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The Fragile State of Putin’s Mind is Costing Russian Lives
In recent weeks, since Russia’s vicious and unprovoked assault on Ukraine, there have been many curious rumors afloat about Vladimir Putin: that he is dying of colon cancer, that he is deeply paranoid, that he is maniacally obsessed with rebuilding the old Russian Empire beginning with Ukraine, and that he is mentally unstable.
As we watch the tragedy unfold in Ukraine at the hands of the Russian military, there is an image of Putin that is making the rounds of intelligence circles:
There sits Putin, deep in his bunker, protected by his carefully chosen Chechen bodyguards, and uninformed about what is really happening in Ukraine, because his generals are afraid to give him the bad news. Putin thinks Russia is winning. He does not know, they say, that it is not ‘Russia victorious,’ preparing for its victory parade down the streets of Kyiv, but Russian tanks heading for the hills to “regroup and resupply.”
Word is that Putin is becoming increasingly delusional and that he sits alone in his bunker, where he carries on long conversations . . . with Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible, great names from Russian history but long gone from this world. They don’t talk back to him or criticize him. And he cannot arrest them or have them put to death.
Can a man in such a mental state really have his finger on the nuclear button that enables him to control the destiny of the world? He has been talking about the possibility of using nuclear weapons against Ukraine. And he does not know that his troops are withdrawing. They say that they are moving away from the center of fighting in order to regroup and restock – fuel, ammunition, and food for the troops. But when they withdraw, they leave a vacuum, which the Ukrainian troops rush in to fill.
The Russians have left a huge swath of destruction in their wake, cities that have been totally destroyed by Russian missiles with thousands of dead and wounded Ukrainians on the mangled earth. But the Ukrainians are nevertheless still standing and still fighting, and they have regained significant ground. Parts of the country that had been captured by Russian troops are now back under Ukrainian control. And the Ukrainian people are prepared to fight for every inch of their country.
If Putin is really sitting in his bunker talking to dead heroes, and oblivious to the defeat that his troops are facing in Ukraine, he will no doubt start to wonder why there hasn’t already been a victory parade through the streets of Kyiv. And if he discovers how badly he has been deceived by his own people, how will his rage express itself? In the arrest of senior officers? In the unleashing of nuclear weapons in Ukraine? To what lengths will his demented mind take the world?
Predicting the near future in these uncertain times is risky at best. Tomorrow is likely to be as full of surprises as yesterday was. And while the future of Ukraine hangs in the balance, the Biden administration is taking its time to fulfill its promises to deliver weapons to Ukraine, where every single day matters, where life and death are a constant struggle for the Ukrainian people on the ground.
Biden appears to be afraid to rattle Putin’s cage. It seems to be the policy of this administration not to antagonize Putin. So Biden has dragged his feet in a slow walk to provide the weapons he promised to Ukraine.
The Biden administration delayed the delivery of the first stingers until the end of January, while Russian forces were building up near the Ukrainian border in Russia and Belarus. And he refused to impose significant sanctions on Russia until after there was actually a war in Ukraine.
Biden’s mental state is also in question, but he has neither Putin’s unchallenged power nor his unbridled viciousness. He is simply too weak and unable to carry the heavy responsibilities of his office with honor. In his weakness and mental vagueness, he presents a grave danger to the country that he is sworn to serve.
On the other hand, Putin has always portrayed himself as a man of great physical strength and power as the head of the Russian government. So today, the picture of him sitting alone in his bunker, talking to ghosts, is one of pathos and terror, as his hand rests uncomfortably close to the nuclear button. What the world needs to recognize ⏤ and to fear ⏤ as it continues to spin towards chaos without the leadership it so desperately needs ⏤is that we are now in what may be the most dangerous time in the history of the world. At one minute to midnight, it’s time to wake up.
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