The White Home effort to design a technique to confront Russia over its invasion of Ukraine is linked to an pressing re-examination by intelligence companies of President Vladimir V. Putin’s psychological state. The controversy is over whether or not his ambitions and urge for food for danger have been altered by two years of Covid isolation, or by a way that this can be his finest second to rebuild Russia’s sphere of affect and safe his legacy. Or each.
All through the pandemic, Mr. Putin has retreated into an intricate cocoon of social distancing — although he allowed life in Russia to primarily return to regular. The Federal Protecting Service, Russia’s reply to the Secret Service, constructed a virus-free bubble round Mr. Putin that far outstrips the protecting measures taken by a lot of his international counterparts.
Mr. Putin has been holding most of his conferences with authorities officers by video convention, typically showing in a spartan room in his Moscow property, Novo-Ogaryovo. Even when international dignitaries arrived, they often didn’t get to see Mr. Putin in individual; the secretary common of the United Nations, António Guterres, needed to make do with a video assembly when he visited Moscow final yr.
Now Mr. Putin has in-person guests — together with the Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, who met with Mr. Putin for about three hours on Saturday. (Mr. Putin’s residence and the Kremlin are outfitted with disinfectant tunnels that every one guests should cross by means of.)
A number of the world leaders who’ve met with Mr. Putin in latest diplomatic overtures had been seated 20 toes from him at a behemoth of a desk, having refused to undergo Russian P.C.R. checks that may make their DNA out there to the Russians. In any other case, individuals who meet him face-to-face usually have spent so long as two weeks in quarantine first.
Mr. Putin’s excessive warning displays not solely his age — he’s 69, placing him at comparatively excessive danger of extreme sickness from the coronavirus — but in addition what critics describe as paranoia honed throughout his former profession as a Ok.G.B. spy.
And the Russian chief’s tendency, American intelligence officers have informed the White Home and Congress, is to double down when he feels trapped by his personal overreach. So that they have described a sequence of attainable reactions, starting from indiscriminate shelling of Ukrainian cities to compensate for the early errors made by his invading pressure, to cyberattacks directed on the American monetary system, to extra nuclear threats and maybe strikes to take the struggle past Ukraine’s borders.