When Russia first invaded Ukraine just over two weeks ago, the near-unanimous global assumption was that it would score a quick and easy military victory over its neighbor to the west.
But now — with the Ukrainians waging a fierce resistance and Russian forces bogged down outside nearly every major city — the Biden administration and its allies say they see no clear end to the military phase of this conflict, according to interviews with 17 administration officials, diplomats, policymakers and experts. The situation seems destined to result in an even deadlier and more protracted slog, wreaking devastation on Ukraine and causing a massive humanitarian crisis.
As the war enters its third week, President Biden and his team are also entering a murkier, more difficult stage of the conflict, where the new challenge is how to control the largely uncontrollable: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his endgame, whatever that may be.
The Biden administration has successfully encouraged NATO and other Western allies to use nearly every available lever of power to sanction and punish Putin, but those efforts so far have had little discernible influence over the Russian president, who has only escalated his military offensive on cities and towns across Ukraine.