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  4. Opinion - Putin’s Mind: A Psychological Assessment

Some have stated that Putin's reasoning is entirely legitimate, that it is the result of a planned brutal reality about global politics and an attempt to consolidate his strength at home. Others say his actions are desperate, rash, and overreaching and that they are the result of his profound psychological defects.

Putin shows no sorrow or regret for his unethical acts and the terrible consequences they have on innocent people. He also refuses to take responsibility for unfavorable outcomes, and he usually blames others if or when anything goes wrong.

These characteristics show that Putin has a “strong man” attitude which can be categorized as having "red" behavior. Someone who is in this category is generally is generally someone aggressive, impatient, controlling, and powerful. This is all based on simple psychology and how to understand human behavior. According to Thomas Erikson’s book, Surrounded by Idiots, everyone can be categorized into four groups, or colors: red, blue, green, and yellow based on their behavior. People categorized as red are natural-born leaders, bold with ambitious goals. Blue are analytical and organized, yellow are social butterflies, and green are selfless and relaxed.

Putin is by most seen as an autocratic and authoritarian political leader, which means he is more likely to make major choices on his own. He is also more task-oriented than concerned about his people's overall well-being. Another tell-tale trait is that he establishes a psychological barrier between himself and others, which he does in part by using punishments and threats. Based on such characteristics, many would imply that he is actually less competent and less easily understood than many with whom he works.

It is important to take Putin's signs of such dark personality traits seriously. Conventional tactics of diplomacy and negotiations cannot be presumed to work. Autocratic leaders with dark personalities frequently deny the need to listen to others or resolve conflicts. On the other hand, display of authority is seen to be a show of strength and more effective.

According to research on narcissistic leadership, delivering honest criticism on behavior, such as calling out a lie, can help keep such leaders in check. However, this should not turn into a public humiliation, as this may quickly escalate the situation.

Naming and shaming unacceptable behavior can also assist in making it apparent that such people, in this case, Putin, will be held accountable for his violations of local and international human rights. While one might imagine that an autocrat would be unaffected by such calls, research reveals that leaders in pure autocracies are frequently more vulnerable to such criticism than leaders in democracies or mixed regimes. This could be because their public image is extremely important to them.

We must acknowledge the distorted results of the psychological control that Putin attempts to impose on his people. For example, he tightly controls public information in order to instill, on one hand, fear and doubt in the Russian people about foreign entities and ‘enemies of the state’ while, on the other hand, glorifying himself and his regime's achievements. Many will eventually support and endorse such authoritarian leadership for their own safety and security. Those held accountable for an autocratic regime's violence and corruption – and found guilty by a court - leave the burden of rebuilding to the guardians of a responsible civil society. If and when this occurs, the world community should demonstrate solidarity rather than anger or prejudice to avoid the type of fear that keeps brutal dictatorships in power.

Autocratic political leaders jeopardize international stability. We won't be able to stop them from forming or coming to power, but we can use our understanding of how they work to limit their disruptive potential and take different actions. In this case, Europe is learning that their dependence on fossil fuels and slow move to greener and renewable energy sources is and has been heavily supporting the Russian economy. Therefore, keeping Putin in a position of power and restricting Europe from significant counteractions.

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