The first hypothesis is that he wants to take Kharkiv. He is closing in on it so methodically, one suburb after another, that we cannot rule out the possibility that this is Vladimir Putin’s objective, but perhaps he is not lying when he says it is not.

Perhaps he remembers that it took him almost nine years to secure control of Grozny. Perhaps he understands that it would be even more difficult to crush Ukraine’s second city and its million and a half inhabitants. Perhaps he is telling the truth when he says he only wants to create a “security zone” between Russia and Kharkiv. This is all the more plausible given that this “zone” could quickly be annexed by Russia and added to the Donbass to offer the Russian President what would begin to constitute a real victory.

This is the second hypothesis, but Vladimir Putin’s objective could also be to exploit his advantage in arms and men to stretch the front, strike at Odessa, reduce Ukraine to its western part and then propose negotiations on a division of the country.

We do not know. One thing, on the other hand, is clear.

If the democracies do not want to let Vladimir Putin win, they cannot simply speed up their arms deliveries to Kiev. They obviously need to do so as quickly as possible, because it is foolish that the Ukrainians still do not have the fighter jets they were promised, it is scandalous that they have to save their ammunition in the face of Russian offensives, and it is unbelievable that their capital is the only one protected from air strikes while the rest of the country is left to be destroyed.

The main culprits are the Trumpists in the House of Representatives, but the European capitals also bear their share of responsibility for these delays, for which the Ukrainians are paying with their blood. This must stop, but even before making up for lost time, the democracies can and must immediately lift the interdict shackling Ukraine.

Incredible as it may seem, the Americans and Europeans are still refusing to authorise the Ukrainians to use Western weapons to strike at the Russian army in Russia. The unbelievable paradox is that Europeans and Americans are in fact protecting Russian skies from any Ukrainian retaliation on Russian territory. This is no longer acceptable. It is intolerable that the Ukrainians can only reach Russian ammunition and fuel depots using drones. Europeans and Americans can no longer persist in this refusal, while at the same time they have never agreed to forbid Russian fighters and bombers from using Ukrainian skies. They owe it to the Ukrainians to untie their hands now and let them fight, because no, that would not mean going to war with Russia.

It would be nothing more than arming Ukraine, really and not just half-heartedly, helping it to repel aggression and showing Vladimir Putin that we are not just paying lip service when we say that we will not let him win.

Ukraine could collapse. Let us open our eyes. Ukraine is buckling under the bombs and if we let Russia win, it would quickly become easy for Russia to intimidate the countries closest to its borders, to divide the European Union and to no longer even need to use its weapons to impose itself on Europe as the dominant power.

Originally published here (also available in French, Polish, Hungarian, German).