The more I watch Vladimir Putin on news videos, read biographies and accounts of conversations people have had with him, the more convinced I am that I’m watching someone on the spectrum. An Aspie if you like, if you allow Asperger syndrome to still be a valid diagnosis, or a ‘high-functioning’ autistic if you prefer that.
At a basic level, I think I understand where he’s coming from – that historical view of his that sees Russia as a misunderstood and cheated great power that deserves to be restored to its rightful place. Fiona Hill, the Trump impeachment witness, who has talked with Putin in person, says he reads a lot of history, but only by Russian writers.
She also emphasizes that he is not crazy. I hope she’s right. However, even the most sane among us can be driven into insanity.
Yes, I sympathize (a bit) with the way Putin has painted himself into a corner. Most of us on the spectrum have had the experience of being cornered by a society that we don’t fully understand, and which doesn’t understand us.
I believe distrust is a common attitude of anyone on the spectrum, at least among those of us with substantial experience in society. Putin distrusts everyone, which has undoubtedly contributed to his success in staying on top for so long in that nightmarish political arena. But it may also be what has led him into this trap.
That people on the spectrum can reach the top is nothing new. Hitler has often been proposed as a high-functioning autistic. Stalin fits even better. Just because those of us on the spectrum are often victims of society, doesn’t mean we can’t be predators too.
For example, the argument has been made that sociopaths are people on the spectrum who, long ago, found a way to penetrate society, then learned to play and win its games through lying and intimidation. A kind of parasite.
Though men like Putin are seen in democratic countries as evil opportunists, an argument can be made that they are also victims, products of the culture of violence and lawlessness that they grew up in. No one is born with a desire to end up in these dead end traps that dictators routinely fall into.
Had Putin been born in New Jersey instead of the suburbs of Moscow, I suspect he’d be in a very different position now. If he’d joined the CIA instead of the KGB, he’d probably be in post-retirement writing a best-seller about his experiences today.
Of course, he wouldn’t be the trillionaire he’s portrayed as now, but what good will that money do him if he ends up in prison, or assassinated?
Yes, dictators have a long history of ending badly. You have to wonder why they don’t learn.
Though I have some sympathy for him, I support the World Court arrest warrant. It’s not just symbolic either. It will provide a rebel Russian general with just the opening he needs to arrest Putin, turn him over to the International Court, and that way get some of the sanctions removed, and so win the backing of Russians.
On the other hand, if Putin suddenly has an epiphany, like Paul – persecutor of Christians on the road to Damascus – pulls his troops out of the Ukraine and apologizes for what he’s done, maybe I would say put the arrest warrant away. Let’s go forward into a better world.
That’s not a prediction though. I’m afraid to write about what I think may be coming.