Russian President Vladimir Putin is becoming isolated — and it’s getting worse. President Joe Biden calls him a A criminal of war. US intelligence says Putin advisers are too Mislead him about the warTo tell Putin what he wants to hear. So what is going on in the mind of this lonely secret dictator? We found a guy who thinks he knows the answer.
journalist and author marvin dog I love Russia for almost 70 years. In the early 1950s, he studied Russian history as a doctoral candidate at Harvard University. In 1960, he moved to Moscow as a correspondent for CBS News. He has interviewed many powerful Russians. But he never spoke to Vladimir Putin. To get some insight into Putin, Caleb says, it’s best to read about him rather than meet him.
to episode of Today’s explanationhost Noel King spoke with a dog about how Putin relied on a skewed version of history and an increasingly small circle of advisers — and what that means for the war in Ukraine. Below is a partial transcript of their conversation, edited for length and clarity.
I’ve found over the years that if you read extensively what a leader says, writes, or thinks about himself, you’ll get a pretty good idea of what it really is. Sometimes in an interview, you only get what a prominent political figure would like to convey. And he does it very well. Putin’s interview is surprisingly good. And the reporters who interviewed him do a very good job because he can play the character. He knows how to deal with people. This is very important to him.
Based on your many years of reading and watching, and knowing that you have a strong sense of who they are, who is Vladimir Putin?
Vladimir Putin at the moment is a very lonely person. He is finally a dictator. He used to be a domineering figure. He had the kind of power that a tsar had. He is now an absolute dictator. And for him, this is a bad thing.
What it means, on the other hand, is that he has the absolute power to do whatever he pleases in Russia. But the people around him are terrified of him now. This means that they will tell him what they think he wants to hear. This is very bad for any leader in any country. Putin is now in dire need of 100% reliable and verified information, and he is not getting it. This is the belief of the United States government and Western countries, and I think, logically, given the history of dictatorship, that when you reach the highest point in power, you begin to lose it. Putin is now losing the power he has sought to amass all his life.
He is a former KGB official. A young man in the dying days of the Soviet Union who tried to live in the artificial world created by the KGB. He was imagining what the Western world was like. He will try hard to understand it. It will pick up a language. The government gave him every opportunity to learn as much as possible about the enemy, and he did, thinking that he would be able to figure out how to manipulate the enemy so that he could destroy him. This was the whole point of the KGB operation. It was an intelligence unit, but it was also a unit that worked to achieve certain goals. And for the KGB, the end has always been the dismantling of the Western threat.
We know that US intelligence has tried to assess whether the pandemic has changed Vladimir Putin’s mental state, and whether isolation from the pandemic has changed him. Was he a lonely person before the pandemic?
Each leader is, to some extent, an aloof figure, but Putin was not. Putin enjoyed being with people, but at the same time, he was always very suspicious of everyone. And so there was always some distance between him and anyone he negotiated with. And certainly between him and someone he considered an enemy, and so, yes, the distance was there. He has always been surrounded by his wit, ambition, and drive toward power. And when he had achieved it, he was very good at persuading the man above him, the President of Russia, [Boris] Yeltsin. In the 1990s, Yeltsin moved him from Saint Petersburg to Moscow and Yeltsin appointed Putin as the head of the KGB, or its new version. Two years later, he appointed him prime minister. And then when Yeltsin wanted to quit, he looked around and the only person he felt could be trusted was Putin.
So Putin became his successor, almost immediately establishing a new type of government in Russia. He had KGB personnel ready to infiltrate power not only in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, but throughout the country. It is a vast country. It extends across many time zones. It is difficult to manage a country of this size and Putin had his people in a position to run it, and he was in control of the whole process. became the president.
Who is surrounding Putin now? Who are his advisors? who are his friends
The people around him now are the same people who were around him 22 years ago, more or less. They are KGB people. These people were allowed to control the country’s large economic assets. Oil, gas, and timber were invested in the hands of a very small group, and this small group proved to be effective enough for Putin to become the president and run this very complex society.
What does it tell you that Vladimir Putin has not made new friends over the past 22 years? That the same people who surrounded him when he was a KGB agent surround him because he is the head of a world power?
And this is a very important observation, because what we learn from it is that we are dealing with a man who had a certain view of the world 20-30 years ago and holds it more clearly today.
Please remember that Putin is first and foremost a Russian nationalist. The question that comes to mind: is he an extremist nationalist? What does it mean that he sees everything from a Russian point of view? The answer, unfortunately, is yes. And since he sees everything from a Russian point of view, he looks at a country, for example, such as Belarus; in Ukraine ; Both are Slavic. Both are orthodox in religion and therefore in his mind is Russian. And it is not at all understandable to him that purebred Russian people, as he sees it, can be in rebellion against Moscow. In his opinion, they should be part of Moscow.
So we can now look at the war in Ukraine and say, “Isn’t it wonderful?” Indeed, it seems that democracy still exists in Ukraine. For Putin, this is a novelty. This is blasphemy. this is unacceptable. And so he will continue to fight for what is completely normal for him.
At this point, it became very clear, both in the field reports and from the reports from the US Pentagon, that Vladimir Putin was not winning the war in Ukraine. It seems too early to say he lost it. What does that do to his mental state, in your opinion?
Oh, I think it was a crushing experience. This does not mean that it undermines it completely. He is a very strong and intelligent man. It’s really cunning. There is a Russian word, хитрый, which means cunning, meaning cunning on a street corner. He understands power and understands how to take advantage of it. He has a little patience for the wit that comes to him and says, “We’re killing a lot of people.” Forget all that. Where are we at in terms of the end you set out as our policy objective?
In fact, his policy goal, now, would never happen. It was believed that the war would be over in two or three days. We are now in the second month and it may last for much longer. I hope not, but it is possible. In his mind, he is pursuing a legitimate historical goal. Can he lose? No, can he convince himself that he lost? No, the only people who can convince him will never convince him, and they will have to get rid of him somehow. These are the people closest to him. They are the ones who know his mind, and know his methods because they are the same people.
And if they get rid of him, there may be someone a lot like him who will come to power, or if we are lucky … if we are lucky, we may see another promise for Russia … of literature, of music, of history, growth and creativity – Russia and the Russian people, a great society.
And if there was another way to get out of the KGB mentality and get to another Russia, we would all be better off led by the same Russian people. Is it possible? Yeah. he’s there. It should come out of the soot and gutter it is in today.