Ever since he started trying to take over Ukraine this year, President Putin has been photographed less and less. While many believe that is only because he is ashamed that his supposedly well-trained Army was beaten back by a bunch of farmers. These people were undertrained, ill-prepared, and poorly equipped. Meanwhile, Putin’s Army was so sure of victory that they packed dress uniforms instead of gear to fight a war. A classic way to lose, guarantee victory to your troops.
Ultimately that isn’t it. Per the head of the Ukrainian Intelligence service, Putin has multiple grave illnesses and isn’t expected to make it past another 24 months. While this has been a subject of intense speculation for months, the lack of public appearances compared to years before has been astonishingly low.
Recently he was in attendance for an awards ceremony at the Kremlin, and his legs were very visibly unsteady, and often seemed to buckle from under him. While he swayed back and forth, Russian filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov accepted his award. Just days before the Kremlin admitted to the public that Putin shouldn’t make long appearances upon the advice of doctors. This advice followed several very long meetings with military chiefs.
King’s College London fellow Michael Clarke made an interesting observation on Putin’s recent demeanor. “On 7 October he will be 70. He is known to hit the Botox quite heavily, I always say that he’s trying to embalm himself while he’s still alive – he does take a lot of Botox…I suspect that he’s only a hypochondriac, to be honest. If he is ill or becomes ill, that would be one way out for Russia to say that the president has stepped down and the war will now be prosecuted by Nikolai Patrushev – who’s every bit as nasty as he is.”
This potential illness has been rumored to be a severe form of rapidly progressing cancer according to an FBS officer. While speculation ramped up before he started trying to take over Ukraine, the clips that were shown before the invasion largely seemed to show a strong Putin, and ready for war. Much the same as his state-sponsored media seems to show him.
Yet the frequent reports by spooks from various secret agencies across the globe all are painting him in a near-death state, and not looking likely to reverse his condition any time soon. While there is always a reason to suspect outside players making more of a situation than is there, the photo last month of him gripping a table to avoid falling over tells a lot in one image. His grip is that of one holding on for dear life, he is deeply slouched, and barely holding his bloated head up.
The Weekend at Bernie’s look may work in other nations, but the older and less sophisticated equipment from the Russian media combined with unflattering angles makes him look incredibly weak.
Granted, weak is exactly what Putin is at this point. The same final battle his body is fighting right now looks like it could be the same one his nation is fighting as well. They have little to no hope of anything but withdrawal from Ukraine and returning home without victory. The only decisions they need to make before that happens are how high they want their lost soldier count to be, and if they want to lose before or after Putin dies. With Biden all but offering Ukraine a blank check, Russia isn’t going to win this conflict.