CIA chief says Putin is “too healthy”. What do we really know about his condition?

Burns took pains to qualify the apparently derisive remarks by stating that they were not “formal intelligence judgment”.

But when asked directly whether Putin was unwell or unstable, he said: “There are a lot of rumors about the health of President Putin, and as far as we can tell, he is too healthy.”

So what do we do about Putin’s health rumors? These rumors are nothing new.
His body language, speech and gait were constantly changing. careful. And every time Putin disappears from the public eye for a few days — or even makes a small faux pas, as he recently did after landing in Tehran — it can set off a series of intense, tabloid styles. assumption about his physical health.
Such is the nature of Putinism, a kind of postmodern dictatorship built around one man. The Kremlin has worked hard to create an aura around Putin as the country’s only problem solver by hosting an annual TV show where he literally assumes the role of chief coachman.

And for two decades, he consolidated power, building a system governed by the whims and obsessions of one man (an obvious example: the invasion of Ukraine).

Thus, without a clear successor to Putin, Russia is always steps away from a full-blown political crisis.

The Kremlin routinely ridicules any speculation about Putin’s health; On Thursday, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin was feeling “well” and “well healthy” before characterizing speculation to the contrary as “nothing less than a hoax.”

But Burns’s statement, even if made in jest, may tell us much more about Western politicians than it does about Putin’s fitness.

First, it reflects a strong element of wishful thinking when it comes to the Kremlin leader. This suggests that the most troubling international crises may simply evaporate if one man – Putin – disappears from the world stage.

And this is a potentially misreading of Russia. To be sure, the decision to invade Ukraine was made by one person: the Russian president, who appears to be driven by his own twisted understanding of history and a dose of imperial ambition.
And Russia’s confrontation with the West for years was fueled by personal grievances from a man known to mourn the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But it is naive to hope that Putinism will not survive without Putin.

Nearly six months after the invasion, Putin’s heavy casualties on the battlefield have not sparked, say, mass opposition to conscription.

Russian population – with the exception of the thousands who were arrested in anti-war protests, they more or less passively put up with the economic pain of the new sanctions imposed on their country.
Putin’s ratings, according to a sociological survey VTsIOM must have actually grown after the February 24th invasion.
Restoring an empire is the endgame for Vladimir Putin

The CIA director’s remarks in context reflect how difficult it is to understand Putin, a man whose decision-making processes are opaque to the outside world.

Burns noted the narrowing of the circle of Putin’s confidants. But during the pandemic, Putin’s isolation has taken on a very physical dimension, as evidenced by his meetings with some world leaders around an absurdly long table.

Putin’s extreme social distancing seems to reflect the lengths the Kremlin is willing to go to protect his physical health – and by extension, any information about his health.

Shortly before the invasion, French President Emmanuel Macron turned down the Kremlin’s request for a Russian test for Covid-19, the Élysée reported, while declining to comment on media reports that Macron did not want Russian doctors to get their hands on his DNA.

It is fair to assume that Putin’s entourage would have gone to the same lengths to not give any information about his health to any curious foreign intelligence service.

The analysis of Russia often comes down to the study of one person. But as Burns can recall, the consensus politics of the late Soviet Politburo still managed to stumble upon the disastrous war in Afghanistan in 1979.

And, as many Ukrainians are quick to point out, the Russians have yet to truly reckon with their Soviet imperial past.

Any hope of change is far off: if Burns is to be believed, and if history is a guide, Putin is likely to be around until he reaches Brezhnev’s peak.

Kathy Bo Lillis contributed to this report.

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