As we eagerly anticipate the outcome of the Ukraine war for Ukraine, we must also consider Russia’s fate. What lies ahead for Russia if Putin’s regime falls? Will Russia embrace liberalism or turn toward militarism and tyranny? The answer will impact geopolitics worldwide. Under Putin’s rule, Russia has been a purveyor of global anti-liberalism. However, the war in Ukraine has tarnished Russia’s image and international standing, and weakened its economic reach. The future of a free, prosperous, and peaceful Russia remains uncertain.
In the event that Russia wins the war, it is possible that Putin will emerge as a victor, potentially leading to the lifting of economic sanctions against Russia. However, such a win may allow the existing neo-totalitarian regime in Russia to further entrench itself, with increased propaganda, internet restrictions, and human rights violations. This may harden the regime, and political repression would likely continue for the foreseeable future.
Conversely, Russian dissidents believe that Russia’s dictatorship can only be undone if Ukraine wins the war. They call for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territories, war crimes prosecutions, and compensation for victims. They assert that liberation from Putin’s fascism runs through Ukraine.
The future of Russia remains uncertain. Discontent with the war and the regime is growing among Russia’s business elites who have lost access to their assets in the West. While public expressions of dissent are rare and dangerous, there is speculation of a potential elite coup that may remove Putin from power. Whether Russia embraces liberalism or continues down a path of authoritarianism will have significant implications for global politics.