Portadown psychologist and international media commentator Dr Arthur Cassidy has already given commentary on the Russian leader to media outlets in GB, Canada and Dublin. He was speaking after Russian forces bombed a maternity hospital in Mariupol in Ukraine, killing three people - including a child - and injuring at least 17 others. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been widely accused of war crimes after intense shelling of civilian areas since his military invasion of Ukraine has met with increasingly stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces.
Dr Cassidy is a Psychological Practitioner who has a background in political psychology and has done extensive work on psychology and political identities.
“President Putin is one who manifests what we would call the Dark Triad,” Dr Cassidy said.
“We use discourse analysis to analyse his interviews, his discourse and the rhetoric that he uses as we are not in a clinical situation with him. What he does is demonstrate a high level of control and what is generally known as sociopathy or psychopathy. This psychopathic nature that he manifests is not a clinical term but an umbrella term that has been utilised to almost integrate a number of personality traits.”
The Dark Triad includes three traits, he says;
:: Psychopathic traits: ‘The killer’ who wants to control everything around them as belonging to them
:: Dark narcissism: Someone who sees himself almost as the most powerful individual on earth
:: Machiavelliansim: People who are very focussed on the manipulation of people’s emotions
“Putin demonstrates a lack of conscience. There is no sense of right and wrong. There is absolutely no remorse in his behaviour, it is about power and control - what is mine is mine and what is yours is mine also.
“Psychopaths have this overly possessive trait of power and - the psychology of evil - because the more blood they shed the more psychological and emotional payoffs they get.
“They thrive on murder, killings and genocide. And this reinforces the behaviour to do more.”
Dr Cassidy adds: “Psychopaths are not necessarily killers - you can also see them in the boardroom, they are controlling and powerful people, who think, ‘Look at me, I am more important than you’.
“In layman’s terms you may see them in everyday life, often described as ruthless, people who just don’t care about others and abuse others, but a key characteristic is also that they are charming.
“They will charm and groom and become political or sexual predators driven by evil desires.”
He says there is an underlying genetic element to the condition but that it only matures when certain factors of nature and nurture are combined.
“Common traits for such a person would be childhood truancy, repeated lying and impulsivity.”
There is a genetic predisposition but it must be combined with environmental factors and personal choices.
“WIth Putin you are looking at the fragmentation of his childhood and his background in the KGB. There was a lot of consternation about who his biological father was. He was bullied an awful lot at school and had a low stature. He was intelligent but was bullied quite a lot in his early childhood.
“His father was a metal worker but he had an amazing respect for the old Soviet Union and communism and believed in the common people - this was Putin’s political ideology and he felt this was going to be his life.
“He was a loner as a child and the way you survive when bullied for years is you become very aggressive and so there is impulsivity and aggression as a child.
“He wanted to have power and so he felt allegiance to the KGB and becoming a KGB officer would be a way to demonstrate his feelings for the Russian ideology of communism.
“Becoming a senior KGB officer would have given him a powerful nature of control. Here you can see his genetics very much interacting with a Soviet ideology and it was this that really began to anchor his identity as an aggressive leader who will fight to preserve Soviet ideology.
“He wants to go back to those days and bring Russia back into the old Soviet economy.”
However he says opinion polls show this is not what increasing numbers of Russians want and he believes that younger Russians who want international acceptance will turn on him.
WHAT WILL VLADIMIR PUTIN DO NEXT?
“We have to respect military intelligence and what our military leaders know about Putin and his personality.
“But he is not going to be upset by economic sanctions. His identity is under threat and he knows Ukraine could win however he is not a man for intergroup conflict discussions or negotiations. Any peace deal would have to be on Putin’s terms - not Zelensky’s. If he doesn’t get his way he will not be going into discussions.``
WHAT IS VLADIMIR PUTIN’S EXIT STRATEGY?
He is increasingly threatened by his own people who don’t want either Putin or war, he says.
“This is going to be a protracted war between two ideologies of the minds. He is threatened very much by President Zelensky - a highly intelligent guy who wants to protect Ukraine.”
If pushed into a corner to negotiate due to losing ground militarily it would be reasonable for him to look at more desperate options, in terms of nuclear, chemical or biological attacks, he says.
“Because he knows economic sanctions are penetrating the whole Russian framework he may threaten: ‘ I have nuclear power and I will use it’. You will get threat upon threat upon threat: ‘I am the most powerful man on earth’.
But Dr Cassidy does not believe he will carry out his threat, in part because of Putin’s background as an economic scholar.
“I don’t think he will use nuclear powers. He is highly impulsive and unpredictable so he could do it but I don’t think he will because if he is going to do this he is going to see the aftermath of massive destruction and genoicide. That would actually destroy the entire political framework of Russia.
“It would also trigger a militaristic strategy against Russia - and nobody wants to see that.”
He accepts that some psychopaths might consider such an option because, if they are going to lose, so must everyone else. This is very true - he does know that. So a nuclear attack is more of a possibility than some people might think... totally right. Threat is a massive characteristic of his personality but at the end of the day I don’t think he will because he depends too much on oil and gas.”
Again, he accepts that Putin appears to have gone far beyond an economic strategy into personal and national pride and identity.
“Yes, that is more uppermost in his mind, but he is an economic scholar. The whole thing about Putin is that he will want to preserve the way he believes Russia should be. And he will persist and will drive forward his model of the Russia he wants people to adhere to.”
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS FOR BRINGING VLADIMIR PUTIN DOWN?
“There could be the influence of his own war cabinet. I believe there could be other militaristic people in his war cabinet who may see things very differently to him. There are also many younger politicians who would be wanting to subscribe to a new contemporary Russia and they will want to usurp him in one way or another.
“He will feel threatened by them. He knows his days are numbered now , he is in his sixties now.”
He does not rule out a military coup down the line.
“But I cannot see Putin taking part in some sort of conflict resolution.”
As a psychopath he would refuse to be counselled by a psychologist,he says. But if it was a compulsory requirement - can you talk someone like this down or are they beyond help?
“I would not say they are beyond psychological help but many of these people live and die as psychopaths. There is some evidence in clinical literature that healing can take place.
“But generally once a psychopath, always a psychopath, mostly until people die. Can they be healed? The literature is controversial on that.”
He has been told by various journalists that Putin has cancer. Could his alleged cancer be destabilizing him?
“I wouldn’t rule it out of the question. It is very possible that if he does have cancer - and we don’t know - it would definitely be very debilitating. There would come a time where he would lose that drive.
“He will realise there is going to come a time when he is going to have to hand over the reins. The problem here is that he has to do it or someone takes over without his consent.
“That will terrify him and could exacerbate his cancer. They [rivals] may be more complacent and contemporary and he doesn’t want that unless they have a similar personality to him.
“He will know which of his war cabinet would carry on his vision into the future - the same old fashioned soviet personality and identity will be his goal from any successor.”