team
Jul 17, 2023 05:20PM UTC

Policymakers and citizens around the world are closely monitoring the future of the Russian government. Forecasters at RANGE are tracking the developments and predicting the likelihood that Vladimir Putin’s hold on the presidency will end before August 31, 2023. 

Following Russia's decision to launch a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022, experts have questioned President Putin's plans for the next few years. In May, Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, predicted that Putin will no longer serve as president of Russia by the end of 2023 due to health issues. He also predicted that the Russian regime would collapse within 12-18 months of the invasion of Ukraine due to the U.S. and EU’s sanctions, the burden the conflict places on resources, and Russia's military performance.

As of July 2023, the consensus of over 200 forecasts made by 86 RANGE forecasters is that there is a 17% chance that Vladimir Putin will no longer be president of the Russian Federation by August 31, 2023. This is a decline of about 20% since forecasting began in September of 2022. Recent developments on the ground in Russia have been key to users' forecast updates. The Wagner Group's reported uprising on June 23, 2023 underscored the importance of adjusting for new information when forecasting, with several forecasters updating their forecasts in real-time in response to the Wagner Group's rebellion. RANGE forecaster "Yoda" lowered his forecast from 30% to 10%, arguing that Putin will remain in power now that the Wagner mercenaries' rebellion failed, though he acknowledged that Putin is weak and battered as never before.

“JohnnyCaffeine” highlighted on June 30 how failed coups can strengthen dictatorial regimes, updating his probability to 2% from 40%:

“Hopefully I'm wrong and the crowd is right that it really is an 18% chance over a two-month period. But if I'm being honest, I think the true odds are that it's roughly a 99% survival rate for Putin per month, realistically. We know from the history of other broken coups that the dictatorial regime will engage in a period of purging anyone deemed less than fully loyal to the dictator. This does not, I'm sorry to say, weaken the dictator as has been widely theorized. […] The experience of Turkey following its failed coup of 2016: AP - A look at Turkey’s post-coup crackdown (I'm not saying that country's a dictatorship the same way Russia is, but it's still a comparable case that we can learn from.) Important to point out too, that a 1% chance a month of Putin being out is not zero. It translates to about 11% in a 1-year period.”

The fluidity of factors at play underscores the complexity of a forecast like this. The most likely outcome, according to RANGE forecasters, is that Vladimir Putin will remain president beyond August 31, 2023. Forecasters still have over a month to react to new developments and to update their forecasts on the prospects of Putin’s status in the Kremlin.

What do you think? Try your hand at forecasting Putin’s future in office by visiting rangeforecasting.org 

RANGE is currently running a summer challenge ahead of the 2023 BRICS Summit in South Africa. The forecasters with the highest participation will be eligible for a cash prize. Join us as a forecaster on RANGE to participate. See the BRICS challenge questions here.

RANGE (Rethinking Assumptions in a New Geostrategic Environment) is a crowdsourced forecasting platform run by the Bertelsmann Foundation and Bertelsmann Stiftung focused on geopolitics and the transatlantic relationship. To learn more visit RANGE's about page.

About the author: Sinan Arda is a forecaster on the transatlantic team at the Bertelsmann Foundation in Washington, D.C. He is currently a Fulbright scholar at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill pursuing a Master’s degree in Transatlantic Relations. He holds an undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Bamberg, Germany.

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