Is Russian President Vladamir Putin sick, or are the rumors an attempt to medicalize and excuse abhorrent behavior?
Lawmakers and others who are supposedly in the know are dropping hints that something is off with Putin, who invaded neighboring Ukraine last week and is said to be suffering from Parkinson’s disease and cancer.
The common thread of these theories is that Putin’s actions are motivated by something other than the garden-variety ambitions of a power-hungry leader.
“He was always calculating and cold, but this is different,” former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Fox News on Sunday. “He seems erratic. There is an ever-deepening, delusional rendering of history.”
“He’s descending into something I personally haven’t seen before,” the former official said.
Former director of national intelligence James Clapper also chalked up Putin’s recent actions to a mental break.
“I personally think that he’s unhinged,” Clapper told CNN.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who likely has insider knowledge as vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, tweeted that something is wrong with Putin.
“I wish I could share more, but for now I can say it’s pretty obvious to many that something is off with [Putin],” the Republican cryptically wrote on Saturday. “He has always been a killer, but his problem now is different & significant.”
I wish I could share more,but for now I can say it’s pretty obvious to many that something is off with #Putin
He has always been a killer,but his problem now is different & significant
It would be a mistake to assume this Putin would react the same way he would have 5 years ago
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 26, 2022
These comments only added to existing rumors that Putin is somehow unwell.
In 2020, Russian professor and political commentator Valery Solovei said Russia’s leader was suffering from cancer and another malady of a “psycho-neurological nature,” according to The Sun.
Solovei insisted that although he was no doctor, he knew that Putin had Parkinson’s disease and a kind of terminal cancer that he had undergone surgery to treat — claims which the Kremlin vehemently denied, according to Reuters.
The Telegraph also pointed out on Tuesday that Putin has lately appeared noticeably bloated — a sign that he could be undergoing steroid treatments — and may be taking extreme social distancing measures by conducting meetings with officials from almost comical distances.
Russian President Vladimir Putin huddled with officials to discuss the economic turmoil amid his invasion of Ukraine.
— ABC News (@ABC) February 28, 2022
The implication of all of this speculation about Putin’s mental and physical health is that he’s not in control of his faculties and that what he’s doing now — waging a poorly executed war that will be to Russia’s detriment — is the result of some disease.
However, former Defense Intelligence Agency official Rebekah Koffler rejects this premise.
“Putin is absolutely not crazy. All this talk calling him crazy, it means we’re still not taking Putin seriously or understanding him,” said Koffler, who authored “Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America.”
“He’s not delusional. There are no mental anomalies,” she continued.
“Putin is a cold-blooded, typical Russian autocratic leader and a very calculated risk-taker. He’s simply executing a plan that he has been hatching for 20 years,” Koffler said, pointing out that these theories provide cover for the real reason Putin invaded Ukraine: President Joe Biden’s weakness.
In the lead-up to the conflict, Biden had little to offer as a deterrent except for the usual useless sanctions and strongly worded statements.
Do you think Putin’s actions are the result of illness?
So it would be convenient for Putin to be lashing out against Ukraine as his way of raging against the darkness in the face of his own death, or descending into psychosis like something out of an overwrought political thriller.
But perhaps the simplest explanation is that men like Putin, who lack a moral compass and are brimming with ambition, seize the opportunity when spineless men like Biden are running things.
It’s more comforting to think Putin is sick rather than admit the truth: A weak America invites aggression from our enemies.