AND so, the Leopards have finally been unleashed. After weeks of hesitancy and reluctance, Germany confirmed yesterday that it will send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine and allow other countries to send theirs too. On the face of it, the Americans also look ready to despatch as many as 30 of their own M1 Abrams tanks.

The news, to say the least, was well received in Ukraine. Some international military analysts meanwhile are calling it a battlefield “game changer,” others though attest that it will take more than just tanks to speed up the end of this now almost year-long war that started after Russia’s invasion on February 24 last year.

Time and again in this column, I have made the case that it is vital to give Ukrainians the tools they need to push the Russian occupiers from their territory. I remain of that view and see it as the only viable option for guaranteeing Ukraine’s independence and security.

I remain too of the view that the end of this war remains some way off, even if the latest weaponry despatched to Ukraine will indeed prove crucial in the fight ahead as the country enters the spring months.

That yet more bloody times lie ahead is in little doubt. There are those of course who will ask what else can you expect as long as Ukraine’s allies in the West and elsewhere continue to pour arms into the country.

READ MORE: Scottish rugby world reacts as trans women banned from contact game

To them, I say try living in Ukraine’s shoes right now. Try living with the threat of daily missile and drone attacks on civilian targets and power blackouts in sub-zero temperatures. Try watching up close your towns and cities being eviscerated and your families killed or having to flee for their lives. Many who voice such critical views of the West’s response labour under the illusion that anything the West does is wrong and are therefore the guilty party in provoking this war.

They conveniently forget that it was Russia that invaded the sovereign territory of Ukraine.

They will argue that the West and Nato have an ulterior motive concerned only with “encroaching” on Russia’s “sphere of influence” or building a bulwark against the territorial ambitions of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

In response, I can only reply so what if a bulwark is created? Is it really that undesirable given what the world has witnessed of late in terms of Putin’s ambitions? Russia has shown its true fascist colours with its invasion of Ukraine, and I for one believe it better to halt those ambitions now rather than later.

Some from the same ranks of those critical of the West’s response also consistently talk ad nauseam about how instead of supplying Ukraine with the means to defend itself, we should be pushing Kyiv to make territorial concessions to Russia to end the war.

Once again, I say try seeing it from Ukraine’s perspective. Even if Kyiv showed a willingness right now to concede territory – which it doesn’t – such a proposition could only be enacted for real through negotiations and currently, there are no such negotiations.

Put quite simply, Putin has blocked the possibility of peace talks by annexing parts of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia and the Kherson region. And since he did this deliberately, it means he does not want negotiations.

READ MORE: Independence activists show off Brexit failures in Edinburgh protest

Proposing peace talks is no bad thing, far from it, but even with the best of intentions, the grounds have to be right. To date, Russia has not proposed any meaningful talks whatsoever.

As Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, recently observed, the problem is that what the “peace at any cost” camp ignores is that Ukraine has already spent more than eight years negotiating with Russia.

These so-called peace talks known as the Minsk process were initiated in 2014 and saw Ukraine and the West trying to end the war rumbling on then in the east of the country by means of diplomacy.

But throughout this time, the Kremlin was playing a double game, pretending to talk peace while building up for the military onslaught that culminated in February last year.

As Kuleba outlined recently in an article written for Politico magazine, there are five lessons learned from past negotiations with Russia that are always worth remembering.

The first is that it’s a mistake to freeze the war and postpone the solution of territorial problems “for the future.” The second is that Russia doesn’t negotiate in good faith and the third is that the de-occupation of Crimea can’t be set aside. The fourth lesson is that Russia doesn’t reciprocate with constructive language and policy, and finally, the fifth lesson is that partners should force Russia, not Ukraine, into concessions.

READ MORE: Burst 160-year-old pipe left 100,000 Scottish homes with no water

What Kuleba’s assessment shows is that from bitter experience, the Ukrainians know that their only route to security is a decisive victory. Any settlement that involves Kyiv making territorial concessions would only perpetuate the war by emboldening Moscow to attack Ukraine again in the future.

For stability to prevail, Ukraine at a minimum must retake the territory Russia has taken since its invasion on February 24, 2022.

The simple inescapable fact here is that Russia has violated every agreement involving Ukraine’s territorial integrity that it has signed in the past 30 years.

The sooner we understand this and that other inescapable fact that the world and Kyiv are facing off with Putin, an ageing dictator who is intent on maintaining his regime despite the costs to his country then the quicker this war will be over.

To put this another way, it’s high time those who spend more time criticising the West’s response understood that any lasting settlement to this war will only be possible when Ukraine either defeats Russia or a post-Putin government is prepared to cast off its imperial designs and ambitions.

Having spent a not inconsiderable time in Ukraine this past year and only just returned from my latest visit, I can assure readers that few nations crave peace more right now than Ukraine.

Those that insist Ukraine should concede territory for peace must realise that it’s not their prerogative to do so. Far better they got behind Ukraine at this tough moment and help it achieve an outcome to the war that makes a just and lasting peace far more likely.