Exploring the Personality and Motives of Vladimir Putin

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Exploring the Personality and Motives of Vladimir Putin


The man who rules Russia is full of intrigue for many psychologists, where the concept of contempt lies at the very heart of is personal identity. As far back as 2006 at a joint meeting of the German- Russian cabinet meeting in Siberia, German Chancellor Angela Merkel tried unsuccessfully to persuade President Putin that cabinet ministers should be treated with respect rather than contempt. With regard to emotions, resentment is for superior individuals where anger is reserved for equals. However, contempt and especially politically motivated contempt is reserved for those we see as inferior.

The Power Initiative

On the global scale of things, Putin’s psychological make up has this core concept of contempt hard wired into his brain. It has created a wide spreading impact across the nations radiating with the psychological impact of a nuclear missile striking at the very core of modern political strategies and decision making. There is an air of unpredictability about Putin, an intellectual with a doctorate in economics , but one whose political and both social and economic reasoning are not to be challenged. From Cameron to Barack Obama Putin’s personality and thinking patterns shows evidence of what we call cognitive distortions, or flawed thinking, fuelled by the profound effects of enormous and largely unfettered power of his mindset. From his political discourse and narrative, here is a Russian President who adheres rigidly to hard core left wing Marxism. He was reared under a Marxist- Leninist worldview where there is a strong tradition of regarding such things as instruments of capitalist or bourgeois oppression to be treated with utter contempt. His insatiable power motives are intertwined with an incessant and insatiable need for power at all costs.   He would see Trump as a threat to his ego identity and this awareness would in turn enrich his Machiavellian traits to control the world’s most powerful political figurehead. Take for example his perception of the Ukraine and its people, Putin invaded the Crimea and engineered the dissolution of the country. He has the insight as an economist to see Crimea’s oil reserves and this would act as a motivator for him to exert his power initiative against the more vulnerable people . More important is his comprehension of the great and almighty Russian’s ageing workforce and brain drain. Political corruption is at the nerve centre of all if not most political decision making in Russia’s global economy. How can he grapple with this ethos and put Russia on a firm foothold? A hardwired motivational state where power and contempt will lead to an almighty world victory for Putin placing him against Trump on the world stage. Psychological tension and warfare it might be, but Vladimir Putin fervently believes his intellectual superiority and political repertoire puts him way ahead of Donald Trump every time.

Personality Traits

Trump is a businessman at heart, whereas Putin is a scholar economist and world politician light years ahead of Trump . Putin’s lack of empathy disrespect of international treaties and legislation is one of his hallmarks. Why should the nations dictate to Putin how global economies can work together in a democracy? His personality traits show low agreeableness similar to Trump, and low openness. Putin is as cold and calculating as Trump but other personality variables have moderated Trump as a family man at heart, and a good employer. There is a presence with Trump and awarmth infused with his narcissism and charisma. Putin is fiercely ambitious, a political warrior driven by his self – identity and expression of hardcore euro communism.   He sees himself remaining in the power centre of operations until at least 2024 and even beyond. His is a visionary with incredible foresight and one who fervently believes that without his leadership and adoration of Marxist Leninists principles, Russia will fall. Many political commentators have like myself, seen Putin’s craving for power and penultimate control to involve huge risks, just lime Trump. Both men have huge ego identities, with extreme narcissism and very egocentric devoid of self awareness. A world leader has to possess these innate human qualities if he or she is to make the world a better place in which to live. But we frequently ask if their motives are just and sincere? Is there an underpinning morality where social justice prevails and where people are valued.

The Fear Motive

There are social perceptions that Putin fears who his successor might be and if he is up to the mark so to speak. He would feel contempt for the political leaders who may succeed him in an extraordinary derogatory manner. As he feels for anyone who is prepared to challenge his political acumen and obsessive authority. Merkel has made it known many times that she is bewildered by Putin. She, unlike many other world leaders, has had more talks with him , but finds him complex and has made it clear that she was not sure he was in touch with reality. She told Obama that she felt he lived “in another world”. This does make sound psychological sense as his progressive isolation and incessant contempt for anyone else’s opinion are classic signs of the “hubris syndrome” an acquired personality disorder, to which some world leaders are susceptible. The fear factor is central to his overall personality as Putin knows that his regime would be vulnerable to prosecution if a successor government took control. This is a constant source of dread for him and he has to calculate in his cognitive functioning how this successive government might pan out in world terms. His reputation is at stake so he is motivated to protect that at all costs and herein lies the risks he has to take. There is an ideological aspect to his reasoning , he is consistent in his love of his Motherland, its culture and people and he aspires to protecting its ideology at all costs.

The West’s Response to Putin

Putin is extremely complex and highly adventurous in his thinking and social behaviour. We ask ourselves if he is a genuine threat to the West and what does this mean for its citizens? Dealing with him psychologically brings its pressures and appeasement wouldn’t work as it would boost his contempt and strengthen the justification for his position. In hindsight one can see very strong consequences as a result of his contempt for international law and treaties. The human and psychological costs to the Western world be magnanimous to say the least. There are similarities in his psychological makeup to Donald Trump, but in the next decade, Putin will not play a subservient role in international politics. In most democracies there are detailed checks on a new leaders power status intelligence and lifestyle. Like Trump, Putting visualizes himself as the most powerful man on earth and will do all in his power to make it a dynamic reality. He stops at nothing , and revels in the adoration given to him by Russian citizens. But his control over Russia’s media judicial system and business world means his personality type and traits play a much more significant role in state polices than in any other country. Putin never feels he has to conform to any rules or authority, and doesn’t feel bound by the ordinary rules of civility. He would also feel no obligation at all to respect the Minsk Agreement. His belief is that the West has breached much bigger understandings with Russia regarding the integrity of the empire he formally served The sight of NATO fighters on patrol of Russian borders in what was formally Soviet territory, is galling for him. Likewise his flirting behaviour with colonies such as Georgia and the Ukraine with NATO membership is likely to be infuriating.

In summary, contempt as a core part of his personality is very much a problem emotion as it abolishes empathy. We all know the importance of empathy and respect in meaningful dialogue and conflict resolution. It’s the kernel of international political thinking and reasoning, but he has to overcome the self obsession with egocentricity and narcissism like Trump, and find a way to compromise and working together for the benefit of the human race. Contempt and anger as emotional states must be put aside perpetually and utilitarian values upheld for the benefit of the common good.


Arthur Cassidy Ph.D