I don’t know much about world politics, foreign policy, and all the stuff that surrounds the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. I’ve heard bits and pieces about old Soviet Union and ore deposits and uranium deposits and all kinds of reasons why someone might want to possess the Ukraine. I don’t know enough about any of that shit to pretend to be an expert on it. So please don’t read this as a critique of world politics, because this is something else. The video below is an excellent, objective overview of why the war is happening from a geopolitical perspective:
I’m only really here to talk about what I do know about: psychopathy.
I spent a large portion of my career working face to face with some of the most ruthless criminal psychopaths in New Zealand. And, in particular for this situation as an example, gang leaders. I’ve worked directly with the presidents of motorcycle clubs and the leaders of various criminal organizations and gangs. And I think that particular experience and training is relevant to my take – not so much on the war – but on Vladimir Putin himself.
Let’s talk about prison yard politics. Let’s use the example of Californian state prisons. I think they’re a great example of where only the strong survive; the most ruthless of prison environments.
To give you a sense of things, in most Californian state prisons they have a “no hands” rule. What that means is if you get into a fight, you must use a weapon. That is to say every fight should be an attempted murder at the very least! And if the guy who “holds the keys to the yard” tells you to go kill someone, either you kill them or they kill you. That’s the kind of environment that a prison yard is like. And I think that is probably the most relevant environment to relate to high-level Russian politics.
Again, I’m not being pretending to be an expert on politics here, or on Russian culture. It’s just simple deduction. Take a moment to think through the answer to this question:
What kind of person do you need to be to not only become the boss of all of Russia but to maintain that position for many years without losing it?
What kind of psychological profile would that kind of man need in order to attain and maintain that position? What kind of competition would he have for that position? Who would his competitors be? How dangerous would they be? And how much more dangerous would he need to be to protect his position from that competition?
When you think about these questions, you don’t need to be a psychology expert to see there’s some pretty chilling answers. There is no doubt whatsoever that whoever is the boss of Russia must be a full, purebred psychopath. Nobody else would be able to attain or maintain that position; anybody else would get eaten alive.
And this is true of almost all politicians around the world. I previously referred to Barack Obama has a high-functioning psychopath in reaction to his war-mongering in the Middle East, and there’s reference to the current Ukraine President imprisoning journalists and naysayers in the past himself, plus the clear fact that he’s keeping his family in danger when he could save them, something a loving and caring father/husband would be unlikely to do even if he stayed himself.
There’s a high degree of psychopathy in any world leader. There has to be. Though some of them would be what you might call “healthy” psychopaths. For example, they know when to turn on ruthlessness for the greater good, but they can turn it off when they go home to their families. They’re not really “psychopaths”; they’re just politically savvy and they have great control over their emotions. Putin, however, is not one of these less-harmful types.
Dark Triad Traits
But from what little I know about Russia and its culture – only the strong survive – you would have to be an actual psychopath to make it to the top. More specifically, in psychological terms, you need to be very high in what’s known as the dark triad traits: ruthlessness, Machiavellianism (cunning manipulation) and psychopathy.
That is to say, you would have to be one of the most dangerous, cunning, manipulative people in the world, an extremely ambitious and hyper-intelligent man who has no conscience, no sense of remorse or regrets, no anxiety about the future, and who does not give a shit about the wellbeing of any person other than themselves. That’s the kind of person you must be to become the head of Russia… so that’s who Putin must be.
His competitors are also scary – this is where it gets really extreme. Not only do you have to be a pure sociopath to get to the top of Russian politics, you have to be worse than the other ones who are going for your position. You had to be the most dangerous wolf in a pack of extremely dangerous wolves, because the cream rises to the top when it comes to prison politics: the hardest, most ruthless, most cunning and most ambitious people naturally become the leaders and they vie for dominance within themselves.
None of them care for each other. They might be loyal to the number one guy but only as long as it serves their own best interests. The minute they see an opportunity to jockey up a few positions or to take the top spot they will take it without hesitation. So for someone like Putin to maintain the position he’s in, he has to constantly be on guard, he has to – without a single fault – maintain ruthless, Machiavellian psychopathy. He must order murders, imprison naysayers, and wage wars. He cannot slip but once because the people right behind him are looking to grab that spot as soon as he stumbles.
For an expert analysis on his Dark Triad Triats, I recommend this video:
This is where it gets really dangerous
A guy who’s like that makes the decision to invade the Ukraine, throws everything at it, and makes a commitment to dominate their country. What is the likelihood of him backing down? The answer is 0%. There is no way that he will back down because he cannot.
Through a combination of his own psychopathy and ego, and the danger to his own personal safety, he is left with no option but to continue to the bitter end. See, his ego won’t let him quit because he sees himself as the biggest, baddest motherfucker and wants to prove that to himself and others at all times. But also, even if he wasn’t like that, he cannot back down because it would be a sign of weakness to his competition and they would take him out.
So he either wins, is captured, or he dies.
The only way the leaders of the world can deal with this is to realize that simple fact: Those are the only three outcomes available here. It’s the same as the outcomes available with Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden or whomever: they don’t quit. They don’t stop until they are stopped because they can’t stop themselves. Their egos won’t let them and the consequences from within their own camp won’t let them. Putin is backed into a corner and he must fight for his life.
The only slight hope you have of being able to end this war without assassinating Putin is if you put him in a position where he only has two options, which is to go into hiding or die. He must be absolutely convinced that there is no other option available; that winning is no longer an option available to him (e.g. if he were to lose all support from Russians, like a Russian General orders a retreat and the soldiers obey in spite of Putin).
The key to working with psychopaths is understanding that self preservation is their number one priority. A psychopath is the least likely person to commit suicide. They always put themselves first – their own preservation is always number one. They will take calculated risks but they always are calculated in their favor. You know Putin will never go to the frontline of the war until it is a very sensible risk to take in order to further his position and to look strong. Until then, he’ll hide in his office and give orders from there.
So you can leverage self preservation. When I used to work with psychopaths, I came to realize that the only way to get them to stop committing crimes was to make it better for their own quality of life to obey the law, which is actually harder than it sounds. You take a guy who enjoys being imprisoned because he’s the boss; a guy who makes hundreds of 1000s of dollars a month through methamphetamine criminal activities; a guy who dominates everyone around him – it’s pretty hard to sell abiding by the law to a guy like that.
But each individual has certain, shall we say, weaknesses – like the threat of going to jail for the rest of your life, for example, where even the most ruthless Mafioso will snitch on their families. There are certain threats that even a pureblood psychopath will be moved by. The only way you can move someone like Putin is for such a threat on his life, in the hope that he takes an action that preserves it and the action is to withdraw from the situation. However…
Why Putin won’t quit
The only way Putin can back down now is to withdraw from all power, which is why it’s so unlikely to happen. He can’t just go into hiding like a scared little lamb and still hope to be revered by his followers. Russia will lose all respect for him if he goes into hiding. So he doesn’t have that option available. His competitors will take over the top spot.
Someone like Osama bin Laden was different; he was willing to share the top spot – he had the primary mission of Islamic rule and revenge against the West so he didn’t really care too much how that was done or who it was done by, and because of that he could go into hiding quite safely. He didn’t have to always be in the forefront. As long as somebody was bombing something he was all good. But with Putin: it’s all about Putin. This isn’t about Russia or some religious cause. This is just about his ego, and so he’s all alone.
Putin is much more like Stalin, who would have killed his own mother if it furthered his position. Stalin would kill anyone and everything to protect Stalin, and Putin is of that ilk. That’s got to be understood. This is not about Russian dominance, it’s about Putin dominance. He cannot back down. So unless he’s assassinated, not only is the Ukraine going to fall, but I can’t imagine that he’s going to stop there. He’s obviously been planning this for quite some time. He’s obviously put propaganda out there to get the Russians to support him. He must continue forward.
If there’s been anything history has taught us is that the only way to keep the populace on your side during a war is to keep winning; you must keep fighting. He can’t give them enough time to breathe and think “Hey, is this right?” Look at what happened with the Vietnam war; the US people were given too long to think “Should we be doing this?” You have to keep fighting, you have to make it look like it’s you versus your enemies. Make the people forget who started it. Putin needs enemies killing Russians soldiers so that he can say “Now we’ve got to fight back”. He needs it to get to that stage.
But like I said, I don’t know politics. I don’t know foreign policy. I don’t know the intricacies of war. But I have read a lot about Stalin and have some sense of Russian culture and politics from my Russian friends. What I do feel certain about is that Putin will not stop until he is stopped – the psychological profile of who he must be demands continuation without surrender. So there’s no choice but for leaders in the western world to attempt to assassinate him. There’s no other option that is likely to prevent this war from expanding.
What bothers me is that they must already know this. I’m not that smart. I’m not the first to figure this out. So that means that leaders from countries all over the world know that this is the only way to resolve this conflict. And yet, it would appear that none of them are willing, or perhaps able to take that action. Because here’s the thing about Putin that’s most dangerous of all, if he comes to the conclusion that he is going to die and there is no way out and that he cannot win, and he still has access to the nuclear button…
We’re all fucked.
Dan’s Top Resources
Dan has 3 bestselling non-fiction books available in both written and audio form:
- The Naked Truth, his latest release, shows you how radical honesty builds self-confidence and relationships
- Nothing to Lose explores how to build confidence from the inside by correcting the programming in your brain
- The Legendary Life is a very practical, action-focused guide on how to plan and execute a life plan that brings you your ideal lifestyle
Dan continues to put out high quality online self-paced courses through the Udemy platform
- Shamelessness: how to relieve yourself of the “not good enough” story
- Powerful Honesty: takes you through step-by-step development of your communication skills to be more charismatic and powerful in your honesty
- The 3X Confidence and Authenticity Masterclass program: use the famous 3X Model to build confidence in all areas of life
- Financial Freedom for Beginners: includes everything from budgeting, to getting a raise, to investing in the stock market, to starting a side-business and more
- Overcoming Your Fear of Rejection… Permanently!: covers the psychology of “rejection” and what actions to take to make yourself immune to the fear of it