Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that France was “in denial” about the prospect of a Russian invasion of Ukraine and accused the German government of initially advocating a quick military defeat for Ukraine in the long conflict.
Johnson told CNN’s partner network CNN Portugal on Monday that before Moscow on February 24. after the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the attitude of Western countries was very different, with comments singling out the three leading EU countries, which are unlikely to be welcomed in European capitals.
His comment drew a strong denial from Germany, which accused the former PPM of having a “unique relationship with the truth”.
While Johnson stressed that EU countries had subsequently rallied behind Ukraine and now provide strong support, he said this was not the norm before the Russian invasion.
“This thing was a huge shock … we saw Russian battalion task forces coming together, but different countries had very different perspectives,” Johnson told CNN’s Richard Quest in Portugal.
“The German view at one point was that if this happened, and it was a disaster, then it would be better to get it over with quickly and Ukraine to go down,” Johnson claimed, referring to “by all means.” for sound economic reasons’ such an approach.
“I couldn’t agree with that, I thought it was a disastrous attitude. But I understand why they thought and felt that way,” Johnson continued. Germany has made rapid efforts to reduce its dependence on Russian energy after Moscow’s invasion.
“There is no doubt that the French were in denial until the last moment,” Johnson also said.
French President Emmanuel Macron has resisted European efforts to dissuade Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine, visiting him in the Kremlin weeks before the Russian leader ordered his troops into the country. In March, France’s military intelligence chief, Gen. Eric Vidaud, was ordered to resign in part because he “failed to anticipate” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a military source with knowledge of the matter told CNN at the time.
Johnson also criticized Italy’s initial response to the invasion threat. He told Quest that its government, then led by Mario Draghi, “at one point simply said they would not be able to support our position” given their “enormous” dependence on Russian hydrocarbons.
CNN has reached out to the French and German governments. Draghi’s office declined to comment.
German Ambassador to the UK Miguel Berger shared on Wednesday comment on Twitter, which he attributed to a government spokesman: “We know that the highly entertaining former Prime Minister always has a unique relationship with the truth. This case is no exception.”
Many observers initially thought Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would be completed within weeks or days, but forces in Kiev repelled Moscow’s initial push into the capital and have recently mounted successful counter-offensives to regain positions in the country’s east and south.
Johnson said attitudes across Europe quickly changed after Russia launched its invasion in February.
“What happened was everybody — the Germans, the French, the Italians, everybody (US President) Joe Biden — realized there was just no way out. Because we couldn’t negotiate with this guy (Putin). That’s the bottom line,” the former prime minister said, adding that “the EU has done a great job” against Russia since then.
“After all my worries… I respect the EU’s behavior. They united. The sanctions were severe,” Johnson continued.
During his tenure, Johnson frequently criticized the Russian invasion and developed a close relationship with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Johnson was forced to resign in July after repeated scandals tarnished his reputation and forced the resignation of dozens of his ministers.
Boris Johnson talks about his chances of becoming Prime Minister again
Johnson told CNN that Zelensky’s leadership was “absolutely exceptional.” “He is a very brave guy. I think the history of this conflict would have been very different if he had not been there.
He added that “if Ukraine decides to be a member of the EU, it should strive for it. and I think it would be a good thing for Ukraine,” would help it implement political and economic reforms. Kyiv applied to join the bloc earlier this year.
Johnson was succeeded in Downing Street by Liz Truss, who had the shortest tenure of any British prime minister. Her disastrous seven-week term was marred by a “mini-budget” that spooked markets and sent global financial agencies into a frenzy.
Euphemistically criticizing that mini-budget, Johnson told Quest: “It’s like playing the piano. Individual notes sound great, but they aren’t in the right order or at the right time.
Truss has since been replaced as Johnson’s chancellor-turned-political rival Rishi Sunak, who on Saturday visited Kiev for the first time as prime minister.