By now, most of the world must have seen the bizarre images of Vladimir seriously social distancing from everyone else, and that’s Putin it mildly. Even that Young Un with the bad haircut is not as wacky as this. It first came to my attention when the diminutive fighting cock and Napoleon wannabe from France, Micron, flew to Russia for talks with the pathological Putin just prior to his misguided invasion of Ukraine. The ostensible reason for the extreme separation was that the Micron had refused to take a Russian PCR test. I would have too. He didn’t trust the Russians not to put a little Novichok on the swab or to use his DNA to develop a Micron specific drug that would turn his guts into Macaroni with lots of tomato sauce leaking out. But it seems that Micron wasn’t the only person to be treated this way. We have since seen him interacting with his Generals across even greater distances. This almost comical behaviour along with his bloating in the last five years has led Western commentators to divine various things about him.
1. This is a wiener waggling contest of my table is bigger than yours. Given this 5’ 6” cardboard cut-out hero’s penchant for heroic poses, his ego problem is a very real one and he seems to have satisfied it by bullying his smaller neighbours – Chechnya, Georgia and now Ukraine. (This is one of my theories and not punted by more reputable commentators.)
2. He is suffering from paranoid dementia. His irrational behaviour and incoherent justifications could indicate dementia. As for the paranoid aspect, every Russian leader since the Revolution has lived in fear for their lives. After a falling out, Trotsky escaped to Mexico where he survived two assassination attempts before finally succumbing to an assassin who attempted to perform a full-frontal lobotomy with an ice-pick in 1940. Using an ice pick as a weapon in Mexico is typical of the NKVD’s and, later, the KGB’s lack of subtlety. At home, Stalin solved his problem by routinely shooting members of his inner circle, all except for the butcher, Beria, his head of the security police. Beria didn’t survive Nikita Khrushchev though when he was judicially executed in 1953. The rest of the leaders seemed to have survived more or less intact, but as Shakespeare put it, ‘uneasy is the head that wears a crown’. However, dissidents, defectors and, more lately, opposition leaders have continued to feel the Russian predilection for using poisons to settle a different point of view. Novichok is the current poison of choice but dioxin is a perennial favourite.
3. Some have floated the idea that Putin is suffering from a ‘roid rage problem. His current bloating does suggest that he has abused steroids to make himself seem more manly without spending hours in the gym.
4. Still others suggest that he might be under treatment for an undisclosed condition which has left his immune system seriously compromised. His only immunity left, is the immunity to criticism and rationality.
But none of these are a reason for hope. Take the case of Mugabe. Irrespective of the rumours of his imminent demise that ran the gamut of medical textbooks, he was like an Energizer bunny for the next 30 years except for the odd catnap during meetings. Until the very end he continued to stick it to Grace and his people.
Take your pick of the above, but I have a more prosaic answer – being short and suffering from the full range of associated complexes, Putin fears and despises long Covid and his poison scientists probably determined that 20ft (6m) is a minimum safe distance.