Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request from USA Today, we have this tidbit: a Pentagon think tank suspects Vladimir Putin may have Asperger's syndrome. In a 2008 report obtained by the paper, a contractor for the Office of Net Assessment doesn't mince words: A review of Putin's movement patterns and microexpressions "so clearly [reveal] that the Russian president carries a neurological abnormality." Further, Brenda Connors, a movement pattern analysis expert with the US Naval War College who has done work for the Pentagon since 1996, presents the "hypothesis that very early in life perhaps, even in utero, Putin suffered a huge hemispheric event to the left temporal lobe of the prefrontal cortex." A footnote indicates the "hemispheric event" may have been a stroke, and notes that his mother, a woman in poor health, gave birth to him at 41.
The result? "His primary form of compensation is extreme control and this is isomorphically reflected in his decision styles and how he governs." The report cites Time reporters' observations from their Person of the Year interview ("He is impatient to the point of rudeness with small talk"); quotes other autism experts; and makes plain that without brain scanning, the theory remains just that. One of the experts cited was Dr. Stephen Porges; he tells USA Today he never saw the finished version, and that he wouldn't go so far as to label Putin as having Asperger's. The upshot of his analysis is that lawmakers who interact with him should attempt to do so in quiet settings, not a "big state affair but more of one-on-one situation someplace." USA Today has the report in full. (Read more Vladimir Putin stories.)