Boris Johnson Causes A Stir With Claims About Europe's Initial Response To Russian Aggression

Chancellor Olaf Scholz's aide has dismissed the former PM's allegations as "utter nonsense".
Boris Johnson has taken aim at some of his former European counterparts
Boris Johnson has taken aim at some of his former European counterparts
Jonathan Brady via PA Wire/PA Images

Boris Johnson has taken aim at some of his former European counterparts over Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, claiming not everyone on the continent had the same immediate reaction.

The former PM, who has tried to make his support for Ukraine one of the lasting legacies of his premiership, went a step further in a new broadcast interview with CNN Portugal.

Speaking on Monday, he said Germany, France and Italy all had very different responses compared to him when Russia was closing in on its European neighbour at the end of February.

“This thing was a huge shock,” Johnson alleged on Wednesday. “We could see the Russian battalion tactical groups amassing, but different countries had very different perspectives.”

He began: “The German view was at one stage that if it were going to happen, which would be a disaster then it would be better for the whole thing to be over quickly, and for Ukraine to fold.”

Germany had a substantial dependency on Russia’s fuel exports prior to the war, due to the Nord Stream pipelines which transmitted natural gas from Russia int Europe. However, it has been trying to wean itself off ever since the war started.

Johnson then claimed there were “all sorts of sound economic reasons” behind that way of thinking, but added: “I couldn’t support that, I thought that was a disastrous way of looking at it.

“But I can understand why they thought and felt as they did.”

An aide of Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz has since rebuffed these claims, claiming that Johnson has “his own relationship with the truth”, and said the idea Germany wanted a quick end to the war was “utter nonsense”.

Scholz’s spokesman Steffen Hebestreit also told reporters in Berlin: “I think I can say that first-hand, because I took part in talks with the then British prime minister in Munich only a few days before the start of the war. Namely that he always has a very personal approach toward the truth.”

Germany’s economic cooperation secretary Jochen Flasbarth also tweeted that Johnson’s claims were “crazy”.

The former prime minister also targeted France in his interview, claiming the UK’s neighbour was “in denial” over the possibility of a war on the fringes of Europe.

He claimed: “Be in no doubt that the French were in denial right up until the last moment.”

French president Emmanuel Macron led Europe’s attempts to prevent Vladimir Putin’s aggression tipping into war earlier this year, and even went to Kremlin just weeks shortly before Russia ordered the attack.

Then Johnson went after Italy. He told CNN that the Italian government, then led by Mario Draghi, was “at one stage simply saying that they would be unable to support the position we were taking” due to their “massive” reliance on Russian hydrocarbons.

However, Johnson said that once the actual invasion began, a sense of unity emerged.

“What happened was everybody – Germans, French, Italians, everybody, Joe Biden – saw that there was simply no option.

“Because you couldn’t negotiate with this guy (Putin). That’s the key point.”

He added in unusual praise for the bloc that the EU “has done brilliantly” opposing Putin.

“After all my anxieties...I pay tribute to the way the EU has acted. They have been united. The sanctions were tough.”

Interestingly, the prominent Eurosceptic who led the Vote Leave campaign said that if Ukraine wants to join the EU “they should go for it and I think it would be a good thing for Ukraine”.

Kyiv applied to join the EU earlier this year as part of its efforts to move away from Russia’s sphere of influence.

Ukraine has been vocal in its admiration for Johnson – and even tweeted out a suggestion that he return to Downing Street again after Liz Truss’s resignation, but it was quickly deleted.

New prime minister Rishi Sunak made his first official visit to the country last week, and pledged £50 million in defence aid.

Despite the ongoing support from Western allies for Ukraine, Russia has continued its relentless attacks on the nation, leaving entire regions without power as the winter looms.


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