Various U.S. intelligence officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin underwent treatment for advanced cancer in April. The officials represent three distinct entities: the Director of National Intelligence, the U.S. Air Force, and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Citing a classified report, the three sources agree that the Russian president’s health situation is direr than previously understood.
“The classified U.S. report says Putin seems to have re-emerged after undergoing treatment in April for advanced cancer,” Newsweek reported on June 2.
“Putin’s health has been the source of endless rumor and speculation, as analysts pore over footage of his every public appearance for evidence of physical decline,” The Daily Mail reported.
Are Reports Overstated?
The Kremlin has denied reports of Putin’s ill-health. Some western observers aren’t convinced either. “The rumours have spanned the gamut: Vladimir Putin is suffering from cancer or Parkinson’s disease, say unconfirmed and unverifiable reports,” The Guardian reported. “Photographs of Putin meeting top aides are inspected in microscopic detail: is he gripping the table in pain during a meeting with defence minister Sergei Shoigu in late April? Is his puffy face a sign of steroid use, as former foreign secretary Lord Owen claimed in March?”
The Guardian piece is mocking the analysis of specific Putin appearances. For example, a February 7 meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, in which “there was no shaking of hands, no war embrace,” the DNI official said.
And in a meeting with Shoigu from April 21, Putin was slouched in his chair and gripping the table with his right hand. Putin’s posture set off an intense series of examinations. Footage of the meeting was scrutinized. Officials trained in remote diagnosis and psychiatry were consulted. Pundits debated.
On May 9, he appeared again, looking noticeably bloated, sitting slumped. “The consensus was that Putin was ill and probably dying,” Newsweek reported.
“Putin is definitely sick,” the DNI official told Newsweek. “Whether he’s going to die soon is mere speculation.”
“Is Putin sick? Absolutely,” the Air Force official said. “But we shouldn’t let waiting for his death drive proactive actions on our part. A power vacuum after Putin could be very dangerous for the world.”
The cited report also indicates that Putin survived an assassination attempt in March. Seemingly, he is increasingly paranoid about his power. “Putin’s grip is strong but no longer absolute,” an intelligence officer was quoted in Newsweek, “the jockeying inside the Kremlin has never been more intense during his rule, everyone sensing that the end is near.”
Despite the health rumors, and despite the ongoing slog in Ukraine, the Russian president remains popular with the Russian people. “Putin’s position seems relatively stable for now,” The Hill reported in April. “Putin remains popular with Russians despite his bloody and horrific actions. Although that’s strange to Westerns, the result is explained in part by Russia’s advance on the wealth and health fronts during his reign…Putin’s track record looks better when viewed in isolation from other countries – and further skewed through the lens of Russian propaganda.”
Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon, and New York University. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.