How far will Biden go in helping Ukraine and where would you draw the line?

Provide intelligence to Ukraine
Arm Ukraine with anti-armor, antiaircraft missiles
Provide Russian-made fighter jets to Ukraine
Send Ukraine more powerful air defenses

What Ukraine most wanted from the West, the West was least likely to give. That was the inherent tension between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President Biden. Closing the skies, as Zelensky repeatedly asked of the United States and NATO, would stop Russia from bombing Ukrainian cities. But enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine could lead to the United States entering a war with Russia — or even, Biden warned, “World War III.”

The Biden administration has drawn its line at actions that it thinks could provoke Russia. But the demarcation between proxy war and real war is getting fuzzier. The United States has been supplying Ukraine weapons for years and ramped that up as the Russian invasion began. They’ve sent them missiles, antitank weapons, some 50 million bullets and systems that can shoot down Russian aircraft. Biden has accused Russia of war crimes and genocide, and regularly announces that he’s sending Ukraine more aid, including lethal weapons like mines and even helicopters.

As the war enters its fourth month, Congress approved tens of billions more in aid for Ukraine, most of it for weapons and military assistance, at Biden’s request. Biden used some of that money to send even more powerful rockets to Ukraine, which Russia called “unprecedented.” He is also increasing economic pressure on Russia, and has asked Congress to give his administration controversial new power to take yachts and planes from Russia oligarchs, liquidate the money and give it to Ukraine.

As the Biden administration increases the amount and even lethality of weapons going to Ukraine, officials insist they’re not escalating the war in a way that could aggravate Russia.

“America’s goal is straightforward: We want to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression," Biden wrote in the New York Times in June.

Where would you draw the line on helping Ukraine? Weigh the pros and cons, from the United States’ point of view, of how to help Ukraine fight off Russia.

Sanctions

The West is determined to keep choking off Russia’s economy the longer the war goes on. Russia already faces more sanctions than any other nation, according to Castellum.AI, a global database that tracks such penalties. The United States is leading on this front. The United States has placed sanctions on all 10 of Russia’s largest banks, many Russian oligarchs, and it has banned imports of Russian oil.

“It has caused the Russian economy to, quite frankly, crater,” Biden has said of the sanctions regimen already in place. But in a globalized economy, these sanctions have ricocheted. Biden was initially reluctant to ban Russian oil because of the likelihood that it would push up gas and energy prices. (It has.)

Here are the options the Biden administration is already doing or has considered.

Where would you draw the line for U.S. involvement amongst these 8 options? Click the line to see how your decision compares with U.S. policymakers.
Sanction Russian oligarchs
ProIt can turn Russian elite against Putin.
ConNot much as far as the U.S. is concerned; Russian sanctions on U.S. politicians and officials got laughed off in America.
The U.S. has imposed this tactic.
Since the invasion began, the U.S. has placed sanctions on more than two dozen Russian oligarchs.
Draw the line
Sanction major Russian financial institutions
ProIt has crippled Russia’s economy as it’s trying to wage a war.
ConIn a globalized world, a downturn in a major country affects others that do business with it.
The U.S. has imposed this tactic.
Since the invasion began, the United States has placed sanctions on all 10 of Russia’s largest banks, more or less cutting off these financial institutions from Western markets.
Draw the line
Make it harder for Russia to trade with the U.S. and other Western countries
ProIt cuts off the Russian economy from the West, making it harder for Russia to sustain the war.
ConIt hurts U.S. businesses that do trade with Russia, like in the semiconductor industry.
The U.S. has imposed this tactic.
The U.S. and E.U. countries have led the way with sanctions or trade restrictions affecting more than half of the goods and services flowing into Russia.
Draw the line
Ban all Russian oil and gas imports
ProIt’s a powerfully symbolic stance.
ConIt is causing gas and energy prices in the U.S. to rise, at a time when prices are already high.
The U.S. has imposed this tactic.
On March 8, after some reluctance, Biden announced plans to ban Russian oil imports.
Draw the line
Make it harder for Russia to use cryptocurrencies
ProSome policymakers worry the Russian regime and Russian oligarchs will use digital currencies to end-run sanctions choking off their access to the global banking system.
ConFederal regulators say the traceability of cryptocurrencies on public blockchains and the limited size of the digital asset market make it an unworkable alternative to traditional financial channels.
The U.S. has not imposed this tactic.
Draw the line
Sanction all Russian politicians who don’t denounce Putin (a Zelensky ask)
ProZelensky asked the U.S. to do this, to try to turn Russia’s elite against the war.
ConIt could cut off whatever diplomatic relations the U.S. has with Russia to try to end this war, or prevent future ones.
The U.S. has not imposed this tactic.
Draw the line
Designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism
ProZelensky asked Biden to do this; Biden was noncommittal, The Post reports. It would be the ultimate economic punishment for Russia, cutting it off from almost all business with the U.S.
ConHow much economic activity would the U.S. lose as a result? Experts also say it can be difficult to take Russia off the list, should relations return to normal in the years to come.
The U.S. has not imposed this tactic.
The State Department would make this determination, putting Russia on a list of pariah countries including North Korea and Cuba.
Draw the line
Liquidate Russian oligarch’s assets, and give them to Ukraine
ProIt’s an aggressive new front on the sanctions war that would essentially take billions from Russia’s elite and give it directly to Ukrainians to fight Russia.
ConThe ACLU helped nix a previous proposal in Congress, arguing it was unconstitutional for the federal government to liquidate someone’s assets without letting the target challenge it in court.
The U.S. has not imposed this tactic.
Biden has proposed this doing this. He would need Congress to pass a law, and has bipartisan support for it.
Draw the line

Military

How to help Ukraine’s military is a much thornier topic for U.S. policymakers. They’re very worried about starting a much larger war by provoking more Russian aggression to NATO allies bordering Ukraine and Western Europe — or, in a worse-case scenario, opening the door to nuclear war. “We will not fight the third world war in Ukraine,” Biden has said. But Ukraine says the only way to stop its war is for the West to get more aggressive toward Russia.

Here’s a menu of military options. Some of these the Biden administration is already doing or has considered. Others it has ruled out entirely.

Where would you draw the line for U.S. involvement amongst these 9 options? Click the line to see how your decision compares with U.S. policymakers.
Provide intelligence to Ukraine
ProThe U.S. and other nations have vastly superior intelligence agencies than Ukraine, so some of the world’s best intelligence about Russia’s movements during the war is getting to Ukrainian fighters quickly.
ConThe U.S. has to be careful what it shares, operating under the assumption there are Russian spies in Ukrainian intelligence.
The U.S. has imposed this tactic.
This has been ongoing since before the invasion began. Ukraine has asked for more detailed, timely intelligence, particularly about Russian troop locations. U.S. officials say they are sharing a great deal, but have been vague about what is included.
Draw the line
Arm Ukraine with anti-armor and antiaircraft missiles
ProAs Russia flies through its supplies, Ukraine is receiving powerful weapons that have destroyed large numbers of armored vehicles and tanks and some aircraft and disrupted Russian supply lines. The effects of these weapons have probably taken a toll on Russian soldiers’ morale, amid reports that some have deserted their units.
ConWeapons moving through Ukraine are appealing targets for Russian forces. If Russia escalates further to attack a place like Poland, through which the weapons are flowing, it would undoubtedly expand the conflict beyond Ukraine.
The U.S. has imposed this tactic.
The Biden administration has provided $2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the start of the administration. In April, as Russian troops turned away from Kyiv, Biden announced $800 million more aid.
Draw the line
Provide Russian-made fighter jets to Ukraine
ProAdditional jets would allow Ukraine to expand the number of flights it makes per day against the Russian air force. The planes also could be used to provide spare parts for other jets Ukraine still has that are damaged.
ConU.S. officials fear this could provoke an escalatory attack from Russia. The Pentagon also has said that with Russia operating a large number of surface-to-air missiles, Ukraine would still be limited in how much it can fly.
The U.S. has not imposed this tactic.
Poland has offered to transfer its MiG-29 jets, which Ukraine already knows how to fly, to U.S. custody to be delivered to Ukraine. Poland would then expect to be “backfilled” with American F-16s.
Draw the line
Send Ukraine more powerful air defenses
ProIt could be even more effective than sending Ukrainian forces fighter jets. Russian jets would be less able to bomb Ukrainians at high altitudes. A Ukrainian fighter recently pilot told The Post that his pilots are “just targets” for Russia’s more advanced planes.
ConRussia could see supplying these more powerful systems as escalatory and attack nations that provide them to Ukraine, triggering a broader conflict. There also are a finite number of these aging systems available, making them prime targets for Russian forces.
The U.S. has not imposed this tactic.
NATO allies are examining how they might send more powerful systems that could target Russian aircraft at high altitudes. Doing so probably would require some sort of deal: Ukraine is looking for systems that it already knows how to use, such as the S-300, and the United States does not have any. Other allies, like Slovakia, might provide some, but it would expect other systems to replace the ones it gave away.
Draw the line
Send drones
ProThe drones will create a new dilemma for Russian forces to deal with and could be used to target Russian artillery units and convoys. Ukraine already has made use of Turkish-made drones it owned before the invasion to destroy Russian armored vehicles.
ConRussia could see supplying these more powerful systems as escalatory and attack nations that provide them to Ukraine, triggering a broader conflict. It is not yet clear how effective Ukraine will be with them.
The U.S. has imposed this tactic.
The package of aid announced by Biden on March 16 for the first time included drones for Ukrainian forces. U.S. officials say the kind that will be sent are Switchblades, which are “kamikaze” in nature. They loiter over a battlefield with remote control, and crash into a target with explosives.
Draw the line
Send weapons to find and attack Russian artillery
Pro“Counter-battery fire,” as it is known, limits the ability of an opposing force to lob multiple rounds at the same target from one location.
ConWeapons moving through Ukraine are appealing targets for Russian forces. If Russia escalates further to attack a place like Poland, through which the weapons are flowing, it would undoubtedly expand the conflict beyond Ukraine.
The U.S. has imposed this tactic.
The U.S. has sent four counter-artillery radar systems and four counter-mortar radar systems to Ukraine. Advocates have called for sending more, citing their ability to help Ukrainians spot where Russian forces are setting up artillery.
Draw the line
Send more powerful rockets to Ukraine
ProAs Kyiv and Moscow struggle for control over eastern parts of Ukraine, these more powerful rockets could help put Russia in a defensive mode.
ConRussia made clear it sees this move as aggravating the conflict. “We believe that the United States is deliberately and diligently ‘pouring fuel on the fire,’” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Pesko said.
The U.S. has imposed this tactic.
The U.S. had previously armed Ukraine with short-range rockets that can reach 18 miles. Biden decided to send even more powerful U.S.-made rockets, which can reach a target nearly 50 miles away.
Draw the line
Create a no-fly zone over Ukraine
ProIt could stop or curtail the bombing of Ukrainian cities.
ConEnforcing it would be equivalent to direct combat with Russia, U.S. officials say, and could lead to World War III. It also would require attacking Russian targets, such as surface-to-air missile systems, that are over the border in Russia.
The U.S. has not imposed this tactic.
Draw the line
Send U.S. combat troops to Ukraine
ProUkrainian forces would have reinforcements in their fight against Russia with superior weapons and combat experience.
ConDoing so would be nothing short of direct combat with Russia, U.S. officials say, and they warn it could lead to World War III.
The U.S. has not imposed this tactic.
Draw the line

This has been updated with the latest news.

About this story

At top: Natalie Vineberg/Washington Post illustration; Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty; AFP/Getty. Additional reporting by Ashley Parker and Dan Lamothe and Caroline Anders. Design and development by Madison Walls. Copy editing by Jordan Melendrez. Editing by Paige Cunningham, Kevin Uhrmacher and Matt Callahan.