Understanding Vladimir Putin and why he enjoys the show - opinion

The process Putin has gone through as a leader and the confidence he gained is manifest through an exaggerated sense of grandness, along with antisocial behavior that developed during his youth.

 RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow on Tuesday. (photo credit: Sputnik/Kremlin/Reuters)
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow on Tuesday.
(photo credit: Sputnik/Kremlin/Reuters)

Putin can be linked with a notorious group of leaders, including leaders such as Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and even Hitler. Such leaders were born into very difficult life circumstances, in conditions of poverty, in wars or have experienced traumatic events. They have overcome their hardships, but these experiences instilled in them symptoms of antisocial behavior, as well as strong feelings of competence that slowly developed into pure narcissism.

Growing up, they have experienced failures and disappointments that have intensified these personality disorders and encouraged them to pursue senior positions in their society. As they have developed and reached higher level positions, their feelings of grandiosity and entitlement have escalated. They have completely abandoned their sense of responsibly for their people and channeled all their efforts in to promoting their own selfish needs and desires.

Among these leaders, the journey has ended with tragic death on the heels of a very distorted perception of reality, which led to a bad decision-making process that eventually destroyed them.

Putin was born in 1952, in Soviet Leningrad (today St. Petersburg). He was the third and youngest child out of three, and the only one who has survived: His two brothers died as infants before he was born. His father was a soldier in the Soviet army and was badly injured in the war, and his mother was a factory worker. They all admired the communist ideology, while living in poor conditions with three other families in the same household.

As a youth, Putin wandered around ruined Leningrad committing crimes and violent acts. Later, he channeled these aggressions into sport, for example, by learning judo - he currently holds a black belt. After graduating from studying law in university, he was recruited by the KGB and worked as a spy for 15 years.

 Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a judo training session at the Yug-Sport sport and training complex in the Black sea resort of Sochi, Russia, February 14, 2019. (credit: Sputnik/Mikhael Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS) Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a judo training session at the Yug-Sport sport and training complex in the Black sea resort of Sochi, Russia, February 14, 2019. (credit: Sputnik/Mikhael Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS)

He was posted in East Germany for five years. However, during these years he experienced frustration and disappointment from his work. These feelings escalated in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, which symbolized the fall of the communist regimes that he had admired.

At that point, Putin launched his road into politics. He climbed the ladder to the top, rotating between the positions of prime minister and president of Russia, before manipulating the Russian constitution to allow him to serve a much longer term in office. As a result of that move, he’s held the role of president Russia since 2000.

The process Putin has gone through as a leader and the confidence he gained over the years is manifest through an exaggerated sense of grandness, along with antisocial behavior that developed during his younger years. During his tenure, various allegations of corruption, violent behavior and undermining the rule of law have been made against him. Yet he has carried on, removing those in his path, and maintaining an image of the strong, healthy and fearless leader of Russia.

He is considered one of the wealthiest leaders in the world, with many luxurious assets, even as Russia suffers a severe economic crisis, and the people in the country endure poverty and a lack of basic resources. Nonetheless, the Russian army is the third strongest military in the world.

The latest developments regarding the war with Ukraine reinforce the notion that Putin’s perception of reality is quite distorted by now. He can only nurture his own greatness and success and cannot relate to the harsh conditions faced by Russians. He is motivated by the need to be glorified and to maintain ultimate control. He must show that he is in charge, calling all the shots. His decisions are based on serving his own needs and not those of the Russian people.

He is in this mindset, like the leaders mentioned earlier in this article, who in their final days, were not concerned with the well-being of their people. As far as Putin is concerned, he is Russia and consequently acts forcefully, without thinking of the consequences for Russia or the larger world.

On one hand, if the United States and the other countries in the world were to join in the fighting against Russia, starting World War III, it would only play into Putin’s hands and serve his narcissistic needs. On the other hand, the imposition of severe international sanctions on Russia, though at first feeding Putin’s need to show strength, could eventually be useful in defeating him because the international punishment will seriously affect the Russian people, not only physically on a personal level, but also in the way they perceive Putin.

This perception of Putin as their ultimate strong leader, an image that is already being damaged, will break down completely under the burden of the sanctions and will ultimately lead to a huge protest against him that eventually will determine his fate.

Will he finish his journey in a tragic manner like his fellows from the group mentioned above? That is yet to be known, the future will tell, but for now it is obvious that he is enjoying the show.

The writer, who holds a PhD from King's College in London, is a criminologist, specializing in profiling, the psychology of terrorism and terrorist-risk assessment. She is a lecturer at Hebrew University and Reichman University, and a member of Forum Dvorah: Women in Foreign Policy and National Security.