LONDON – In this month of war, there is a Western leader who telephones Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky practically every day and who seems to have become the most hawkish of all in opposition to Russia and Vladimir Putin. We are talking about Boris Johnson. That he wants to take on the figure of the most intransigent head of government in the opposition in Moscow. And there are already many readings and speculations on his role.
From the outset, the British Prime Minister has massively supported the Ukrainian cause, with a sustained delivery of lethal defense weapons (Europe’s number one supplier), money and aid (over £ 200 million). Yet, for years Johnson and his Conservative Party have been repeatedly considered too close or even financed by scroungers or dubious Russian millionaires and oligarchs. Now, however, the total resistance of Kiev has become fundamental for London, which, unlike the continental European countries, is less exposed to Russia from an energy point of view, as well as the United States of America. Not surprisingly, the UK and the US have been more extremist in opposition and sanctions against Putin since the beginning. Though unlike Biden, Johnson never said he hoped for the fall of the Russian president. Indeed he has always categorically denied, as in his recent interview with him Republic: “It would be counterproductive for the Ukrainian cause”.
After all, Putin’s fall remains at the moment a “wishful thinking”, that is a hidden desire but without any real confirmation. Not only because the Russian apparatus is totally controlled by the president, but also because paradoxically without the Tsar one would end up in “uncharted waters” in Russia, for what remains the largest nuclear power in the world. Total chaos in the Kremlin could, for example, put Europe and the West even more at atomic risk than it is now. But on one thing Boris Johnson seems convinced: we need to exploit the “momentum” of the Ukrainian army, inflict severe punishment on Putin and ensure that Ukraine recovers as much ground as it has stolen from Moscow in recent years.
Not surprisingly, a few days ago the British Prime Minister, during a hearing in Parliament, warned other European leaders that they could be attracted to a quick peace with Putin: “I believe that we will have to increase the sanctions even more, and that they will have to be there until the last Russian soldier has left Ukraine. “Then Tom Tugendhat, Conservative MP and chairman of the Westminster Foreign Commission who questioned him during the Liaison Committee ritual in Parliament, pressed him:” Prime Minister, the Should Russians also leave Crimea and Donbass before sanctions are relaxed? “” Yes, “replied the leader,” right up to the end. An alleged ceasefire is certainly not enough “.
In practice, Johnson placed a theoretically infinite limit on the West’s sanctions against Moscow. Because it is highly unlikely that Russia will so easily abandon the Donbass in Ukraine, let alone the overwhelmingly Russian-speaking Crimea. However, the British leader insists: according to the Times, Johnson would be putting strong pressure on Zelensky not to give in to agreements that, according to the British prime minister, could support the European allies and the Americans. The German government has flatly denied these “absurdities” and in any case the problem does not arise now, because Russia and Ukraine are far from a serious peace negotiation. But it hints at the escalation of the British prime minister’s commitment to the Ukrainian cause.
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But why is Johnson so firmly holding on to Kiev, Zelensky and the future of Ukraine? There are many readings of this recent political metamorphosis. The first is that Johnson has always been a libertarian, his well-known idol is Winston Churchill and therefore the prime minister, in his mind, could see himself in his predecessor who defeated Hitler, in a new “anti-Nazi” mission, today against Putin. The second is that, before the war in Ukraine, the United Kingdom invested heavily in the so-called Indo-Pacific and in deterrence against China: it is one of the pillars of post-Brexit Global Britain. A defeat in Ukraine or too obvious concessions to Putin’s Russia (among other things, which has strongly re-aligned in Beijing in recent times), according to Johnson, would also give a dangerous push to China in terms of expansions and authoritarian aims, see Taiwan or the Hong Kong case. .
Then there are the speculations on Johnson’s personal side. That, after the “Partygate” scandal at home and the banned parties during the anti Covid lockdown, he would need to rebuild his reputation. The war in Ukraine has certainly given him back that polish and that political caliber that he lacked at home in the last, breathless months. When he risked being disheartened by his conservative party, which has now closed ranks in his support, at least as long as the war in Ukraine lasts.
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Hence, there are those who speculate on inferences, such as the idea that the war in Ukraine, especially if it lasts, consolidates Johnson’s power and political stability (but this happens with all leaders in times of war, since Biden to Putin). Thinking so badly, then some malicious might say that a continental Europe weakened by the energy crisis and Russian sanctions (more than the US and the UK) might not be so bad for the UK after Brexit. But these are only fantasies, because the energy crisis is creating enormous problems even in Great Britain, which is not so dependent on Putin’s gas and crude oil, unlike Europe. But one thing is certain: Johnson wants to bear more and more the glorious Ukrainian resistance and the fate of Kiev. And perhaps, right now, he really does seem like the most convinced world leader.