There has been wild speculation surrounding Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mental and physical health since the invasion of Ukraine began. As the rest of the world attempts to grapple with his motivations for the conflict, there are scenarios that are beginning to be discussed that no one wants to contemplate.
The most troubling scenario is that Putin would suffer some sort of nervous breakdown. There have been serious signs in the past that he is suffering from a serious condition and as his condition worsens it could attack his mental health. This would be an unprecedented situation given Putin’s total control over the military and nuclear arsenal. He has already threatened to use nuclear weapons if Russia is under existential threat. For a man that considers himself one of Russia’s greatest leaders trying to bring the country back to its former glory, could that existential threat include his own death? No one wants to consider the terrifying scenario of a madman with nuclear weapons. Putin does not have to descend into full mental illness either. His proposed illness could degrade his decision making to the point where he stumbles into a nuclear exchange.
His health does not seem to be getting better either. In a recent appearance with Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon, Putin’s foot started to tremble uncontrollably. This could suggest a whole host of neurological conditions, many of them degenerative and fatal. Such a condition would be exacerbated by stress. There are few things more stressful than war, especially when Putin has taken the reins from his generals and is running combat operations himself. Putin’s health is an X factor that complicates an already complex situation. It makes predicting his actions especially difficult.
For the moment, the Western powers are not giving Putin any kind of off-ramp from the war either than complete withdrawal. The billions of dollars and lethal weapons the United States is pouring into Ukraine is forcing Putin into a corner. Let us hope his degraded physical and mental condition is not pushed to the breaking point where he does something the world will regret.