Vladimir Putin will be the czar of all the Russians for another decade and more. Only health appears likely to change the course upon which he now sails.
The questions for the U.S. and its global allies are clear: What does this mean for Russian grand strategy? How can they construct a modus vivendi with Putin and Russia?
Much like President Xi Jinping in China, Putin will now be able to shape events and planning indefinitely. This will mean many of his personal priorities will continue to drive Russian policy. One has been his penchant for putting very serious pressure on weak neighbors, trying to recreate the group of buffer states (what Russians call the “near abroad”) that the Soviet Union enjoyed in the Warsaw Pact countries. Countries such as Ukraine and Georgia (both now invaded and partly occupied by Russian troops); Belarus; the “stans” of Central Asia; and Armenia will feel long-term pressure to join Russian-led customs arrangements, and receive political pressure to align themselves with Putin’s political and diplomatic moves.
Look also for Putin to consolidate his recent gains in the Middle East. With the advantage of a lengthened timeline, he will probably approach Iran with an offer to mediate its feud with the West — on terms that will be helpful to Russia in terms of oil flows. Knowing he needs cash to keep the increasingly restive Russian population appeased, he will be unlikely to take responsibility for reconstruction of Syria, to the disappointment of his erstwhile ally, President Bashar al-Assad. Instead, expect him to work on Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman to find the money to do so. His new timeline allows him to work closely with the next generation of Gulf leaders and Iran.