In a Washington Post column yesterday, military and foreign policy expert Max Boot argues that Biden has been overly cautious about providing Ukraine with advanced weapons and assistance. What’s been holding Biden back is fear that if the U.S. inserts itself too forcefully in the war, Putin, out of desperation, will escalate it by using tactical nuclear weapons: the risk of direct confrontation and dangerous further escalation is too great to take. U.S. policy is to turn the heat up on Putin, but not so fast that, like the proverbial frog, he jumps out of the pot (resorts to Nukes.) It’s presumptuous for armchair strategists without access to all available intelligence to judge to what degree, if any, Boot is right.
A related problem is that Putin might like nothing better than for the West to carry out significant military operations on Russian soil. That would play into his propaganda theme that Russia is fighting for survival against the imperial West. I think that there should be no holding back in supporting Ukraine in defense of its own territory, but attacks inside Russia should be undertaken with the utmost caution. This is not a highly efficient way to conduct warfare, but it’s keyed to realities.