“Putin wants us to turn it into a proxy war,” said Fiona Hill, a former Russia adviser to two presidents who now works at the Brookings Institution. “Putin is still telling people outside of Europe that this is just a replay of the Cold War, nothing to watch here. This is not a proxy war. It is a colonial land grab.”
Michael A. McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia now at Stanford University, said there was a difference between clandestinely helping Ukrainian troops defeat Russian troops and promoting it. “Yes, Putin knows we are providing intelligence to Ukraine,” he said. “But saying it out loud helps his public narrative that Russia is fighting the US and NATO in Ukraine, not just the Ukrainians. That does not serve our interests.”
Angela Stent, a former national intelligence officer on Russia and author of a book on US relations with Mr. Putin, said that too openly about what the United States was doing in Ukraine is the effort to turn China, India and other countries against Russia. could undermine . “It’s not a good idea for global public opinion,” she said. “They should do what they do, but not talk about it.”
McFaul said he also believed it was undermining Ukrainians, making them appear dependent on the Americans, a concern Mr Biden would share in his calls to his security officials, first reported by Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman.
But others said the administration has been too cautious about letting Russia set the rules of the conflict — or rather Washington’s guesswork as to what would escalate Russia. No one in Washington really knows the line not to be crossed with Mr Putin, and instead the United States has just made assumptions. “Do we have a conversation about red lines with ourselves?” asked Frederick W. Kagan, a military scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “Because I’d rather think we are.”
The result, he added, is that it is too slow to provide what Ukraine really needs. “They’ve done an amazing job of getting things done in a relatively timely manner,” Mr Kagan said of the Biden administration. “But there seems to be a certain brake on the timeliness of our support, driven by this kind of analysis and self-negotiation, that’s a problem.”
The legislation Mr Biden signed on Monday reflected the historic echoes and reversals of the current war. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the original Lend-Lease Act in 1941 to help the British fend off Nazi aggressors in World War II, and it was later expanded to help other allies, including the Soviet Union.