The question of whether arms deliveries to Ukraine could draw the West into the war has been a concern of politicians not only since battle tanks have been discussed.

The American President in particular has repeatedly shown caution here.

In late May, when the focus was still on artillery, Biden set out his principles in an op-ed piece for The New York Times.

Nicholas buses

Responsible editor for foreign policy.

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As long as the United States or its allies are not attacked, there will be no direct involvement in the conflict - "neither by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine nor by attacking Russian troops".

He also stated, "We do not encourage or enable Ukraine to strike beyond its borders."

These two determinations continue to shape American and thus all Western military aid to Kyiv to this day.

Because no Western soldiers are sent to Ukraine, Ukrainian personnel abroad have to be trained in Western weapons, which makes things more tedious.

And because Biden wants to prevent Russia from being attacked with Western weapons, he has, for example, limited the range of the supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launcher to 80 kilometers, although there are ammunition with a range of up to 300 kilometers.

That means less fighting power for Ukraine.

Apparently, there is distrust in the Ukrainian leadership in Washington on this issue.

Putin's calculus can be influenced

However, it is not possible to rule out Russian countermeasures with this alone.

From the start of the war, the West was aware that attacks on Western supplies were an option for Russia.

If they were to take place on NATO territory, the alliance would have to make a decision about the alliance, i.e. consider entering the war.

Ultimately, it is a question of how the Russian president calculates: is the damage greater for him if he accepts Western arms deliveries or if he tries to disrupt them militarily?

This calculation can be influenced, and the western strategy essentially tries to do this in two ways.

The first concerns the combat effectiveness of the weapon deliveries.

It has only increased gradually, from man-portable guided missiles to howitzers and rocket launchers to the current debate about main battle tanks.

For Putin, the question arose again and again as to whether the respective increase in Ukrainian clout seemed so threatening that he would enter into a direct confrontation with the West.

American officials once called this process "boiling the frog" - based on the story of a frog that jumps out of the pot as soon as you put it in boiling water, but not if the water is heated slowly.

Deliver arms and act as one

The other means is Western unity.

The weapons deliveries were not always simultaneous, but usually coordinated.

That gave Putin less opportunity to target individual countries that were willing to go it alone and thus split the Western alliance.

That this is not a theoretical debate was already evident at the beginning of the war.

In March, Poland wanted to supply fighter jets to Ukraine, but for reinsurance through an American air force base in Germany.

The American leadership publicly rejected this, and Warsaw dropped the initiative.

The process shed early light on a dilemma that is not unique to Poland.

In essence, every European NATO member needs Washington's approval of its course because Europe cannot defend itself against Russia.

The duty of assistance in the NATO treaty is unspecific;

politically, dealing with a Russian attack would be a difficult matter in any Member State.

It is not said that America would be prepared to go to war against Russia in order to cover arms deliveries that it was not prepared to make itself.

The problem is mitigated by a coordinated approach, such as that which is to be achieved through the weapons manufacturers' conference in Ramstein.

Putin must reckon with the fact that NATO as a whole will oppose him if, for example, he has weapons storage facilities and transports in Poland or Romania shelled.

A return to realpolitik is needed

This approach has been successful in that Russia has not yet expanded the war into Ukraine.

Nevertheless, no one in the West can reliably say whether Putin sees red lines on this issue and where they would run.

From a military point of view, it seems less likely today than at the beginning of the war that he would dare to attack NATO.

As is well known, the Russian military is under a lot of pressure in Ukraine, and a new front further to the west would possibly overwhelm its forces once and for all.

Politically, the Kremlin ruler's weighing up of interests could be different: the closer Western arms supplies bring him to defeat in Ukraine, the greater the risk of a loss of power in Russia.

These aspects hardly play a role in the public debate in Germany.

This is probably a result of the fact that large parts of politics and society no longer wanted to have anything to do with Realpolitik after the Cold War.

However, they cannot be ruled out completely, as the actions of the federal government have shown time and again.

Even the new Secretary of Defense will not be able to ignore them.