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A former US ambassador to Russia says Putin is becoming 'increasingly unhinged' and 'disconnected from reality'

Business Insider logo Business Insider 2/28/2022 insider@insider.com (Cheryl Teh)
Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, says Russian President Vladimir Putin "doesn't listen to his aides." Alexey Nikolsky/Getty Images © Provided by Business Insider Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, says Russian President Vladimir Putin "doesn't listen to his aides." Alexey Nikolsky/Getty Images
  • Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, says Putin is becoming "increasingly unhinged."
  • "He's out at his compound, doesn't come into town very much, and under COVID, he's been more isolated," he said.
  • McFaul added in a tweet that Putin might be disconnected from reality after decades in power.

A former US ambassador to Russia said Sunday that, after decades in power and intense isolation from COVID-19, Russian President Vladimir Putin was becoming "increasingly unhinged."

Michael McFaul, an Obama-era ambassador to Russia, made the observation during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press."

When asked whether Putin was a "rational actor," McFaul said: "To get kicked out of SWIFT as it happened to Russia yesterday, and then to have the president of Russia get in front of his generals and say, 'We need to prepare for nuclear war.' That doesn't sound very rational to me."

On Saturday, Western nations announced that some Russian banks would be removed from SWIFT, a global financial messaging system.

McFaul, who said he first met Putin in 1991, expressed concern that the Russian leader had believed his own propaganda "for decades."


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"Remember, this guy's been in power for 22 years. He doesn't listen to his aides. Even when I was ambassador eight years ago, he was very dismissive of anybody around him. He's out at his compound, doesn't come into town very much, and, under COVID, he's been more isolated," McFaul said.

"I sat in the room with him for five years when I worked in the Obama administration. I speak Russian. I listened to him, and I know what he says — he's increasingly unhinged in the way that he talks about the regime," McFaul added.

The former ambassador also highlighted Putin's claims that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — a Jewish man — is a neo-Nazi addicted to drugs. "That doesn't sound like somebody who's going to sit down and negotiate a peaceful outcome," McFaul said, referring to Putin.

In a separate tweet Monday, McFaul reiterated why he thought people like Putin couldn't be reasoned with.

"When dictators rule for decades, they (1) stop listening to advisors, (2) become disconnected from reality, (3) spend a lot of time alone, and (4) overreach," he wrote. "This is exactly what has happened to Putin."

Early Thursday morning, Putin announced a sudden military assault on Ukraine, saying he wanted to "demilitarize and denazify" the country.

Insider's live blog of the invasion is covering developments as they happen.

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