Dmitri Kozak, Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration
The main argument in favor of Kozak is that Putin can rely on him. Kozak is stubborn, which is why out of all the successor candidates listed here, he is perhaps the most reliable in terms of his unreadiness to extradite Putin to The Hague amid potential calls by the world community. The future ex-president most likely understands this.
Twenty years ago, Kozak overcame the resistance of the siloviki
and pushed through a reform by which the right to sanction arrests was transferred from the prosecutor's office (which previously had combined the functions of “prosecutorial oversight” and investigation) to the courts. Perhaps this was the only positive reform carried out during all the years of Putin's rule, and Kozak was its author. Of course, later the siloviki
took over the courts, though that was not the fault of Kozak (besides, he had been transferred by that time to another area).
Of particular importance now is the fact that Kozak opposed the invasion of Ukraine and tried first to prevent it and then to negotiate a peace. That is why he has now fallen from grace
As a technocrat without any special ideological quirks, Kozak is entirely acceptable for the West, while thanks to the strength of his character, he won’t thoughtlessly give away Russian positions at the negotiating table.
It is also important that he is a loner, equidistant from all the main clans. From Putin's point of view, that is a big plus. At the same time, “equidistant” from everyone doesn’t mean “conflicting” with everyone. Without necessity Kozak doesn’t take part in bureaucratic wars.
Kozak is a stranger for the siloviki
– he can’t count on their support. That is his main problem. Thus, when it comes time to choose a successor, the heads of the silovik
agencies could try to block this appointment. If Putin does opt for Kozak, he may need to purge the security bloc first. From a political point of view, that wouldn’t be difficult to do. The siloviki
higherups have discredited themselves in the eyes of both liberals and "patriots," so replacing them would bring nothing but dividends to Putin.
The selection of Kozak as successor would be a special operation that could only succeed if Putin completely leaves the stage – like Yeltsin did – and doesn’t get up to mischief like Nazarbayev did in Kazakhstan.