TIME is of the essence right now in Russia’s war in Ukraine. As Moscow once again starts massing troops for a renewed assault, signals coming out of Kyiv suggest a growing concern over the narrowing window to launch a counteroffensive in the spring.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy admitted as much last Saturday during his nightly video address to the nation.

“I’ve often had to say the situation at the front is tough, and is getting tougher, and it’s that time again…The invader is putting more and more of his forces into breaking down our defences,” Zelenskyy warned.

The sense of urgency with which Ukraine and its allies now view the developing situation was underlined again yesterday when Zelenskyy arrived in the UK in only his second known foreign trip since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of his country nearly a year ago.

In an intensifying commitment to Ukraine’s war effort, Britain has become the first western ally to offer to train Ukrainian pilots on Nato-standard aircraft, a move that comes after it offered Challenger tanks last month ahead of the US and Germany.

Already the extent of UK support is vast with not only a massive supply of weapons and ammunition but the training of about 10,000 Ukrainian troops in the last six months. Another 20,000 additional troops are expected to be trained this year.

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In fact, over the past few months the range of Nato equipment being offered to Ukraine has massively expanded and comes in the shape of everything from infantry fighting vehicles to advance missile defence systems like Patriot and other long-range missiles capable of doubling Ukraine’s attack range.

It almost goes without saying that the escalation in support has set alarm bells ringing in certain quarters among those who see shifting red lines among Kyiv’s allies on weapons deliveries. Already weapons systems that were once considered off limits are on the battlefields of Ukraine and others are about to follow.

Yes, the dangers here are obvious not least the feeding into Russian president Vladimir Putin’s decades long narrative that this is now confirmation of a Nato/Russian war. On the face of it, short of full-scale engagement by Nato forces, this is de facto – certainly a proxy – war, pitting the alliance against Moscow.

Admittedly too there has been no lack of hawkish commentaries with some Western strategists intelligence agencies, hard-line think tanks and senior retired military pushing for the comprehensive defeat of Russia. I say again the dangers here are all too apparent with a respective tit-for-tat response from both sides that arguably only deepens and extends the war.

But what is Nato to do in such circumstances? Should it sit idly by while Ukraine fights not only for its own survival but fights too on behalf of the very security architecture that has sustained a largely peaceful international system since 1945?

So many times now I’ve listened to some of those critical of Western support spout the phrase that Nato will fight Russia until the last drop of Ukrainian blood. But try putting this to Ukrainians themselves – which I have over the past year during the time I’ve been covering this war – only to find them dismiss it as nonsense.

Not only are Ukrainians eternally grateful for the support given by the alliance thus far but are asking for more in the defence off their land. They will tell you too that this all-out fight with Russia has been a long time coming and in fact was ongoing for eight years before Russia’s invasion last year and long before Nato and the West stepped up its current military support.

Over the past 40 years, I’ve seen enough of war up close as a correspondent to know its horrors and never for a moment would want to see any conflict and the suffering it creates endure any longer that it has too.

But this is a battle that Ukraine and the West must not step back from right now. To those who talk of the dangers of crossing red lines in weapons supplies, I would say pause and ponder the alternative if Ukraine is not given the means to defend itself.

If anything, I’d argue that Nato to date has been cautious, perhaps too cautious, having self-imposed red lines on weapons supplies that have fed into Putin’s strategic approach, allowing him to pivot to a war of attrition with the aim of exhausting and fragmenting allied support.

I recall covering Russia’s short war in Georgia back in 2008 when Putin did exactly the same thing seeking to outlast any sanctions or Western responses to achieve a de facto victory. It was the same in Ukraine in 2014 in both the Donbas and Crimea and now again today in seeking to deny Ukraine membership of the EU and Nato.

There’s no doubt is my mind that any claims by the Kremlin that it is open to negotiations is nothing but a mere stalling tactic, giving Russia time to garner its forces for the next mass assault most observers know is coming in the weeks ahead.

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I have no doubt too that if a revanchist Russia achieves any sort of victory in this war, it will inevitably lead to a wider conflict in the future.

For the moment Putin can still rely on support at home, especially from that older generation of Russians still smarting from Western governments’ contempt for Russia after the end of the Cold War. The country’s state run propaganda machine also does its daily bit for brainwashing many Russians that this “special military operation” is still only that and not the mass slaughter that in reality it is.

It’s all very easy for those critical of Western support for Ukraine to come out with glib accusations that backing Ukraine only serves to perpetuate this war. It’s easy also to proffer up the now familiar refrain that the only winners are the arms trade, though no doubt their profits are much improved this past year.

But the inescapable fact is that drawing red lines when it comes to supporting Ukraine is meaningless in terms of battlefield realpolitik. Controversial as it might sound it’s time to deliver critical tools that can shift the momentum further in Ukraine’s favour and bring as speedy an end as possible to this war.