Britain is pressing with its allies for Vladimir Putin to be so weakened militarily by the war in Ukraine that he can never pose a threat to European security and his forces to entirely leave Ukraine’s territory, with the country reverting to its pre-2014 borders.
The G7 group of industrialised nations is also examining whether it could reimpose the current punitive economic sanctions if Russia tries to renege on the hypothetical future peace deal imposed by western allies.
Britain has long said the war must end with Putin being seen to fail, but the containment terms being proposed by western officials include a permanent weakening of the Russian military forces so they can no longer pose a threat to eastern Europe, as well as Russia pulling out of all territory it has occupied, including Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.
Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, this week in Germany hinted at the thinking by saying the US wanted the war to end with Russia so weakened it could not repeat its attack on Ukraine.
There has been speculation that Ukraine would settle for a return to the pre-invasion status quo where territory was ceded to de facto Russian-backed separatists.
On Wednesday night, Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, indicated British thinking on settlement terms in her Lord Mayor’s Banquet speech, saying: “We are doubling down. We are going to keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine.”
She also warned Putin – who she described in her speech as “a desperate rogue operator with no interest in international mores” – that the west will come to the defence of Moldova in the same way as it is defending Ukraine if Russia mounts an attack there, as seems possible. She said the UK was digging deep into its inventories, including heavy weapons, tanks and aeroplanes, to defend Ukraine and other countries threatened by Russia.
She also said future Russian access to the global economy “will depend on playing by the rules. There can be no more free passes”.
British thinking reflects a growing confidence that the political, economic and military forces ranged against Putin can, in the long term, lead to his complete defeat. London also detects a change of mood in Washington – and to a lesser extent, Berlin – including a greater willingness to supply weaponry to Nato standards rather than hand-downs from old Warsaw Pact armoury.
Britain envisages the security guarantees to Kyiv would largely consist of a commitment to arm Ukraine enough that Russia would not mount an attack. Britain does not favour a Nato-style commitment that Ukraine’s allies would intervene to protect Ukraine if it was threatened by Russia.
Critics will say very tough settlement demands run the risk of forcing Putin into a corner so that he threatens the use of tactical weapons. But the Russian leader has already threatened to use nuclear weapons if red lines were crossed.
In her speech, Truss also set out a warning to China claiming its rise will not be inevitable if it ignores the rules. Explaining that China is not impervious to western economic pressure, she said China needs to trade with the G7 since it represents around half of the global economy.