Boris Johnson has told MPs that Britain is considering “gearing up a gear” in its military aid to Ukraine, possibly providing armored vehicles to help relieve the beleaguered city of Mariupol.
And the prime minister said the UK and its western allies need to undertake a long-term “total rethink” of how Ukraine and other former Soviet states are protected from Russian aggression, ensuring that they are so fortified with NATO weapons that Moscow would not dare to invade.
Mr Johnson indicated that Ukraine cannot expect to gain full NATO membership with the guarantee of military protection provided by Article 5 of the alliance treaty. But he suggested that NATO weapons could make — like a porcupine’s quills — the country “unpalatable” to any invading military.
Speaking to the House of Commons Liaison Committee, Johnson again warned his allies against easing sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s regime in response to a potential ceasefire by Russia, stressing that a full withdrawal of troops is required. before any relaxation of measures can be considered.
And he seemed to agree with Tory MP Tom Tugendhat that this should include the withdrawal from Ukraine “in its entirety”, including the Crimea and Donbas regions occupied since 2014, telling him it meant the sanctions should not be phased out “until all its members are troops from Ukraine”.
Mr Johnson doubted the value of the negotiations with Putin conducted by France’s Emmanuel Macron, saying he believes the Russian president cannot be trusted. He warned that early easing of sanctions “would go straight into Putin’s playbook”.
“In my opinion, we should step up sanctions with an ongoing program until all his troops are out of Ukraine,” he said.
Asked what immediate aid the UK can provide Ukraine now, Mr Johnson said: “We certainly intend to step up a gear now in our support for the Ukrainians as they defend themselves.
“In Mariupol, the problem is that Ukrainian defenders are now virtually surrounded and there is a humanitarian disaster. The question is, can we help the Ukrainians relieve Mariupol, if we could? Would armor, would APCs (armored cars) be useful for them (or) armored Land Rovers? We are definitely looking at that.”
Johnson said he was also willing to consider providing armored ambulances, although these had not yet been requested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
In the longer term, Mr Johnson said there was a need to “rethink the support we provide to countries like Georgia and Ukraine”.
He said: “What we are moving towards is, I think, a new way of looking at Ukraine and other countries of the former Soviet Union.
“Because of the sheer amount of NATO-compatible equipment and weapons that we are now providing, we are changing dynamics and changing the security architecture of the situation, bit by bit.
“There comes a point where I think we have to recognize that this has happened and that I hope we will be able with willing partners to offer Ukraine not an Article 5 security guarantee, but a different kind of future. a different kind of engagement, based on the idea of deterrence through denial.
“So that Ukraine is so fortified and so protected – the porcupine’s quills have become so stiff – that it is always unpalatable to Putin. That’s the path we’re on now, and I think that’s a very productive way to think about something that’s a problem that we haven’t been able to solve, which is the homelessness of Ukraine and other countries in the European security architecture.”