An article by my Hoover colleague Dr. Paul Gregory in The Hill
Vladimir Putin is mortal. Russia, sooner or later, will have to navigate the transition from his 20-plus years of rule to someone else. It now appears that “sometime” could come as early as January 2021, if ill-health rumors denied by the Kremlin should prove to be true.
But do not be hopeful for a democratic Russia, whenever it happens. Putin’s inner circle would preserve the Putin system even without Putin; Russian voters would have little or no voice in the matter. It would be a process closely “managed” by a coterie of Kremlin insiders. They will not (and cannot) allow a democratic Russia that offers a variety of candidates with different electoral platforms.
The Kremlin has a historical precedent for managed transition — namely, the 1999-2000 transition from President Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin. A key building block of the Yeltsin transition was the grant of immunity from eventual prosecution for the outgoing president and for his family. A second key ingredient was enforcement of the agreement by a credible guarantor. That guarantor happened to be the security services, headed at the time by one Vladimir Putin.