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Mr. Putin used the summit to publicly endorse the conspiracy theory that Syria’s “so-called chemical weapons attack” was in fact “a provocation staged by rebels, in hope of winning extra backing from their foreign backers,” including the United States.

But Mr. Putin faces an increasingly uphill struggle to realize his dreams of resurgent superpower status, Mr. Pavel said.

“He has superpower ambitions, but increasingly less power to pursue them,” he said.

That, combined with a rapidly aging and unhealthy population, a declining birthrate and a stagnant, oil-dependent economy, is “a recipe for major instability” within the next two to three decades, he said.

“In the long term, Russia’s in big trouble,” Mr. Pavel said.