Unpredictable Strongman? Two Years Into War, Putin Embraces the Image.

After President Biden called President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia a “crazy S.O.B.” this week, the Kremlin was quick to issue a stern condemnation.

But the image of an unpredictable strongman ready to escalate his conflict with the West is one that Mr. Putin has fully embraced after two years of full-scale war.

At home, the Kremlin is maintaining the mystery over the circumstances of the death last week of Aleksei A. Navalny, preventing the opposition leader’s family from reclaiming his body.

In Ukraine, Mr. Putin is pressing his army to maintain its brutal offensive, boasting on television that he stayed up all night as the city of Avdiivka fell to Russian forces.

And in outer space, American officials warn, Russia may be planning to place a nuclear weapon into orbit, aboard a satellite, which would violate one of the last arm control treaties.

In power since 1999, Mr. Putin, 71, is set to extend his rule to 2030 in Russia’s rubber-stamp elections next month. As the vote nears, he is feeding his increasingly overt conception of himself as a history-making leader carrying on the legacy of past rulers who were willing to sacrifice untold numbers of lives to build a stronger Russian state.

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