Is Putin in touch with reality?
Angela Merkel is no anti-Russian hysteric. So when she phone President Obama on Sunday and told him that "after speaking with Mr. Putin she was not sure he was in touch with reality," and said he was “In another world," you had to wonder if she was exaggerating even a little.
Vladimir Putin gave a press conference yesterday and for more than an hour he rambled, threatened, pleaded, lost his temper, and spouted incredible conspiracy theories, thus virtually proving Merkel's point.
Slouching in a fancy chair in front of a dozen reporters, Putin squirmed and rambled. And rambled and rambled. He was a rainbow of emotion: Serious! angry! bemused! flustered! confused! So confused. Victor Yanukovich is still the acting president of Ukraine, but he can't talk to Ukraine because Ukraine has no president. Ukraine needs elections, but you can't have elections because there is already a president. And no elections will be valid given that there is terrorism in the streets of Ukraine. And how are you going to let just anyone run for president? What if some nationalist punk just pops out like a jack-in-the-box? An anti-Semite? Look at how peaceful the Crimea is, probably thanks to those guys with guns holding it down. Who are they, by the way?
The American political technologists they did their work well. And this isn't the first time they've done this in Ukraine, no. Sometimes, I get the feeling that these people...these people in America. They are sitting there, in their laboratory, and doing experiments, like on rats. You're not listening to me. I've already said, that yesterday, I met with three colleagues. Colleagues, you're not listening. It's not that Yanukovich said he's not going to sign the agreement with Europe. What he said was that, based on the content of the agreement, having examined it, he did not like it. We have problems. We have a lot of problems in Russia. But they're not as bad as in Ukraine. The Secretary of State. Well. The Secretary of State is not the ultimate authority, is he?
Reminder: This fellow has his finger on the button that would launch a couple of thousand nukes.
Unstable? Or living in a cocoon.
For the last few years, it has become something like conventional knowledge in Moscow journalistic circles that Putin was no longer getting good information, that he was surrounded by yes-men who created for him a parallel informational universe. "They're beginning to believe their own propaganda," Gleb Pavlovsky told me when I was in Moscow in December.
It hardly matters, doesn't it? Whether he's gone off his nut or believes his own propaganda, the effect is the same. Vladimir Putin is in another world and negotiating with him is only going to be that much more difficult.