Over the last month, Americans have seen reports detailing American satellite technology helping Ukraine. The sinking of the Russian flagship of the Black Sea, the Moskva, is one example where American technology identified the ship and helped Ukraine target it. Additionally, news that the Ukrainians have killed an estimated twelve Russian generals with American help has been reported by the New York Times. Initially, the American military believe that leaking what it knew about Russian intentions, such as publicizing that an attack was expected on a Wednesday, would dissuade Putin and hurt Russian morale. It may well have succeeded to an extent. But now, President Biden believes that the leaks regarding American involvement are now extremely dangerous. It is evident that Biden wants to continue to maximize American assistance but not to the point that it’s dangerous to the United States.

The problem is obvious. If the United States is essentially pinpointing the location of a Russian general with GPS coordinates to a Ukrainian missile on the ground, can the U.S. realistically say that it’s not at war with Russia in Ukraine? Does it really matter who pulls the trigger if the information has been gleaned by an American satellite 22,000 miles above the earth and fed directly to a Ukrainian armed with NATO weapons?

As Tom Friedman in the New York Times writes:

The staggering takeaway from these leaks is that they suggest we are no longer in an indirect war with Russia but rather edging toward a direct war — and no one has prepared the American people or Congress for that.

To be sure, a majority of Americans support sanctioning Russia and support assisting the Ukrainians. In fact, a Washington Post Poll found that as of five days ago, 37% of Americans believe that the United States is doing too little, while 36% say it’s just right – the poll included sanctions that increase the price of gas. But that poll is surely premised on the fact that the United States can assist in some shockingly effective measures without drawing the United States into the war if the Russians start firing shots at Americans or American intelligence capabilities.

As Friedman writes:

Vladimir Putin surely has no illusions about how much the U.S. and NATO are arming Ukraine with material and intelligence, but when American officials start to brag in public about playing a role in killing Russian generals and sinking the Russian flagship, killing many sailors, we could be creating an opening for Putin to respond in ways that could dangerously widen this conflict — and drag the U.S. in deeper than it wants to be.

Friedman goes on to note that which we all know. The danger is doubled by the fact that Putin has shown himself to be far more reckless and more difficult to predict of late. And Putin is now cornered. He is either going to “win” in some sense, or he’s going to make his loss as painful as possible for everyone. This is, quite obviously, a dangerous situation when we’re talking about a nuclear power.

Indeed, Russia has shown an anemic ability to fight on the ground and even in the air throughout this war. But the one military asset that Russians do have, in abundance (more than the United States) is nuclear weapons, all the way from “tactile nukes” (which are not much more than radioactive bunker busters), all the way up to the most powerful hydrogen bombs ever built. The type that can near eviscerate Manhattan.

Thus, Biden wants the leaks stopped. Now. Friedman reports:  Biden said “in the strongest and most colorful language that this kind of loose talk is reckless and has got to stop immediately — before we end up in an unintended war with Russia.

That would seem to be a good idea. One could argue that the more Putin realizes that American technology renders his invasion an unwinnable war, the better. But a more responsible bet is that Biden is positioned to evaluate what might and might not motivate Putin to shoot… at us. It is best to trust his decision.

And the American public most certainly does not support a U.S. war with Russia. One doesn’t need that question polled.

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