Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed Wednesday that France, in the run-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, was in “denial” while German leaders only hoped it “would be over quickly.”
“This was a huge shock,” Johnson said in an interview with CNN Portugal. “We could see the Russian battalion task forces building up, but different countries had very different perspectives.”
Johnson specifically named three European Union nations that he said were less assertive than other allies in their response to Russia’s “special military operation,” which was launched nine months ago.
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“The German view at one point was that if it was going to happen, which would be a disaster, then it had better be over quickly and Ukraine fold,” Johnson said, citing “all sorts of solid economic reasons” for his position.
“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 the way they did,” she added.
Germany faced an immense backlash for its lackluster initial support for Ukraine, infamously sending Kyiv troops 5,000 helmets in the run-up to the invasion while other NATO allies deployed anti-tank missiles, drones, ammunition and weaponry.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko notably mocked Germany’s sending, saying: “What kind of support will Germany send next? Pillows?”
Germany has increased its defensive aid to Ukraine, though Berlin has continued to face some backlash at home and abroad for wavering in the amount of support it has provided.
France, which has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine, was apparently surprised when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his “special military operation” on February 24, even though French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to Moscow just weeks before the invasion to urge Putin. to keep the peace.
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Macron returned with supposed assurances from Putin that he would not escalate the crisis that was then building up on the borders of Ukraine, where Russia was still amassing troops.
“Have no doubt that the French denied it to the last moment,” Johnson said.
France’s military intelligence chief was sacked in March for failing to predict Russia’s plans.
Johnson also referred to the initial response from Italy, then led by Mario Draghi, who “at one point was just [said] that they would be unable to support the position we were taking” due to their “massive” dependence on Russian hydrocarbons.
Once Russia invaded Ukraine, though, the attitudes of previously reluctant EU nations changed, Johnson said.
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“What happened was that everyone: Germans, French, Italians, everyone, [President] Joe Biden, he saw there was just no choice,” he said. “Because you couldn’t negotiate with this guy. [Putin]. That’s the key point.”
“The EU has done it brilliantly,” he continued. “After all my anxieties… I pay tribute to the way the EU has acted. They have been united.”