As Russia's invasion of Ukraine intensifies is the West out of options?

Demonstrators outside Downing Street. Credit: PA

As the Russian attack on Ukraine continues with ever greater ferocity, the West is left asking what more it can do.

Sanctions are clearly not changing Russian decision-making in the short-term. So what other options are available?What about a no-fly zone?This may appear tempting - and has been floated by some armchair strategists. Ukraine's President Zelenskyy has requested it. But it is a non-starter for NATO. The whole point of the Western military alliance is that it is defensive. It is committed to defending NATO nations - the famous Article 5 provision - but it cannot risk direct military intervention in Ukraine.

ITV News Correspondent Robert Moore on what might be Putin's psychological welfare and his state of mind

To establish a no-fly zone would require NATO aircraft to attack Russian surface-to-air missile sites, airfields, radar installations and other military infrastructure.

That road leads to World War Three. And indeed it is perhaps even the idea of a no-fly zone that prompted Putin to raise the alert status of his nuclear arsenal. That move was a clear signal to NATO: Keep Out. 

Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference with Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas and Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO. Credit: AP

Allowing European citizens to fight?The foreign secretary, Liz Truss, appeared to suggest at the weekend that Britons - and other Europeans - could go and join the fight in a private capacity.

That was quickly dismissed by Ben Wallace, the defence secretary.  And indeed - to put it politely - it appears to be a terrible idea.

This is a war being fought by armoured columns and those who know the area well. The idea of internationalist brigades - like in the Spanish Civil War - would be costly in lives and counter-productive. It would provide the Kremlin with a justification for expanding its assault. What would Western countries do if their citizen-fighters were captured?

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston on whether the West's stance on no-fly zones is likely to change

What about cyber?Yes, this is a viable option -  in effect, remote warfare.

The US and the UK, along with the Israelis, have the greatest offensive cyber capabilities. They could try and bring down Russian military digital systems and attack Moscow’s economic infrastructure.

Citizens beg for a no-fly zone in Mariupol in the south - the strategic port city - suffered again on Tuesday

But there is an obvious drawback - a counter-attack in the cyber sphere.

So launching a sustained cyber attack is a dangerous game to play. The West is far more reliant on digital systems than Russia.

A Russian convoy winding its way to Kyiv. Credit: Maxar

Are we out of options?In reality, yes, we are destined to be anguished spectators to the unfolding tragedy.

Many countries are providing arms and ammunition to keep the Ukrainian resistance alive but it’s probably too late to change the outcome on the battlefield. But there remain some other options - economic and diplomatic - that are being explored. For example, some Western nations are advocating for Russia to be excluded from its role on the UN Security Council. Economic and banking sanctions could be tightened still further.

Listen to the ITV News podcast What You Need To Know, for the latest expert analysis on Ukraine

What about humanitarian moves?The West can - and should - advocate for humanitarian “safe corridors” - seeking to protect refugees leaving the war zone.  We can - and should - offer sanctuary to those looking for safe haven. We can make sure that Russia’s assault is documented by journalists and war crimes investigators. There can be eventual justice and accountability. But that will be no consolation for the desperate defenders of Ukraine’s cities. In military terms - however hard it is to say this - they are on their own.