Boris Johnson: "Defeat by Putin is not in Trump's interests. The big picture is Ukraine is going to win"

Monday, 26 February 2024 — , European Pravda

Boris Johnson, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, is an exceptional politician. In his own country his popularity has plummeted after three years in office as prime minister, but his international image and influence are still exceptional. He is even in contact with Donald Trump and has influence with US Republicans.

Johnson also holds a special place in Ukrainians’ hearts and among the Ukrainian leadership, which is why he continues to visit Kyiv.

European Pravda met with him on the sidelines of the Yalta European Strategy conference on the second anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Our short interview turned out to be honest, thought-provoking, and typically emotional for Johnson.

"The big picture is Ukraine is going to win"

Boris, in early 2022, most European and world leaders were convinced that Ukraine would fall. You were one of the first to visit Kyiv in the spring of 2022. Did you understand then that Russia was losing?

Yes. And that was the whole point because Ukraine had already been so incredibly successful in kicking the Russians out of the whole Kyiv area.

I think it'd be fair to say that before the war – so when you had 115 Russian battalion tactical groups on the border, and our intelligence services could hear what they were saying, and we could all see the preparations they were making – the prognosis was incredibly gloomy.

And we thought that the weight of forces, the balance of forces, was so much in Russia's favour that they would win very fast.

That was the advice I was being given by the Defence Intelligence, and everybody was getting the same advice.

I didn’t believe it, because I had been to Kyiv a couple of times, and I’d talked to Ukrainians.

The situation has completely changed now. Western leaders believe Ukraine will win. Even the retaking of Crimea is enshrined in different statements and documents adopted by our Western partners. What was the turning point?

The most important thing has been the heroism of the Ukrainian armed forces and the conviction of the Ukrainian people. And the West has responded to that.

And so it was the battle of Kyiv, in Kharkiv, in Kherson, the expulsion of Putin's forces from so much of the territory that he occupied.

And a sense that this is right. Nobody can doubt that the Ukrainians are in the right.

I remember how at the end of 2022, even after Kherson and Kharkiv, foreign leaders were very cautious about mentioning Crimea. That has changed now.

Let me give you a reason for that.

I think it's basically because everybody understands that following the events of 2023, it's very difficult to advance against very dug-in Russian positions.

But the big picture is Ukraine is going to win!

Because we will continue to support Ukraine until Ukraine wins. Ultimately, Western industrial strength – yes, it’s slow manufacturing the shells now, I wish it could be faster, I wish more equipment could get to Ukraine faster. But it will come. And when it comes, when there are more long-range shells, more HIMARS, more ATACMS, more Storm Shadow, and more stuff to use, then I think Crimea is a very interesting prospect.

Because before, everybody thought, well, Putin will never let Crimea go. You know, this is not worth even trying. So let's try and help Ukraine to recapture the land bridge.

But now people are saying to themselves: first of all, it's possible to take back Crimea. Secondly, Putin is very vulnerable in Crimea.

And if you look at the infrastructure, the logistics, there's a big opportunity there.

There’s been a change in the way people think about Crimea.

Sometimes the question arises: how is it possible to defeat mighty Russia? After all, Putin has been preparing for war for decades.

But look at what you Ukrainians have already achieved! Look at what you Ukrainians have already done!

You've already effectively destroyed two Russian armies.

According to the CIA director, Bill Burns, you have killed or injured 315,000 Russian troops and destroyed thousands of battle tanks. You've recaptured more than half of the territory that Putin initially occupied.

And fundamentally, it's clear to the world that Ukrainians believe in their country. And that's why you're going to win.

"Some people in the West recognise this as a world war"

Do you know Timothy Snyder, the historian?

I've read a couple of his books.

Recently, at the Ukrainian Lunch hosted by the Pinchuk Foundation in Munich, he explained that we are facing a new type of world war. Conflicts have erupted simultaneously in different parts of the world. These conflicts are interconnected and created by the "axis of evil" states led by Russia.

I think there’s a lot of truth in that.

I think that it's no accident that Putin is now getting his shells from North Korea, a completely outlaw regime. It's no accident that he's getting drones from Iran.

Why doesn't the West recognise this as a world war?

I think some people in the West do think of it like that.

I think it's not a world war in the sense of the 1914-18 and 1939-45 World Wars with mass mobilisation of people in the West. That's not what's happening.

But it's a big, big power struggle.

And the heroism of Ukraine is really the tip of the spear.

Because if Ukraine were to fall to Putin, it would be a disaster for the whole world.

It would be a defeat for the West.

It would, it would.

But personally, I think that's not the only reason for supporting Ukraine.

The reason for supporting Ukraine is because this is a wonderful independent country and should not be destroyed by Putin.

So there are geostrategic reasons for the West's interest. But there's also, frankly, a moral interest, which is, for me, very, very important.

Will Putin attack NATO countries?

I think he might. You can’t rule that out.

I didn’t like at all what he was saying about Poland in his ghastly interview [with Tucker Carlson]. He could try something. He will be more likely to try that if he succeeds in Ukraine.

He must not succeed. He must fail.

But events in some Western countries, including the United States, contradict what you say. There is frustration. There is Donald Trump, who is winning. Should we worry about that?

Of course it’s right to worry about the United States of America. The US is the arsenal of democracy. We depend on the US.

The US is the biggest funder of NATO. And the USA's defence spending is massive. We need that $60 billion from the House of Representatives to go through.

But I’m not as pessimistic as some people about Trump.

I don't think any president of the United States of America can allow Putin to win in Ukraine. I just don't see how it's possible.

If you look at the history, he [Donald Trump] was the first American president to give serious weaponry to Ukraine – the Javelins, which were very important in the battle for Kyiv.

When I was foreign secretary of the UK, I remember we had a terrible business when Putin murdered a guy, or tried to murder two people [Sergei and Yulia Skripal – ed.] in the Salisbury poisonings, where actually a member of the public was killed, but not the people Putin was after.

To everybody's surprise, Trump came through with the biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats. He expelled 60 Russian diplomats – way, way more than we had been expecting.

So what I'm saying is: I think American domestic politics are complicated. In the run-up to the election, there will be lots of people saying all sorts of things. But when it comes to it, fundamentally, the interests of the United States of America are in supporting Ukraine, in supporting democracy, in preventing aggression.

I think the interests of Donald Trump are in not being seen to be defeated by Putin.

"I don't see what the negotiation with Putin is"

What about the negotiations with Putin he has been pushing?

I'm not against negotiations if they can achieve anything. But I remember very well the negotiations with Kim Jong Un. Do you remember Donald Trump's negotiations with North Korea? [Despite two meetings between Trump and his comrade Kim, North Korea did not abandon its nuclear programme, and the strategic goals were not achieved – ed.]

But the negotiations were behind Ukraine’s back…

I don't think that in the end, it will make any difference. The key people are the Ukrainians. And it's not for me to say what Ukraine should do. I can't be more Ukrainian than the Ukrainians. If Ukraine wants to negotiate, the president of Ukraine, President Zelenskyy, wants to negotiate, that's a matter for them.

Personally, I don't see what the deal is.

Putin wants to subjugate Ukraine. He wants to destroy Ukraine as a state. I don't see what the negotiation is.

Until that time, the UK, the West, if I have anything to do with it, will support Ukraine for as long as it takes.

And we should be giving more, and we should be giving it faster.

My final question is about the UK, which is perhaps the staunchest supporter of Ukraine. But the issue of your visa policy remains unresolved. We are still being treated like a Third World country.

Really? I am sorry about that.

It is a complicated issue. But we’ve benefited massively from having lots of wonderful Ukrainians come to the UK.

This is a Home Office matter. But generally, I think that as part of our friendship, we should make sure that it is relatively simple for people to come and go.

Interview by Sergiy Sydorenko

Video by Volodymyr Oliinyk

European Pravda

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