At one point in the not-so-distant past, we were all very afraid of Vladimir Putin. We had been fed a story about the Russian dictator, that he was some sort of evil genius; a Moscow madman with enough brain-power to be extremely dangerous on the world’s stage.
But, much like the emperor whose clothes don’t actually exist, Russia’s abject failure in Ukraine in recent days has revealed a great deal of Vlad’s once-hidden vulnerability.
Now, one expert has begun to suggest that perhaps Putin is simply losing his marbles.
Once widely viewed as a cunning, if ruthless, but ultimately rational actor, the Russian president is now isolated and increasingly paranoid, having launched a war in Ukraine that has alarmed even some of his closest advisers, says Catherine Belton, a former Moscow-based correspondent for the Financial Times, now with Reuters and the author of the widely praised book “Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West.”
In an interview with Yahoo News’s “Skullduggery” podcast, hours before Putin placed Russian nuclear forces on high alert, Belton explains why the battle for Ukraine could be the Russian president’s waterloo.
From the interview:
“And I guess the question is really: To what degree is he now just acting all by himself? Because I actually can’t imagine for an instance that his decision to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine was supported by a majority of his own top officials. And you could see that on their faces when he held that Security Council meeting on Monday. You could see the fear in their eyes and that, really, they didn’t want to be there. They all looked deeply uncomfortable.”
Then, speaking on Putin’s radical shift in policy during the pandemic:
“But we’ve seen him always before, no matter what he’s done … we’ve always seen him act, perhaps wrongly and terribly, but always with a degree of cool rationality. … And it seems [that] has changed over the last two years. He’s lost touch with reality. I mean, it really seems that he thought maybe the Ukrainians would just back down.”
Now the only question left for the world is how to get Putin off the stage without him throwing another catastrophic temper tantrum.