The year is 2027 and Kyiv’s dreams have come true: Russia has lost the war, its troops have withdrawn from all Ukrainian territory – and Vladimir Putin has fallen from power.
But far from turning Russia into a Western-friendly democracy, the defeat has spawned a bitter, dangerous and unstable state right on Europe’s doorstep – ruled over by yet another nuclear-armed autocrat.
Worse still, the new regime in Moscow is firmly in Beijing’s back pocket.
That is just one sobering scenario put forward by expert Duncan Allan in a new report which warns that – even if Ukraine’s counter-attack smashes Putin’s army – Russia will pose long-term risks that the West must be ready to deal with.
Mr. Allan, an associate fellow at the Chatham House think-tank, said: “Never say never, but I don’t see any serious likelihood of a democratic Russia within the next five years.
“It will retain an essentially authoritarian system. Even if the war ends decisively on Ukraine’s terms I would expect Russia to be a long-term challenge to the U.K. and Europe.
“It is necessary to think about what we may have to deal with in the future. That debate needs to intensify.”
Mr. Allan stresses that the paper is not intended as a prediction of the future, but instead tries to imagine likely outcomes for Russia if the war in Ukraine plays out according to a best-case scenario.
By best-case, Mr. Allan means that Ukraine inflicts heavy losses on Russia in its coming offensive, sparking a palace coup in Moscow which leads to the signing of an armistice by mid-2024.
The war ends with the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory – including Crimea – and in return the West agrees to lift some but not all of its sanctions.
With Putin gone, rule of Russia falls to the cabal of elites who helped remove him.
The question Mr. Allan tries to answer is: What happens next? And that is where the Western pipe-dream comes to an end.
Worth reading in full.