Putin has made Russia a more nationalistic nation making the west the enemy,
Putin has given Russians some pride and self respect back... it is the west that has chosen to become Russias enemy because they wont accept Russia as an equal or a partner... only as a subject.
Putin has tried for 20 years to create a partnership with the west and every time they spat it back in his face.
Recently he has realised that Russias future is not with the west because the west does not share power... even with the new START treaty which Russia really wanted renewed Putin said Russia is not going to go to the US and beg... they will extend the treaty with no conditions or there will be no treaty.
That sounds to me like someone who has given up being a friend and partner... you could argue that the west is not homogenious and it might have been factions in the west sabotaging a potentially great future of cooperation with Russia, but after 20 years with all different combinations of regimes in the US and France and UK and Germany it is pretty clear no faction in the west wants to cooperate and make things better... Trump made all the right sounds before the election but afterwards he was no better than the rest.
I rather suspect Russia is now going to look to China and India and other countries including Brics but also other countries for trade links and development and growth strategies for both countries.
and with this making the russian people accept a very expensive military.
He has shown enormous restraint and care in limiting their military to make it affordable. It has been developed and improved beyond all measure in essentially the last 12 years... really since 2008 because after Georgia invaded South Ossetia and the world blamed Russia he realised he could not rely on the international community for fair or balanced treatment let alone any support if threatened or attacked.
It could have just as easily been a Japanese exercise that turned out to be an invasion of the Kurilles, which would have been a serious problem for them to deal with at that time because the entire area was neglected and terribly vulnerable.
These days locally positioned MiG-31Ks with Kinzhal missiles could deal with any landing force and local forces would at least notice when an attack is taking place.
If a more libiral Russian gouvernment replaces him, could they be willing stoping alot of expensive military programs like a carrier, heavy destroyers, new ICBM/SLBMs/, ordering fewer SSNs ecs?
He leads the only serious liberal party in Russia, so someone within that party would likely replace him and I suspect unless they have been living under a rock they will have seen the way the west demonises Putin and elevates criminals on podiums and realise this shift away from the west is something Russia just has to do. The 70% vote for Putin, but the 30% who don't don't vote for him because they think he is too soft and prowest... they are probably happy with defence spending is it actually quite affordable... an expansion of the navy would open up Russian business to the rest of the world and bypass western intermediaries.
When I buy firearm ammo here in New Zealand the gunshops I buy ammo from don't source their Russian Ammo from Russia, they get it from Germany who get it from Russia.
That sort of middleman bullshit means you are limited as to what you can buy and you are paying a third party for access to a product they don't make themselves.
Russia needs to start selling direct to other countries and stop pissing around with agents in anti Russian countries.
The difference between Soviet Russia and Russia today is that then it was always a new comuinst leader with basicly the same agenda taking over, now if Putin and his party would fall any kind of leadership could take over.
I don't think that Putins party would still get 70% of the vote without Putin being in charge, but the nearest rivals would be the communists who normally get 20-25% of the vote. When Putin retires his party might lose 25-30 percent of the vote and perhaps drop down to 40-45% and the communist party might pick most of that up an become a 40-50% party, so the vote might get rather close, but the people replacing Putin are more likely to be more conservative than he was and the Communists will want to increase military funding too and likely nationalise a few things too.
The idea that if Putin goes then Russia will be led by some west leaning progressive democrat is hilarious... because that is exactly what Putin was.
Any replacement will not be west leaning, if they come from Putins party then they will be a democrat but likely not very west friendly at all... unless of course they have been asleep.