Diagnosis: A great big liar
UNIAN asked a group of psychiatrists and psychologists to diagnose serial fibber Vladimir Putin. The result - he’s a liar all right, but there’s method to his deceit.
We’ve been seeing some strange behavior from the Kremlin leader for quite a while. For example, Putin never hid his sincere belief in Ukraine’s Revolution of dignity being inspired by the West, particularly the United States, stating that the Maidan was organized “somewhere across a large pond.” According to the Russian president, Crimea’s annexation was actually needed to prevent the peninsula, which he branded “historical Russian territory” from joining “some international military alliance.”
Now, judging by his recent statements, NATO boots hovered over the Donbas and the Ukrainian army has turned into a legion of a notorious alliance. Moreover, the “NATO Legion” pursues geopolitical goals of “containing Russia,” in Putin World. Apparently, only the glorious insurgent fighters Motorola and Babai can now save the “Russian World” from crucifixes and enslavement, because, according to Putin, there are no Russian troops in the Donbas...
However, realizing the lack of historical and chronological truth and absurdity of the statements from the Kremlin leader, the whole world chose not to focus on them. Mikhail Naidyonov, Doctor of Psychological Science, a leading researcher at the laboratory monitoring of social and political processes of the Institute of Social and Political Psychology of the National Academy of Pedagogical Sciences, calls on people to refrain from commenting on Putin’s statements.
According to Naidyonov, by criticizing or debunking the Russian president’s statements, we only “strengthen the enemy.”
“By releasing his statements, Putin creates certain opportunities for control, including [control] over us [Ukrainians]... I believe that we need to refrain from strengthening the enemy. He purposefully acts such way so that even when we supposedly criticize him, the Trojan horse that he places in certain phrases, judgments or assessments, still works, despite the fact that we supposedly refute [Putin’s statements],” he said.
According to the expert, “the measure of the working part of the administration style, which is set out in Putin's statements, has been calculated so that even if we reduce it with our assessments, it still fails to decrease and lives on as some sort of a virus, which will make things even worse.”
However, according to Naidyonov it helps in some way to explore the psychology of the relations between society and the state in Russia.
“Intuitively, we can understand that the aspect ratio between our neighbors’ civil society and the state is not in favor of civil society. Then, accordingly, we have to answer the question of what the cause is – is it the leader or is it the people? The answer is that it’s both. For if there is no society, people submit to state institutions, they identify themselves with the ideology, the tools and the methods of reasoning,” said Naidyonov.
He believes that “that’s why the situation is so complicated – we are not able to communicate directly with people, as they are hiding behind the guise of identifying themselves with the state, so in fact there is no one to talk to.”
In fact, similar problems also existed at other stages of development of the mankind, for example, during the Cold War, Naidyonov said.
“The states with developed civil societies had hard time communicating with us [citizens of the USSR], considering what we were like at the time, at what level of development we were.”
"Anyway, one is still able to adapt the logic of identifying oneself with the state to the logic of identifying oneself with society,” says the expert. “But this is a distant prospect. Now, we are seeing an aggressor-state, which is Russia, and respectively, an aggressor-society,” Naidyonov said.
Roughly speaking, the structure of vertically integrated Russian society, where there is one leader, the tsar, gives birth to a dictator.
Lies a la Goebbels
In turn, Semyon Gluzman, a psychiatrist, former political prisoner, dissident, and executive secretary of Ukraine’s Association of Psychiatrists calls Putin’s speeches lies a la Goebbels.
"Putin likes Goebbels, and he’s never hidden the fact, calling him a very talented man. In my opinion, Putin is not a smart man, really. If he were smarter, he would behave smarter,” says Gluzman.
Nevertheless, he thinks that when speaking of the “NATO legion” fighting in Ukraine, the Russian President expects only his people to believe this. “Rather, 80% [of the population], his supporters,” Gluzman believes.
Moreover, the psychiatrist is positive that soon the Russian leader will start voicing more primitive messages.
“In my opinion, Putin apparently counted on a much quicker and more decisive victory over these poor “Ukry” fools [a new derogatory term for Ukrainians]. But it’s just not happening. And now he has to explain what the matter is to those 80% - why something that was supposed to be achieved quickly hasn’t been achieved yet. Now, it turns out, there are NATO troops fighting, and then there will be Martians or some octopus that crawled out of the Moskva River... No one has seen them, but they are there for sure,” Gluzman said.
Gluzman is outraged with the fact that people are dying in eastern Ukraine because of Putin’s commitment to the principle of “I am a world-class statesman, and everyone must take notice of me.” Yet, in his opinion, the root of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in the Donbas lies not so much in Putin's personality, but in the imperial ambitions of ordinary Russians.
“He is not the problem, the problem lies in the really sick imperial ambitions that ordinary Russians have. They would be better thinking about the welfare of their children and families, not about the welfare of a dead empire, which will never be restored.”
Lying to save your own skin
In turn, Vladimir Pogoreliy, a psychologist, psychiatrist, and the head of the Maidan’s psychological service, believes that Vladimir Putin is pathological liar, and he is unlikely to able to stop.
“Putin pursues his policy of lies. And unfortunately, many people here and in the West believe him. And he knows it. Therefore, his lies are so cynical.”
According to Pogoreliy, “it's just pathological lying for the sake of saving his own life.”
“Because if he loses power, he will get killed. He knows this, therefore he has to lie to his people above all, but also to Westerners,” says Pogoreliy.
The psychologist believes that, by mentioning “NATO legions”, Vladimir Putin is trying to drive into the heads of the Russians the message that the Ukrainian army is becoming a threat to the all Russia’s population. In this case, Russia is the victim, which has been lured into a trap and now it is simply forced to defend itself.
“Putin is trying to drive to the heads of Russians [the message] that they are fighting not with Ukraine, but with NATO, trying to make it look like a threat to all Russian people, and he is the guardian of Russian values.”
“Clearly, there’s something wrong with Putin,” echoes practicing psychologist and psychotherapist Andrey Zlotnikov.
“Something weird is happening to him - either he’s lying, or he has some mental condition.”
“However, the majority of psychologists and psychotherapists with whom I have spoken believe that he [Putin] is a totally healthy person who is lying brazenly and cynically. He exhibits Ukraine’s image as that of the enemy in order to convince the Russians that they are not fighting with the Ukrainians but with the Americans who are mentally easier to kill. That is in the world perspective of a Russian citizen, where fighting with Americans is an honorable mission. But fighting with Ukrainians is a big question,” he explained.
Attempts to humiliate the enemy
When branding Ukrainian troops a “NATO legion”, Putin probably did not mean that actual representatives of the North Atlantic Alliance were fighting in Ukraine,” suggests Valentin Kim, psychologist, an expert on nonverbal communication. According to him, it was rather that Ukraine has actually become a part of NATO.
“He didn’t focus on some NATO legion being deployed to Ukraine, he stressed that the very idea of Ukraine becoming a part of NATO is contemptuous, a kind of a stereotype for betrayal... For him, this concept of a ‘NATO Legion’ is an attempt to humiliate Ukraine’s Armed Forces,” he said.
In general, according to Kim, such statements are an exclusively manipulative method “to humiliate, to form and fix an opinion of the Russians about the image of the enemy.”
“Putin is a pretty skilled manipulator, but he’s not always confident in public, not quite at ease. That’s why he resorts to certain stereotypical statements. In fact, Putin said, it's not even an army, it's a foreign legion ... In this case a NATO Legion,” added the expert.
Therefore, in Kim’s opinion, lying is not the best definition of what Russia’s president is doing.
“Moreover, all of this is aimed at domestic consumers. That is, all attempts to say something about the other (both if it is a confident or unconfident manipulation) are just means to legalize his own behavior in a foreign country’s territory,” says the psychologist.