Staunton, October 1 – A dangerous but entirely predictable trend is occurring in both Russia and the West: Many who see what Vladimir Putin is doing in Ukraine as a crime are saying he is mad or insane, an approach that simultaneously makes him less responsible for what he has done and leaves others less responsible for bringing him to justice.
Semyon Guzman, a psychiatrist who is also a member of the Ukrainian Presidential Humanitarian Council, notes that “in the media and on social networks, one every more frequently encounters the formulation: ‘Putin is ill’”.
“Many really consider that he suffers from definite psychological illnesses,” the psychiatrist says, “but this is only a convenient explanation in the existing situation. Unfortunately, it is not correct.” Neither Putin himself nor those around him from psychological illnesses, and they should not be evaluated or excused in that way.
Instead, Guzman says, “all their characteristics, like those of a murderer, thief or other good for nothing, are not psychiatric phenomena but rather objects of the subjects of moral philosophy.” Like Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Husseyn and their ilk, Putin and his entourage are “absolutely responsible – and in the event of a trial could be held” to be such.
Guzman’s comments on Putin’s sanity come in the course of his discussion of the ways in which Putin is restoring the use to which psychiatry was put in Soviet times, as “a weapon against dissenters,” as Moscow is doing now in the case of the illegally detained Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko.
By so doing, he says, Putin and his regime “want to frighten not only her but also all the residents of the Russian Federation who are fighting for her liberation.”
The Ukrainian psychiatrist notes that when he co-authored a study in 2008 with Dutch scholar Robert van Voren of Moscow’s use of psychiatry against dissent, he wanted to soften the title On Dissidents and Insanity: From the Soviet Union of Leonid Brezhnev to the Soviet Union of Vladimir Putin.” Van Voren didn’t agree to that, Guzman says, and he was right.
The Dutch scholar was able to see even then where Putin is heading, Guzman continues. “One of Putin’s goals is the return of the distant past into the present, [and] he is attempting to return not just to the Brezhnev era but to the Stalinist one” in this sector as apparently in many others as well.
Guzman notes that several months before her death, Anna Politkovskaya telephoned him to ask if he would provide a medical evaluation of Russian Colonel Yuri Budanov who was seeking to avoid criminal responsibility for the rape and murder of a Chechen girl by claiming to have been temporarily insane.
Guzman says he turned her down but recommended two Moscow colleagues who might be able to help. “As it turned out,” he continues, “each of them had refused to help Politkovskaya earlier explaining their refusal by their fears of reprisals from the [Russian] authorities.”
Politkovskaya was later murdered as was Budanov after he was freed from incarceration, Guzman says, adding that this is the way things are in Putin’s Russia.
“Putin needs psychiatry,” Guzman says, “in order to sow fear among those who disagree. That was the practice in the USSR. Those were not in agreement with the ideas of the totalitarian ideological machine were sent for an indeterminate time to the beds of psychiatric prisons for ‘treatment.’”
Tragically, that is happening again as in the case of Savchenko. Equally tragically, some are applying a similar logic and thus intentionally or not excusing Putin’s crimes and in some cases justifying their own failure to act against him.