The "f***ing hammer to the head" that could end Putin

Even watching those three, predicting Putin’s political future—and particularly trying to get inside his head to determine what his plans are—is impossible. But the writing is on the wall. Vladimir Lenin died. Nikita Khrushchev was ousted. Leonid Brezhnev died. Mikhail Gorbachev was booted in a surprise ouster. The list goes on.

“They either drop dead in office or someone comes knocking on the door and says, ‘Vladimir Vladimirovich, guess what, it’s time to go. You’re gonna love that dacha down there,’” Marks said.

And while Putin’s pared down his inner circle, if Russia’s economy takes a turn for the worse, unrest grows to unmanageable levels, or the battlefield losses start spiraling, Putin will be walking the plank.

So far, Russian public opinion hasn’t reached a tipping point for the siloviki, according to Marks.

But when it does—and when protests in pockets around Russia are replaced by massive social unrest—the siloviki are going to bail on Putin.