Russian President Vladimir Putin has been a major player on the world’s stage for decades, and most political leaders have considered him – much like former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice described him – “cold and calculating.” The West, along with many countries in Europe, have watched Putin’s amassing of Russian troops along three borders of the Ukraine, and most expected him to invade the country. Political leaders and pundits alike have said for many years that former KGB officer Putin wanted most to put the old Soviet Union back together, and most believed he would try to take Ukraine just as he did Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014.
Some might describe Putin as “ruthless” or even “ambitious,” but no one has ever questioned Putin’s mental state – until now.
On Sunday, Condoleeza Rice appeared on Fox News Sunday, and she discussed her meetings with Putin during her time in the Bush Administration. She said she had had a great deal of experience in dealing with Putin, and said his actions of late are much “different” than the Putin with whom she is acquainted.
Ms. Rice isn’t the only political leader to comment on what appears to be a decline in the mental abilities of Vladimir Putin.
A member of the Obama Administration, James Clapper, appeared on CNN on Sunday. He says that Putin “has grown increasingly frustrated over his failure to swiftly subdue Ukrainian forces.” Clapper also said that Putin is “unhinged.”
Multiple senior intelligence officials who have personally known Putin for “decades” say that Putin “has been isolated for months” and that he interacts solely with a group of “advisers and cronies.” Other reports say that Putin never uses a cell phone (at least not a smart phone) nor does he utilize the internet, which some pundits say could further contribute to isolation. One senior national security official under the Trump Administration discussed Putin’s meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron. The anonymous official said that during the meeting, Putin was “paranoid” and “unwilling to listen to reason.”
A French official seemed to confirm this allegation. At the meeting, Macron and Putin sat at a long, rectangular table, with the leaders at opposite ends of the table. Macron would later describe his meeting with Putin, saying the Russian president was “more rigid, more isolated and fundamentally lost in a sort of ideological and security drift.”
The Guardian quoted Czeck president and longtime friend of Putin, Milos Zeman, as saying Putin is a “madman.”
As world leaders question Putin’s sanity, many Russian people are protesting in the streets his attack on Ukraine. Reports say between 2,000 and 6,000 Russian citizens have been arrested for taking part in the protests. In Russia, protests of this nature could constitute a charge of treason.
Yet, there are those in America who say Putin isn’t crazy in the least. Former Defense Intelligence Agency officer Rebekah Koffler, who authored “Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America, said “Putin is absolutely not crazy.”
Koffler says that talk among world leaders and citizens of the world alike shows that no one truly understands Putin. She described Putin has a “cold-blooded, typical Russian autocratic leader and a very calculated risk-taker.”
Koffler says this is nothing more than Putin carrying out the plan he made two decades ago.
To be certain, many of these allegations of mental instability on Putin’s part is an echo of Western descriptions of past autocrats. Hitler was described as maniacal; Fidel Castro was called brutal. Saddam Hussein was called insane and became the butt of many American jokes after Operation Desert Storm. Yes, there is no doubt these leaders were cruel dictators; their actions are completely abhorrent – but were they clinically insane?
Regardless of Putin’s mental state; he’s put nuclear deterrent force on high alert. He has access to “the button.” Finally, the world should never underestimate him or the lengths to which he will go to get what he wants.