CIA Director William J. Burns on Wednesday dismissed suggestions that Russian President Vladimir Putin is in poor physical condition, calling him “entirely too healthy.”
“There are lots of rumors about President Putin’s health and as far as we can tell, he’s entirely too healthy,” Burns told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell in an interview in Colorado as part of the Aspen Security Forum.
“It’s not a formal intelligence judgment,” Burns added.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Thursday also said Putin feels “fine” and is in “good health,” according to CNN. Assertions to the contrary are “nothing but hoaxes,” Peskov added.
Putin’s reality-defying statements, disappearances from public view or even slight stumbles in public often set off speculation about his health.
Burns explained Putin’s style of decision-making.
“His views have hardened, in my experience over the years, but he’s got his own way of looking at reality,” Burns said. “And as we, you know, could see in the first stages of this war, it was based on some profoundly flawed assumptions and some real illusions, especially about Ukraine and the will to resist in Ukraine, which he’s helped to create in many ways by aggression now over a period of at least the eight years since 2014.”
Putin this week visited Iran in only his second international trip the Ukraine invasion. The Russian leader earned the support of Tehran, according to The Associated Press. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Russia would have faced an attack by NATO if it hadn’t attacked Ukraine — a claim that echoes a Putin pretext to justify the invasion.
Asked if Iran’s missile and drone system should be a concern to the U.S. and its allies, Burns said it’s “certainly an increasingly significant threat.”
“They have the biggest arsenal of missiles of anyone in the Middle East right now,” Burns said. “And you know, it’s a mark of the development of their armed drone system that you have the Russians now trying to acquire some as well.”
The White House said earlier this month that Russians have visited an airfield in Iran twice looking at drones to use in their war against Ukraine, according to AP.