February 4, 2015
Pentagon 2008 study claims Putin has Asperger’s syndrome
By Ray Locker
WASHINGTON – A study from a Pentagon think tank theorizes that Russian President Vladimir Putin has Asperger’s syndrome, “an autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions,” according to the 2008 report obtained by USA TODAY.
Putin’s “neurological development was significantly interrupted in infancy,” wrote Brenda Connors, an expert in movement pattern analysis at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Studies of his movement, Connors wrote, reveal “that the Russian President carries a neurological abnormality.”
The 2008 study was one of many by Connors and her colleagues, who are contractors for the Office of Net Assessment (ONA), an internal Pentagon think tank that helps devise long-term military strategy. The 2008 report and a 2011 study were provided to USA TODAY as part of a Freedom of Information Act request.
Researchers can’t prove their theory about Putin and Asperger’s, the report said, because they were not able to perform a brain scan on the Russian president. The report cites work by autism specialists as backing their findings. It is not known whether the research has been acted on by Pentagon or administration officials.
The 2008 report cites Dr. Stephen Porges, who is now a University of North Carolina psychiatry professor, as concluding that “Putin carries a form of autism.” However, Porges said Wednesday he had never seen the finished report and “would back off saying he has Asperger’s.”
Instead, Porges said, his analysis was that U.S. officials needed to find quieter settings in which to deal with Putin, whose behavior and facial expressions reveal someone who is defensive in large social settings. Although these features are observed in Asperger’s, they are also observed in individuals who have difficulties staying calm in social settings and have low thresholds to be reactive. “If you need to do things with him, you don’t want to be in a big state affair but more of one-on-one situation someplace somewhere quiet,” he said.
Putin’s actions have been under particular scrutiny since early 2014, when Russian annexed Crimea from neighboring Ukraine. Since then, Russia has backed Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine while the United States and European allies have started a series of economic sanctions that have weakened the Russian economy.
USA TODAY reported in March 2014 about the Office of Net Assessment’s support for the research, but the Pentagon did not release the details of its studies. At the time, Pentagon officials said the research did not reach Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel or his predecessors. That is still true, said Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
The Office of Net Assessment provides long-range plans for the Pentagon and helps shape future strategy. It has been particularly active in developing the military’s “pivot to Asia,” which has emphasized strategies to deal with China.
Connors’ team has done several studies on Putin for ONA beyond those from 2008 and 2011, Henderson said.
Connors’ program is called Body Leads. Military contract records show the Pentagon has paid at least $365,000 on outside experts to work with her since 2009. The two reports mention other work she and associates have done since Putin’s rise to power, including a 2005 study called “An Act of Trust to Move Ahead” and studies in 2004-05 and 2008 by movement pattern analysis pioneer Warren Lamb.