5th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center

Putin’s Final Term? A Conversation with Mikhail Zygar

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This event is part of the Kennan Institute's Distinguished Speaker Series.

There is little doubt that Vladimir Putin will be declared the victor in Russia’s March 18 presidential election, but the implications are far less certain. Mikhail Zygar shared what he expects from Russia and its longtime leader in the next six years, relying on his journalism and the extensive research he conducted for his bestseller, All the Kremlin's Men.



Selected Quotes


“The title of our meeting is ‘Putin’s Final Term?’… We’ve got an answer to that question: no, [this] is not the final term. He’s not going to leave us after his next presidential term is going to be expired. There is no clarity – no one has got that clarity – but at least we know only one thing: he doesn’t want to leave and he’s that self-assured that he’s the one and only [person] capable to be Russia’s president and to be Russia’s leader and to be the savior of our country.”

“It seems that [Putin] believes he has got a unique historical role, that he has restored Russian greatness and has made ‘Russia great again’ – and that’s the banner for his current reelection.”

“At the same time, as we are approaching these six years of turbulence, I’m [going] to say that the situation and the atmosphere in Russian bureaucracies is rather tense. A lot of people are feeling rather nervous, not because they are nervous about the outcome of the presidential election, [but because] they are nervous about what is going to happen [after] March 19…There is still no obvious mechanism for how the system is going to be transformed. It needs to be transformed, definitely. The constitution probably needs to be changed, the bureaucracies need to be reshuffled.”

“Probably, we should expect a Cold War number two. Actually, it has already started. We’ve all heard the latest nuclear speech from Vladimir Putin; there is nothing surprising in that. He is very insistent in his message… He has been appealing to a new world order and a new global security system, probably [similar to a] Yalta number two, to set up the new rules of the game.”

“The only way for Russian elites [and] for the Russian president to be treated as equal partners and major stakeholders is to come back, in a way, to the Cold War terms and to remind all of Russia’s global partners that nuclear weapons are still important. For him, that’s not a threat; it’s the only possibility to continue the conversation with that tone he prefers.”

“I think it’s too early and too difficult to speculate about who comes after Putin because we don’t know the moment when it will happen. That’s the most important thing: not who, but when. And who that is going to be depends on the factor of when it is going to happen.”



  • Mikhail Zygar

    Journalist, Writer, and Filmmaker; Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Future History Lab