Live Updates: Russia invades Ukraine

President Joe Biden’s choices and challenges on Ukraine were already extremely difficult. As the horror of war mounts, they are about to get even more gruesome.

Since Russia launched its assault last month, Biden has sought to punish and isolate President Vladimir Putin and mitigate the slaughter of civilians by supplying defensive weapons to the government in kyiv. But he has also calibrated his actions to avoid being drawn into a dangerous direct conflict with nuclear-armed Russia while refining his own delicate political situation at home.

As Putin steps up his assault, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky grows more desperate, and the civilian toll grows more appalling by the day, Biden’s balancing act becomes much more difficult.

The political heat over the president, after an unusual period of unity in Washington, is also set to increase. This will especially be the case if, as seems increasingly likely, the rest of the world is forced to witness an inhumane Russian siege and bombardment of kyiv.

In a big moment in Washington on Wednesday, Zelensky will deliver a virtual address to Congress. If his recent speech in the British Parliament, which drew comparisons to Churchill, is any guide, it will be a searing and inspiring rallying cry for lawmakers. If Ukraine’s president includes last-ditch calls for fighter jets and a no-fly zone over his country, which Biden has blocked on the grounds they could start a war with Moscow, he will create pressure. extreme interior on the president.

Biden’s problem is that after unleashing a full-scale economic war on Russia with extraordinarily harsh sanctions, there are now limits to the steps he can take to dramatically increase the pressure on Putin without risking military conflict. or direct cybernetics. Some of the president’s critics in Congress and parts of the foreign policy establishment, including in his own party, say he has been too cautious.

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