If Tomorrow Trump….? Psychological profile and the potential relations with Putin

October 2, 2016 by Elizaveta Egorova

Dr. Ekaterina Egorova, Dr.Elizaveta Egorova, Ken Feltman

The more quickly the Republican nomination for the presidential candidate for their presidential elections approaches, the more clearly Trump, according to opinion polls, emerges as winner, the more astounded we are as we try to imagine US foreign policy in the case of Trump’s election. One of the hot issues for discussion not only in the US, but also in Russia, is the prospect of cooperation between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

To more deeply understand this perspective, we should compare a number of personal characteristics of America businessman Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. We ponder about foreign policy cooperation in the case of the election of a particular candidate. The political-psychological study of the personality is the basis. We conducted also a research of their personal characteristics, based on VAAL, – the computer program for the psychological analysis of political leaders’ interviews, allowing quantificating the psychological characteristics to compare politicians. (0.0 Score is the linguistic norm for English- speaking or Russian-speaking average people).

The personality of the Heads of State influences their decision-making style, their choice of foreign policy priorities and strategies, communication style, leadership, and ultimately shapes the outcome of their cooperation, the balance of power in the international arena. Therefore, instead of asking “Is Donald Trump quite macho enough to talk as an equal to Putin?” as it says Sylvia Thompson suggests in her article “Trump, the warrior male”, we should try to understand how the personality of Trump would affect his interaction with Putin.

A number of psychologists and psychiatrists found evidence of narcissism in the personalities of both Trump and Putin. It is necessary to concede that this is common among politicians worldwide. We agree there are some manifestations of narcissism in both of them. However, we believe that it is hasty to diagnose Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) without special examination by psychiatrists.

Both leaders have common features – they are action-oriented, flexible, and quick, always looking for new opportunities, risk-takers, unconventional, realists, pragmatists, alert, ambitious, goal-oriented, power-lovers, success-driven.

Each of these leaders has his own particular psychological characteristics. Putin, indifferent to the emotions of society and immune to flattery, has a long-term love affair with power. He adores it and demands it. But this love is not most important affair to explanation the political behavior of Putin. His main driver is s his internal Mission – a mission to restore the bipolar two super power world and to return Russia to its proper place. If it is necessary, for this purpose, to annex the Crimea, not to let Ukraine enter into the EU, or to start military actions against ISIS in Syria, Putin definitely will do and, indeed, has done it.

Some analysts perceive the endless photographs of a half-naked Putin on a horse, or in a hang-glider teaching crane birds to fly, as an expression of his narcissism. In our opinion, these photos show us that Putin understands well the PR value and how to maintain power within society. Moreover, any confusion in the eyes of the leaders of other countries, any fear of his unpredictable behavior, are a hundred times more desirable for him than enthusiasm and approval by people whose support has its value to him only as a tool of power.

Trump has a deep need of recognition and adoration. He demonstrates this desire with his every word. For example, in response to a reporter who commented that Trump is “not a nice person”. Trump repeated several times: “But actually, I am. I think I’m a nice person “. Trump praises himself constantly, even using the third person, unable to wait for words of admiration from others: “I think Trump will do a lot better (negotiations with ISIS),” I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created, I tell you that “, ” I think I would beat her and I think I’m the only one that can beat her. I will beat Hillary Clinton “.

The behavior of Trump often demonstrates his exaggerated sense of self-importance, a sense of grandeur. Trump sees himself as great Achiever, Superior, and Champion. He stresses that nobody can do anything better: «I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me». This type of verbal construction actually masks Trump’s need to convince, first of all, himself, of his greatness, to compensate for injured self-esteem. According Jason Horowitz from NYT, Trump raised in a family where “children “never got a hug or a kiss” in their strict home, and that Donald was hypercompetitive”. Since his early years of childhood, success was the only one way to be good enough for his father. Putin, however, will never perceive Trump to be Winner or Superior.

Why not? First, Putin clearly diagnoses his communication partners. In the initial studying Trump’s behavior, Putin will understand that Trump is vulnerable, fragile, with a great need for approval and recognition. Second, when Putin senses Trump’s psychological weaknesses, he will push him aside him instantly; will “capture territory.” It is Putin’s natural reflex; just politics, nothing personal. And third, even if Putin sincerely likes Trump, Putin being a cold introvert, will be unable to express any warm feelings overtly. Trump will expect, even demand, requests the admiration by Putin, but Trump will never be granted it. Trump’s need for affiliation is twice as higher as that of Putin. This means that, lack of the expected approval; Trump will hate Putin and see him as the most ferocious of betrayers. Betrayer of his hopes.

Needless to say, the humbled and humiliated Trump will abandon his romantic dream of a candlelit dinner with Putin, laced with constructive dialogue. After disappointment, he will initiate retribution, trying to punish the offender painfully. Then the conflict between the U.S. and Russia may acquire an acute personal aspect and thus lead to a serious escalation.

Trump believes truly that he is special and is willing to interact only with those of equal prowess. The problem will be that for Putin, Trump is not an equal. Yes, of course, Trump is a successful businessman (but business is not the field for their competition). In politics, Trump is an amateur, someone who never smelled gunpowder. Experienced fighter Putin could paternally adopt the novice recruit Trump or maybe give him a few lessons in the fine art of military hazing. Trump, who declared his ability to establish good relations with the Russian president, would be frustrated by the first and enraged by the second.

Putin and Trump do have some specific psychological traits in common and these will not make them closer. Putin and Trump have a shortage of empathy, lack ability to understand another person’s emotions, are incapable of standing in someone else’s shoes. This does not mean that they themselves do not need to be understood, and accepted. It means, they need completely different kinds of recognition.

Putin’s grandeur, in his own eyes, is reflection of the greatness of Russia under his rule. If Russia is appreciated, respected, and feared, it means the recognition of himself as the president, the ruler who managed to regain this role.

Trump perceives his own grandeur as an appreciation of his personal achievements, success, and originality. He needs to reinforce his self-esteem through external respect and confirmation. Putin is not ready for such psychotherapeutic role or sycophantic behavior.

Trump’s illusions of unlimited global power will soon be lost. If we compare the need for power of Trump with that of Putin, Putin’s is much more needy: Putin -14.8, Trump – 6.9. Therefore, Putin’s power reflexes simply will not allow him to give in to a weaker Trump. Putin will behave roughly, showing Trump who is boss, rebuffing any and all American overtures Putin perceives as unprofitable for Russia. Trump will become depressed, and his personality wounds could fester, even inflame. This may cause “affect of the inadequacy” – a negative emotional state that occurs in response to t failure. Often the individual will deny the fact of failure, or shift the responsibility for it onto the other person. An affect of inadequacy may manifest itself in increased resentment, distrust, suspicion, aggression, and negativism. This emotional state is a defensive reaction to save an over-heightened level of aspirations and helps the individual avoid the awareness of that own individual’s breakdown. The affect of inadequacy can damage the key decision-maker for months. A leader with a serious crisis of self-esteem is a dangerous Commander-in-Chief with his finger over the nuclear button. The consequences of his actions in this emotional state for his country and the world would be unpredictable.

The high level of distrust scores will hinder good relations between Trump and Putin (Putin – 13.7, Trump – 8.0). These figures, on the one hand are common for politicians, but on the other hand are a sizeable obstacle to the development of any open, constructive, and fruitful interpersonal relationship.

The communicative style of Trump is a part of his personal brand. Trump is cocky, contemptuous, and haughty. His arrogance knows no bounds. He is proud of his pathological rudeness. However, every psychologist knows that, behind the facade of one’s verbal offensive behavior, there is a fear of showing weakness and a desire to protect oneself. Verbal offence always implies the need for personal defense.

Putin, known for his insults, full of venomous sarcasm, could compete with, and beat, Trump in a hard rhetorical sparring match. If Trump carelessly criticizes Putin or Russia, there will be a fistfight in the field of taunts. And we doubt that Trump would win this battle. Mutual insults from the two political leaders, far beyond the diplomatic protocol, could provoke each of them into a risky behavior.

Trump is used to treating people as tool, to achieve his goals. He does not particularly hide this. In the case of Putin, Trump would not succeed. Putin himself knows well how to do the same. Moreover, Putin is alert, from childhood, how to resist from being used by someone else. For him, it is important to feel that he controls the situation, and he inflexible in relations with other people. Putin will stop without ceremony any attempts to be used by Trump. Putin, once humbled by the Western leaders, who ignored his Olympics in Sochi, further embarrassed by sanctions and by deletion from the G-8, seeks every window of opportunity to retaliate and to use Western leaders for his own ends.

Vulnerable Trump may become an easy and convenient target. Moreover, it is unlikely that Putin missed Trump’s statement, issued when Putin became President of Russia in 2000. «We need to tell Russia and other recipients that if they want our dime they had better do our dance, at least in matters regarding our national security . These people need us much more than we need them » . Much later, in 2015, Trump called for tougher sanctions against Russia. Putin has an excellent memory and he begrudges everything and everyone who has tried to humiliate him.

Both Trump and Putin are tough pragmatists; they operate with the concepts of result, success, and profit. They are capable of tactical maneuvering. This could help them to find a common field for foreign policy cooperation without ideology.

Recently Trump has made some acceptable statement from the point of view of Putin. These statements are regarding at least three important foreign policy issues: the need for dialogue and constructive relations between Russia and the United States, the negative consequences of military intervention in Iraq, and the war against the ISIS. Unfortunately Trump truly believes that «Nobody would be tougher on ISIS than Donald Trump. Nobody».

Of course, Putin may consider constructive proposals from Trump. If these offers were to give him a certain foreign policy or a guaranteed economic benefit. Why not? Especially if the profit is related to of Putin’s notion of the duty as the leader of his country. Putin’s motive of duty is above the motive to fulfill inner desires (7.4 vs. 7.0), while the motives of Trump are different. His motive «I must» (-1.5), a «I wish» (5.9). If tactical cooperation with Trump would be beneficial for Russia, Putin will use it. However, we should not forget that Putin has always been focused on results, rather than relationships.

Foreign policy and military decision-making is central to national security. The information approach of both leaders is important for understanding the features of future decisions. The accuracy and adequacy of information influences the quality of the decision.

Using specific or unspecific information in the speech reflects the information process at the basis of thinking. Trump uses mainly unspecific, general information. He refers to particular data four times less (-4.5) than the average individual. Putin prefers the more specific information (0.8), almost at the level of an ordinary person. Trump often repeats words and sentences, expresses his idea several times, as if he is not sure what he is saying. This feature of his speech confirmed his lack of real foreign policy ideas.

Here is a typical example of Trump’s statements on military issues in an interview with Jake Tapper (CNN).

TAPPER: The um, I think you said that you want to bomb the oil fields in Iraq…
TRUMP: Yes.
….
TAPPER: But I do not think Iraq, I do not think the government of Iraq would want us to bomb their oil fields.
TRUMP: Here’s, here’s … the government of Iraq? There is no government of Iraq. The so-called government in Iraq yesterday went to Iran to meet with Iran. Iran is going to take over Iraq. It’s as simple as that, okay, simple as that…
TAPPER: I do not know that Iraq, or the government of Iraq, whatever you want to call them, would support our bombing the oil fields in Iraq since…
TRUMP: Who cares?
TAPPER: Okay.
TRUMP: I do not care about the government of Iraq. They’re corrupt. The government of Iraq is totally corrupt.

This Trump’s reasoning looks at least lightweight. There is a feeling that Trump would make military decisions in exactly such a manner. He easily, without much self-doubt, could bomb territory of a country whose government is friendly to the US. However, military decisions are much more risky than demolishing a building in Manhattan.

The most significant weakness of Trump is that he is inexperienced in the field of foreign, and, especially, military policy. He said that he would invite the best specialists. «I will find, within our military, I will find the General Patton or I will find General MacArthur, I will find the right guy. I will find the guy that’s going to take that military and make it really work. Nobody, nobody will be pushing us around ». This is certainly good for the United States, but it is not enough for the world.

Of course, it is possible to argue, that, , all by definition today’s candidates lack presidential experience. It is right. However, there are candidates with some foreign policy or military experience. Trump, unfortunately, is not one of them.

Hardheaded Putin, skilled in the use of his opponents’ missteps will enjoy an easy mark. Every blunder of dilettante Trump, Putin will use against him with a gloating smile of satisfaction. Trump likes to be the bad boy of the present presidential race. Putin would definitely enjoy this incarnation of Trump. And most of all Putin will enjoy showing what a child Trump is in the man’s world of international politics.