Five Psychological Factors that can unleash the unthinkable.
Over the past month, Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have repeatedly hinted at the possible use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine and/or elsewhere, depending on how they would interpret the involvement of the Western World in the matter — i.e. Russia’s invasion of a sovereign country.
Bluff or not, Putin achieved at least one goal — he is holding the world hostage and blocking a severe military response from NATO because of this threat.
With a few exceptions, the entire world is concerned regarding the potential transformation of a — somewhat — conventional war into a nuclear battle.
Tactical nukes or full-blown Armageddon, that’s a discussion in itself.
Either way, the results would be catastrophic and would plunge our world into a bleak era.
Putin’s actions know almost no limits.
His decisions and those of his acolytes have already sown terror in several parts of the world — Syria, Crimea, and now Ukraine.
But would he actually launch a nuclear attack?
Some people, including myself, believe he would, in certain contexts.
I am not a military analyst, but I will try to list below several psychological factors that I believe could make Vladimir Putin push the nuclear button in the very close future.
Most of us want to see Putin and Russia lose this war, and quickly.
With no achievements to write home about — from his bunker, Vladimir Putin would be forced to forfeit power and control in Russia. Individuals from his own circle may even step in and annihilate him once he can no longer make them money and protect their status.
Out of self-preservation and cowardice, with nothing to lose, a cornered Putin may resort to the last option that may keep him in power and alive: a nuclear bomb.
Vladimir Putin desperately wants a glorious place in the history books.
He sees himself as special, his plans as the mark of greatness, and his actions flawless and above criticism.
“If I’m thinking it, then it must be the right thing”. Emotional reasoning in action, supported by narcissistic traits.
Therefore, if Putin thinks of nuclear war as his ticket to immortality — never-before done, a courageous act, etc. — , then he may decide to push the button.
3. Sociopathic Traits
Vladimir Putin’s actions can be easily labeled as “evil”.
Poisoning his opponents, the annihilation of his own acolytes when they’re no longer of use to him, the gruesome actions of his military in war zones, just to name a few.
I don’t think one needs to see a psychiatric report to understand that antisocial traits are definitely present in his personality makeup.
Putin is continuously connected to incredibly abusive contexts, hence I find it reasonable to conclude that he does not necessarily dislike these actions.
If you hate people, have no empathy for their suffering, and see yourself as above everyone else… then unleashing Armageddon for everyone but yourself and your selected crowd could seem a valid plan to move forward.
4. Peer Pressure
In the eventuality that he would desire to launch a nuclear attack, many of us hope that those close to Putin would be able to talk some sense into him or defy his order. Two more people have key roles in making this order a reality. They could simply refuse to participate. One can only hope there’s at least one individual close to Putin whose reasoning is of the sane kind.
However, social influence can also work in a negative way — powerful individuals close to the Kremlin leader, those who are part of his personal and financial “security team”, could demand more decisive action on his part, to protect their assets and status.
Putin may seem self-reliant, but he is not. Like any other Godfather, he needs his minions. Those are the privileged individuals who have power over Putin himself. At least to some level, and as a group rather than separately.
A nuclear attack may end up being their strategy, put into action through his order.
5. Psychological Exhaustion
What Putin does right now — the war, the negotiations, the neverending international chess game, is extremely draining from a cognitive and emotional perspective.
The stress of it all may get to him at some point. He is not young, he has more than the foreign opponents to fear. He is afraid he might be killed by his own, trusts no one, and needs to calculate his every move to remain alive.
Over time, Vladimir Putin may simply become too tired to deal with any of it. He may think he is too deep into an already feeble and dangerous situation.
Why not end it all? For himself and everyone else.
No one knows what’s going on in Putin’s mind. I am not even sure Putin knows what’s going on in Putin’s mind.
Or maybe he is very confident and sure of his strategy and its outcome.
Either way, the nuclear threat is a perspective we cannot simply dismiss as bluffing.
And while that is on the table, anything that is happening with and to the one individual who may trigger events that may end the world as we know it, can become the decisive factor in this concerning aspect.
At this point in time, I am not sure the use of — at least — tactical nuclear weapons can be averted by NATO and other external forces. The man is unhinged, his track record provides no hope for the future, and his own position in Russia looks worse with every passing day of this war.
I strongly believe that a solution can only come from inside Russia. From the Russian people, or Putin’s close circle.
I just hope they will move fast enough to make a difference.
Thank you for reading.