“Putin wants us to have a proxy war on it,” said Fiona Hill, a former Russian adviser to two presidents now at the Brookings Institution. “Putin keeps telling people outside of Europe that this is just a repeat of the Cold War, nothing to look at here. This is not a proxy war. It’s a colonial land grab. “
Michael A. McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia now at Stanford University, said there is a difference between clandestinely helping Ukrainian forces to target Russian forces and flaunting it. “Yes, Putin knows we are providing information 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. This does not serve our interests. “
Angela Stent, a former national intelligence officer on Russia and author of a book on American relations with Putin, said being too open about what the US was doing in Ukraine could undermine efforts to revolt China, India and other countries. against Russia. “For the global public, it’s not a good idea,” she said. “They should do what they do, but not talk about it.”
Mr. McFaul said he also believed this weakened the Ukrainians, making it appear that they were dependent on the Americans, a concern that Mr. Biden would share in his phone calls with his security officials, who were the first to reported by Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman.
But others have said the administration has been too cautious in letting Russia set the rules of the conflict, or rather Washington’s conjectures as to what would push Russia to escalate. No one in Washington really knows the line that shouldn’t be crossed with Putin, and instead the US has just been guessing. “Are we talking about red lines with ourselves?” asked Frederick W. Kagan, a military scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “Because I rather think we are.”
The consequence, he added, is being too slow to deliver what Ukraine really needs. “They did surprisingly well in making things happen relatively quickly,” said Mr. Kagan of the Biden administration. “But there seems to be a certain brake on the timeliness of our support guided by this type of analysis and self-negotiation which is a problem.”
Legislation signed Monday by Biden reflects the historical echoes and reversals of the ongoing war. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the original Lend-Lease Act in 1941 to help the British repel Nazi aggressors in World War II, and it was later expanded to help other allies, including the Soviet Union.