Vladimir Putin is “totally too healthy,” CIA director William Burns said on Wednesday, throwing cold water on the constant rumors that the Russian president is suffering from illness as he continues his war against Ukraine.
Burns, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, noted that his statement was “not a formal intelligence decision.” Still, given his position, Burns’s comment could dampen hopes among Putin’s opponents that the Russian’s demise is imminent.
Burns spoke a day after Putin visited Iran, where he met Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
It was a rare foray outside of Russia for Putin; he has been largely isolated during the coronavirus pandemic, even as he launched a war. But Iran and Russia appear to be stepping up their cooperation as both face much global exile. US officials say Iran plans to transfer hundreds of drones to Russia to aid it in its war effort.
Burns, a former career diplomat who did two tours in Moscow, spent much of his performance in Aspen answering questions about Russia and the war in Ukraine.
“As far as we can tell, he is completely too healthy,” he said when asked about Putin’s health.
He indicated that the Iranians should reconsider any decision to give drones to Putin. At the same time, Burns said Putin’s turning to Iran for such weapons is a sign of the weakness of Russia’s own defense sector.