Intelligence Estimates of Putin's Health

Giddierone

Senior Member.
What are we to make of the decades of speculation about Vladimir Putin's health as it relates to his actions and motivations? Are the intelligence estimates wrong or misleading?

Since the beginning of the Ukraine invasion, there have been various claims made about Putin's health in major news media from intelligence experts. Examples include:
Foreign affairs specialist Fiona Hill, quoted in this Politico article suggesting some kind of "urgency" in Putin's behaviour associated with his health.
https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/02/28/world-war-iii-already-there-00012340
Sky News 2022 with former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele giving a similar opinion.
https://news.sky.com/story/ukraine-...mir-putin-is-ill-12612937?dcmp=snt-sf-twitter
Newsweek 2023 - Kyrylo Budanov, Ukrainian Head of Military Intelligence with quite specific claims about cancer and imminent death.
https://www.newsweek.com/russia-putin-illness-sick-1771509
Again, Christopher Steele on First Edition - stating Illness as a motivation.

Source: https://x.com/FirstEdition/status/1521202658773766145


Another example by Robert Fox from: Evening_Standard_2022_04_26_page_A12
Evening_Standard_2022_04_26_page_A12.jpg


There are numerous other examples of claims about Putin's ill health going back to 2005 in the related Wikipedia page.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claims_of_Vladimir_Putin's_incapacity_and_death

Another recent article about the ill health rumours: https://theweek.com/news/world-news/956120/is-vladimir-putin-ill

However, these stories appear to have spiked in Jan of 2022 but have more or less abated for the moment.

Screenshot 2024-05-22 at 12.08.02.png


Additionally this early newspaper story (which reads like propaganda) from 2001 contrasts Putin with the alcoholic frailty of his predecessor Yeltsin, and appears to be the beginning of the cultivation of Putin's image as having an unusual physical vibrancy / discipline.

Source: Fort_Worth_Star_Telegram_2001_06_10_page_16
Fort_Worth_Star_Telegram_2001_06_10_page_16.jpg
 
Unfortunately there are far too many groups, with far too many agendas, for me to put any stock into the various reports, positive and negative. Groups with the resources, technical ability, staying power and cash to carry on misinformation campaigns for decades. Believe nothing, except MAYBE Putin having convulsions during a live broadcast (and even then it could be one of his 'doubles').

The consequences of changes in his health are so profound that plans to cover up ill health that might keep his death concealed for weeks or months are certainly already in place and could be implemented instantly.
 
I pay little attention to anything in the media in this regard. Last minute reschedulings of state visits, absence from state functions, not getting off the plane when landing overseas on a state visit, those would be concrete things that I would pay some attention to. How he holds his hand, or whether he seems more irritable, that's little more than tealeaf reading.

Here in the previously-soviet-occupied part of the world, we do have many a tale about whether straw was visible poking out of the president's sleeve as he sat motionless at some military parade. Andropov, Chernyenko, probably all of them were joked about in this way at some point. TV reception wasn't great, though, so these are LIZ tales. (Check out the movie /Disco and Atomic War/ for more on TV reception in this particular soviet-occupied territory in the late 80s - English subs should be available.)

I ain't saying he ain't got nothing wrong, though, but I would prefer that either before of after his demise we get his head into at least an MRI, in case there's anything interesting there. So no headshots, externally or personally inflicted, please.
 
Unfortunately there are far too many groups, with far too many agendas, for me to put any stock into the various reports, positive and negative. Groups with the resources, technical ability, staying power and cash to carry on misinformation campaigns for decades. Believe nothing, except MAYBE Putin having convulsions during a live broadcast (and even then it could be one of his 'doubles').

The consequences of changes in his health are so profound that plans to cover up ill health that might keep his death concealed for weeks or months are certainly already in place and could be implemented instantly.
His extreme distancing, noted in many sources, suggests one or more of several things. He is afraid of disease? He is afraid of assassination attempts? He doesn't want any infirmities to be noticed? He doesn't want a "body double" to be noticed? Or perhaps he wants his own importance to be emphasized? It's very strange behavior.

Photo: Putin greeting a group of foreign ambassadors from far across a huge room.
IMG_2498.jpeg
 
I guess i'm wondering what function such speculation - from serious foreign policy experts no less - has for the general public, and whether it actually serves as a kind of propaganda all of it's own. I think speculation creates a possibly false impression that the recent aggression is the last gasps of a desperate madman, and that the fever will break in the short term, e.g. "don't worry it will all be over soon"- when quite the opposite might be/come the reality.
 
I have recently been pondering the same question.
At the peak the media in the US made it seem like Putin was terminally ill.

Now... nothing.
The US media has lost all credibility. It's a sad state that we are gathering here trying to understand what is real or not. I love this site and there will always be stories to be skeptical of but these days it's nearly everything.
 
Foreign affairs specialist Fiona Hill, quoted in this Politico article suggesting some kind of "urgency" in Putin's behaviour associated with his health.
https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/02/28/world-war-iii-already-there-00012340
Sky News 2022 with former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele giving a similar opinion.
https://news.sky.com/story/ukraine-...mir-putin-is-ill-12612937?dcmp=snt-sf-twitter
Newsweek 2023 - Kyrylo Budanov, Ukrainian Head of Military Intelligence with quite specific claims about cancer and imminent death.
https://www.newsweek.com/russia-putin-illness-sick-1771509
Again, Christopher Steele on First Edition - stating Illness as a motivation.
I note that only one of these is currently an intelligence officer, and Budanov is obviously biased.

Edit: Probably better to say that Budanov has an obvious agenda.
 
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Can you provide an example?
Sure... sorry. I thought this was kind of common knowledge. I did a simple Google search and quite a few popped up. Although last year it was a frenzy for a few months. A lot of mainstream talk about his social distancing, looking very unwell, unstable, unable to balance, swollen hands, cancer symptoms... ect



https://uk.news.yahoo.com/putin-is-...LVfJ_JCBvmh1QMkbecBUmxrJV0txkLoKua-8ljzmvyh5O

https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1883449/putin-health-brain-tumour-cancer-fears-russia

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/vladimir-putins-speculated-ill-health-31277862

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/wor...sease-health-illness-russia-mi6-b1141083.html
 
I note that only one of these is currently an intelligence officer, and Budanov is obviously biased.

Edit: Probably better to say that Budanov has an obvious agenda.
I am stressing this because we do not know what the actual intelligence estimates of Putin's health are. We don't know what the briefings Biden, Sunak, Scholz or Zelensky are getting actually say. All we get is probably propaganda.

"Putin acts irrational because of his health" loosely fits #3 on Morelli's "basic principles of war propaganda":
External Quote:
  1. We don't want war, we are only defending ourselves!
  2. Our adversary is solely responsible for this war!
  3. Our adversary's leader is inherently evil and resembles the devil
  4. We are defending a noble cause, not our particular interests!
  5. The enemy is purposefully committing atrocities; if we are making mistakes this happens without intention
  6. The enemy makes use of illegal weapons
  7. We suffer few losses, the enemy's losses are considerable
  8. Recognized intellectuals and artists support our cause
  9. Our cause is sacred
  10. Whoever casts doubt on our propaganda helps the enemy and is a traitor
(Everyone does this, no side is exempt.)
 
Sure... sorry. I thought this was kind of common knowledge. I did a simple Google search and quite a few popped up. Although last year it was a frenzy for a few months. A lot of mainstream talk about his social distancing, looking very unwell, unstable, unable to balance, swollen hands, cancer symptoms... ect



https://uk.news.yahoo.com/putin-is-...LVfJ_JCBvmh1QMkbecBUmxrJV0txkLoKua-8ljzmvyh5O

https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1883449/putin-health-brain-tumour-cancer-fears-russia

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/vladimir-putins-speculated-ill-health-31277862

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/wor...sease-health-illness-russia-mi6-b1141083.html
Your first post quotes a Ukrainian official and the other three at British tabloids. Hardly mainstream US media. Also, please adhere to the link policy.
 
Your first post quotes a Ukrainian official and the other three at British tabloids. Hardly mainstream US media. Also, please adhere to the link policy.
They're also stories that are effectively about the fact that other people are talking about his health, so there's one layer of "we're not saying this ourselves" indirection.
 
Sure... sorry. I thought this was kind of common knowledge. I did a simple Google search and quite a few popped up. Although last year it was a frenzy for a few months. A lot of mainstream talk about his social distancing, looking very unwell, unstable, unable to balance, swollen hands, cancer symptoms... ect
This is where precision matters. Many media amplified news of a heart attack last October.
AP FACT CHECK

How a baseless claim about Putin’s health spread from an unreliable Telegram account to TV news​

October 26, 2023

An explosive claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin had suffered a heart attack spread across the globe this week, amplified by news outlets and social media users.
The news didn’t come from the Kremlin, which dismissed it as a “hoax,” nor verified reporting in Russia. It came from a single anonymous account on the messaging service Telegram that provided no evidence, yet was viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
Misinformation researchers warn the account isn’t credible and has spread baseless claims about Putin’s health in the past.
I tried to find quality media that carried this, but couldn't.

It's important to be aware that not all media are equal. Read more at https://www.metabunk.org/threads/media-bias.11554/.

Here's the actual intelligence reporting:
Thu July 21, 2022
CNN — CIA Director Bill Burns gave an unusually candid assessment this week, when he told attendees at the Aspen Institute’s annual security confab that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “entirely too healthy.”
Burns was careful to qualify apparently tongue-in-cheek remarks, saying they didn’t constitute “a formal intelligence judgment.”
But asked directly if Putin was unhealthy or unstable, he said: “There are lots of rumors about President Putin’s health and as far as we can tell, he’s entirely too healthy.”


The title of this thread should not be Intelligence Estimates of Putin's Health, it should be Media Speculation about Putin's Health". :p
 
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So what is the conclusion?
Was there media that was telling us Putin was in poor health or not?

My observation was there was quite a bit of media pushing this last year, in the US and other places.

I'm still not sure if he is actually ill or not. I suspect that is what the Russians would like.

Disinformation, doubt, fear and uncertainty can be even more powerful to public opinion.
 
So what is the conclusion?
Was there media that was telling us Putin was in poor health or not?
Media that generally rate low in factuality did e.g. spread news of Putin's "heart attack".
We have not found quality media that did.
About 2 years ago, the CIA was reported to estimate that Putin was quite healthy.

Any statement about "the media" is likely an overgeneralisation.
 
Media that generally rate low in factuality did e.g. spread news of Putin's "heart attack".
We have not found quality media that did.
About 2 years ago, the CIA was reported to estimate that Putin was quite healthy.

Any statement about "the media" is likely an overgeneralisation.
Thank you!
Good point on "the media".
 
The heart attack story was apparently bunk: https://apnews.com/article/putin-ru...ack-telegram-3c25f229f994aaa87d837285412cb1be

https://apnews.com/article/bill-walton-dies-nba-1921f95e9b0676bec4cfb6c3ea599472

How a baseless claim about Putin’s health spread from an unreliable Telegram account to TV news​

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives to meet with the leaders of all the main religious denominations of Russia in the Catherine Hall of the Moscow Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023. (Sergei Guneyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives to meet with the leaders of all the main religious denominations of Russia in the Catherine Hall of the Moscow Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023. (Sergei Guneyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Read More

BY KARENA PHAN
Updated 12:52 PM EDT, October 26, 2023
Share
An explosive claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin had suffered a heart attack spread across the globe this week, amplified by news outlets and social media users.
The news didn’t come from the Kremlin, which dismissed it as a “hoax,” nor verified reporting in Russia. It came from a single anonymous account on the messaging service Telegram that provided no evidence, yet was viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
but the other intelligence estimates in #1 seemed well intentioned but might have done more harm than good.
 
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