Vladimir Putin has always behaved in corrupt, murderous, and objectively evil fashion. But he’s generally done so in a “pragmatic evil” manner, such that his actions seemed calculated to ensure that he came out just fine whether his latest antics succeeded or not. But Putin’s approach changed drastically when he invaded Ukraine, when he had to know a depleted Russian military wasn’t up to it, and at a cost of worldwide economic consequences that’ll be far more costly than any wealth he might be able to steal from Ukraine.
That’s led to questions about whether Putin has developed some kind of mental illness that prevents him from caring about any consequences to himself, or maybe he’s become too senile to understand why his latest plan isn’t going to work – or perhaps he’s now terminally ill and doesn’t have to care about the mess he might leave behind for Russia and the world.
Now the Daily Star, a British newspaper, is claiming to have learned from a Pentagon source that Putin has “terminal bowel cancer.” It’s not clear why someone in the Pentagon would be leaking this to the Daily Star but not to major American media outlets. Nor is it clear whether we should trust what the Daily Star, a semi-tabloid, is telling us.
That said, it’s worth watching for other signs going forward that Putin could indeed be terminally ill. It might offer the most straightforward explanation for why he’s suddenly shifted from a lifetime of calculated evil aimed at protecting his status, to a new approach of reckless evil that’s ultimately going to cost him his status. If he’s dying anyway, he’d certainly be in a hurry to try to pull off one last evil achievement – and he wouldn’t have to care about getting ousted or killed if it fails.
Something has clearly shifted in Vladimir Putin’s demeanor, mindset, and approach. Not only is his invasion of Ukraine uncharacteristically stupid, he’s also displaying bizarre behavior such as meeting with his own trusted political advisers at the end of a twenty foot table, but meeting up close with flight attendant trainees as if they were trusted political advisers. We need to be asking questions about what’s caused Putin’s dramatic shift, because the answers could be key to putting a stop to him.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report