Putin 'extremely paranoid' US is plotting to overthrow him: 'He could double down'

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Watch: Vladimir Putin ‘extremely paranoid’ about being assassinated

Vladimir Putin is “extremely paranoid” about a possible Western intervention in Russia designed to overthrow him, a security expert has warned following calls in the US to assassinate the president.

The Russian president believes the West is capable of trying to impose regime change and that anything that feeds this sense of paranoia could lead him to "double down" following his attack on Ukraine, according to a former official at the US National Security Council.

Fiona Hill, ex-US president Donald Trump’s chief adviser on Russia, said Putin wants to destroy Ukraine to stop the US using it as a launchpad for direct action in Russia.

The warning comes after senior US Republican senator Lindsey Graham tweeted last Friday: “The only way this ends is for somebody in Russia to take this guy out. You would be doing your country - and the world - a great service.”

In response, Hill told NBC News: “We’ve got to be very careful about this kind of talk right now.

Read more: Russia operation in Ukraine 'will be unsustainable within three weeks'

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with the head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Alexander Shokhin in Moscow, Russia March 2, 2022. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION HAS BEEN PROVIDED SEPARATELY
There are fears Russian president Vladimir Putin will 'double down' on his invasion of Ukraine. (Reuters)
Fiona Hill (NBC/YouTube)
Fiona Hill, a former official at the US National Security Council, said Vladimir Putin is 'paranoid' about being assassinated and a US intervention. (NBC/YouTube)

“One of the reasons Vladimir Putin is engaging in this appalling behaviour in Ukraine is because he’s worried about his own position. He has to be re-elected in 2024. If he fails and looks weak, it’s disastrous at home not just abroad, and any kind of loose talk about somebody ‘taking him out’ - regime change... he believes that we’re in that business anyway.

“He looks at what the United States has done - he says it openly all the time - in Libya, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and many other places where we’ve intervened. And he looks at that and he thinks, ‘I’m not going to let that happen here in Russia.’

Children play as they wait for buses to transfer them to Germany from the temporary shelter for refugees located in a former shopping center between the Ukrainian border and the Polish city of Przemysl, in Poland, on March 08, 2022. (Photo by Louisa GOULIAMAKI / AFP) (Photo by LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Children play as they wait for buses to transfer them to Germany from the temporary shelter for refugees between the Ukrainian border and the Polish city of Przemysl, in Poland, on Tuesday. (AFP via Getty Images)
Evacuees from Mariupol area get settled at a refugee camp in the settlement of Bezymennoye during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the Donetsk region, Ukraine March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
Evacuees from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol area get settled at a refugee camp in the settlement of Bezymennoye in the Donetsk region on Tuesday. (Reuters)

“He is extremely paranoid about this and one of the reasons why he wants to destroy Ukraine is because he thinks that we would use it - because he would think about using it - as a launching pad for something like this.

“So we have to be extraordinarily cautious about how we talk about this conflict. We need to stop the war in Ukraine but we have to be very careful about talking about war with Russia, regime change, and these other things because then he will absolutely double down further.”

This sentiment was also expressed last week by British prime minister Boris Johnson, who said on Friday he feared Putin intends to “double down” on his invasion of Ukraine because he sees “no way out” but to “continue with the destruction”.

Johnson echoed Hill's sentiment, saying: "We must not accept the narrative of Vladimir Putin that this is about him versus Nato, or him versus the West.”

Putin has previously expressed his suspicion of the West following the US military intervention in Libya in 2011.

He compared the Nato-led operation to the medieval crusades, saying it showed Russia was right to boost its own military capabilities.

At the time, Putin said the UN resolution that led to US and UK strikes on Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s regime was “defective and flawed”.

He added: “It allows everything. It resembles medieval calls for crusades.

“What troubles me is not the fact of military intervention itself - I am concerned by the ease with which decisions to use force are taken in international affairs.”

Russia abstained from voting on the resolution, which authorised a no-fly zone over Libya.

Rescuers remove debris from a school building damaged by shelling, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Chernihiv, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 7, 2022.  Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT
Rescuers remove debris from a school building damaged by shelling, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Chernihiv, Ukraine, on Monday. (Reuters)
A rescuer is seen next to a residential building damaged by shelling, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 8, 2022.  Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
A rescuer is seen next to a residential building damaged by shelling, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Refugees fleeing the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine wait for hours to board a train to Poland, outside the train station in Lviv, Ukraine, March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Refugees fleeing the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine wait for hours to board a train to Poland, outside the train station in Lviv, Ukraine, on Tuesday. (Reuters)

A decade on and Ukraine is calling for its own no-fly zone to protect it from Putin’s forces’ aerial bombardment, but the West has so far resisted, saying the move would effectively lead to war with Russia.

Last week, NBC reported that Putin was growing frustrated by the Ukrainian resistance to his invasion, and had lashed out in fits of anger at his inner circle.

Read more: Putin ‘isn't insane and won't use nuclear weapons’

Democratic US senator Mark Warner, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said: “This is somebody that's clearly been caught off guard by the size of the Ukrainian resistance.

“He has isolated himself. I do worry that he's been backed into a corner. I do worry that there is no obvious exit ramp."

Last Thursday, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov compared the US to “Napoleon and Hitler”.

In an outburst at a press conference, Lavrov said: “They’re trying to impose their own view of the future of Europe on us.

“Napoleon and Hitler, they had the objective to have the whole of Europe under their control — now Americans have got Europe under control.”

Watch: Mayor of Ukrainian city calls for global help to feed refugees

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