Russia Threat Assessment: Psychological Profile of Vladimir Putin


The Political Personality of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, January 2017. Abstract and link for full-text (36 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons:


The Personality Profile of Russian President
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin

(Влади́мир Влади́мирович Пу́тин)

Aubrey Immelman
Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics
March 2014

Vladimir Putin New Year's Address to the Nation (12-31-2012)

A remotely conducted empirical psychological assessment of Russian leader Vladimir Putin is currently in progress, using the third edition of the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria (MIDC), which yields 34 normal and maladaptive personality classifications congruent with DSM–V.

Informal observation suggests that Putin is a highly dominant leader. However, more systematic observation is required to establish whether he is an introvert or an extravert.

If Putin is a dominant introvert, which appears to be the case [confirmed 7/30/2014], the following personality-based leadership profile would apply:

In terms of Lloyd Etheredge’s (1978) fourfold typology of personality-based foreign policy role orientations, which locates policymakers on the dimensions of dominance–submission and introversion–extraversion, high-dominance introverts (in American politics, presidents such as Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Hoover) are quite willing to use military force, tending

to divide the world, in their thought, between the moral values they think it ought to exhibit and the forces opposed to this vision. They tend to have a strong, almost Manichean, moral component to their views. They tend to be described as stubborn and tenacious. They seek to reshape the world in accordance with their personal vision, and their foreign policies are often characterized by the tenaciousness with which they advance one central idea. … [These leaders] seem relatively preoccupied with themes of exclusion, the establishment of institutions or principles to keep potentially disruptive forces in check. (p. 449; italics in original)

Etheredge’s high-dominance introvert is similar in character to Margaret Hermann’s (1987) expansionist orientation to foreign affairs. These leaders have a view of the world as being “divided into ‘us’ and ‘them,’ ” based on a belief system in which conflict is viewed as inherent in the international system. This world view prompts a personal political style characterized by a “wariness of others’ motives” and a directive, controlling interpersonal orientation, resulting in a foreign policy “focused on issues of security and status,” favoring “low-commitment actions” and espousing “short-term, immediate change in the international arena.” Expansionist leaders “are not averse to using the ‘enemy’ as a scapegoat” and their rhetoric often may be “hostile in tone” (pp. 168–169).


Etheredge, L. S. (1978). Personality effects on American foreign policy, 1898–1968: A test of interpersonal generalization theory. American Political Science Review, 72, 434–451.

Hermann, M. G. (1987). Assessing the foreign policy role orientations of sub-Saharan African leaders. In S. G. Walker (Ed.), Role theory and foreign policy analysis (pp. 161–198). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Pilot Study (April 25, 2014)

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Full Study (July 30, 2014)

Following additional data collection by summer research fellow Joe Trenzeluk during the months of June and July, the psychological assessment of Russian leader Vladimir Putin has been completed. The next phase of the study, to be conducted during the month of August, will be to elaborate on Putin’s leadership style, employing his personality profile as a temporally and cross-situationally stable framework for anticipating his future political behavior.

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Joe Trenzeluk presents his research on "The personality profile of Russian president Vladimir Putin" at the Undergraduate Research Poster Session, Great Hall, St. John's University, Collegeville, Minn., Aug. 6, 2014.
Joe Trenzeluk presents his research on “The personality profile of Russian president Vladimir Putin” at the Undergraduate Research Poster Session, Great Hall, St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minn., Aug. 6, 2014.

Research report (January 5, 2017)

The Political Personality Personality of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin

(Владимир Путин)

Aubrey Immelman and Joseph V. Trenzeluk
Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics
January 2017

Putin with flag of Russia.jpg


This paper presents the results of an indirect assessment of the personality of Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, from the conceptual perspective of personologist Theodore Millon.

Psychodiagnostically relevant data regarding President Putin was extracted from open-source intelligence and synthesized into a personality profile using the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria (MIDC), which yields 34 normal and maladaptive personality classifications congruent with Axis II of DSM–IV.

The personality profile yielded by the MIDC was analyzed on the basis of interpretive guidelines provided in the MIDC and Millon Index of Personality Styles manuals. Putin’s primary personality patterns were found to be Dominant/controlling (a measure of aggression or hostility), Ambitious/self-serving (a measure of narcissism), and Conscientious/dutiful, with secondary Retiring/reserved (introverted) and Dauntless/adventurous (risk-taking) tendencies and lesser Distrusting/suspicious features. The blend of primary patterns in Putin’s profile constitutes a composite personality type aptly described as an expansionist hostile enforcer.

Dominant individuals enjoy the power to direct others and to evoke obedience and respect; they are tough and unsentimental and often make effective leaders. This personality pattern defines the “hostile” component of Putin’s personality composite.

Ambitious individuals are bold, competitive, and self-assured; they easily assume leadership roles, expect others to recognize their special qualities, and often act as though entitled. This personality pattern delineates the “expansionist” component of Putin’s personality composite.

Conscientious individuals are dutiful and diligent, with a strong work ethic and careful attention to detail; they are adept at crafting public policy but often lack the retail political skills required to consummate their policy objectives and are more technocratic than visionary. This personality pattern fashions the “enforcer” component of Putin’s personality composite.

Retiring (introverted) individuals tend not to develop strong ties to others, are somewhat deficient in the ability to recognize the needs or feelings of others, and may lack spontaneity and interpersonal vitality.

Dauntless individuals are adventurous, individualistic, daring personalities resistant to deterrence and inclined to take calculated risks.

Putin’s major personality-based strengths in a political role are his commanding demeanor and confident assertiveness. His major personality-based shortcomings are his uncompromising intransigence, lack of empathy and congeniality, and cognitive inflexibility.

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