Vladimir Putin is no psychological mystery. While I have certainly not treated Mr. Putin, his actions on the world stage tell me that he believes that those with power should use it and that those who are reticent to use it are no different from those who are inherently weak.
What is more, it appears to me that he believes weak individuals and peoples and nations are placed in his path specifically to yield to him and to Russia—which are for him, very nearly one thing.
Putin isn’t a simple thug, on a solo power trip fueled by pure, individual narcissism.
He has, since boyhood, identified closely with his homeland—formerly the Soviet Union, now Russia. As an adolescent, he reportedly fancied himself much like the intelligence officers he saw portrayed on television. He later served in the KGB. He served in the administration of President Boris Yeltsin before being elected President of Russia himself.
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I believe Vladimir Putin believes that his entire life history and entire being is inseparable from the manifest destiny of the country he leads. Think one part nationalism, one part narcissism.
What’s more, I believe Putin’s psychology is being directly fueled by that of President Barack Obama.
Obama being Obama helps Putin be Putin.
Putin apparently believes he was placed on this planet to be the most powerful person he can be, to assert his religious and social beliefs unsparingly and to help reestablish his Russia as the dominant power in the world. Barack Obama apparently believes he was placed on this earth to be the most powerful person he can be, in order to restrain America in the expression of its power.
These are two sides of the same coin.
National (Russian) character is a good thing, according to Vladimir Putin. National (American) character is a bad thing, according to Barack Obama.
It would be underestimating Vladimir Putin to suggest that he reads world events only through a lens of opportunity. As a religious person, he may well believe in fate—that the world has order to it that men can intuit and respond to, but which comes from a supreme being.
How then could Vladimir Putin fail to notice the remarkable presence on the world stage of an American counterpart (Barack Obama) who is as interested as he is in disempowering the United States? How could he fail to act on the remarkable symmetry of such a moment in history? To not test the possibility that God intends him to be the instrument of a new world order, based on Russia’s manifest destiny, would be contrary to every fiber in his being.
To go further, I do not believe that Vladimir Putin would miss the fact that Barack Obama has imperiled the notion of individual autonomy (by seeking to disarm Americans, by seeking to make Americans dependent on unemployment checks and food stamps and by making it officially impossible to choose how to spend your own money, via the Affordable Care Act). Since giving each individual the right to power is not the goal of this American President, why would Putin believe that taking power from others would be opposed vigorously by this President’s Administration?
For Vladimir Putin to remain inside the boundaries of his country would require him dismissing the real possibility that the world stage is set for him to expand his nation’s character and his own persona—again, one in the same thing—beyond them.
If Crimea becomes part of Russia or all of Ukraine does, it will be in no small measure due to the psychology of Vladimir Putin, and, in equal meaure, due to the psychology of Barack Obama.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.