WASHINGTON — In the first weeks of the first major European land war of the 21st century, the United States has sent tank-killing weapons to Ukrainian forces, but not fighter jets. It is equipping embattled Ukrainian troops with lightweight “kamikaze” attack drones, but not, at least in an obvious way, conducting an aggressive cyberwar to degrade Russia’s technological advantage.
The White House will commit no American or NATO planes to the skies above Ukraine, a move American officials fear could risk turning a regional war into a global conflagration, but it is providing Ukraine with missiles that could accomplish the same task of destroying Russian aircraft.
Such is the tenuous balance the Biden administration has tried to maintain as it seeks to help Ukraine lock Russia in a quagmire without inciting a broader conflict with a nuclear-armed adversary or cutting off potential paths to de-escalation.
Navigating this path has led to a tangle of…