Boris Johnson claims France was ‘in denial’ before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

By Rob Picheta, CNN 

Updated 12:55 PM EST, Tue November 22, 2022

Johnson resigned as Britain's Prime Minister earlier this year.

London(CNN)Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed France was “in denial” about the prospect of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, and accused the German government of initially favoring a quick Ukrainian military defeat over a long conflict.

Johnson told CNN’s partner network CNN Portugal on Monday that the attitudes of Western nations varied widely before Moscow launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine on February 24, singling out three leading EU countries in comments that are unlikely to be welcomed in European capitals. 

While Johnson stressed that EU nations later rallied behind Ukraine and are now providing steadfast support, that was not universally the case in the period before the Russian invasion.

“This thing was a huge shock … we could see the Russian battalion tactical groups amassing, but different countries had very different perspectives,” Johnson told CNN’s Richard Quest in Portugal.

“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,” Johnson claimed, citing “all sorts of sound economic reasons” for that approach. 

“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,” Johnson went on. Germany has rapidly sought to reduce its reliance on Russian energy since Moscow’s invasion.

“Be in no doubt that the French were in denial right up until the last moment,” Johnson also said. 

Johnson speaking with US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron during a June G7 summit in Germany.

Johnson speaking with US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron during a June G7 summit in Germany.

French President Emmanuel Macron fronted Europe’s efforts to dissuade Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine, visiting him in the Kremlin just weeks before the Russian leader ordered his troops into the country. In March, the chief of French military intelligence, Gen. Eric Vidaud, was told to step down from his post partly for “failing to anticipate” the Russian 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 threat of an invasion. He told Quest that its government — at the time led by Mario Draghi — was “at one stage simply saying that they would be unable to support the position we were taking,” given their “massive” reliance on Russian hydrocarbons.

CNN has reached out to the French and German governments. Draghi’s office declined to comment.

Many observers initially believed a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be completed within weeks or days, but Kyiv’s forces instead repelled Moscow’s initial lunge towards the capital and have more recently conducted successful counter-offensives to regain ground in the east and south of the country.

Johnson said that once Russia launched its invasion in February, attitudes across Europe changed quickly.

“What happened was everybody — Germans, French, Italians, everybody, (US President) Joe Biden — saw that there was simply no option. Because you couldn’t negotiate with this guy (Putin). That’s the key point,” the ex-Prime Minister said, adding that the “the EU has done brilliantly” in its opposition of Russia since that time.

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

Johnson during an August visit to Ukraine, alongside Volodymyr Zelensky.

Johnson during an August visit to Ukraine, alongside Volodymyr Zelensky.

During his period in office, Johnson frequently criticized Russia’s invasion and forged a close relationship with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Johnson was forced to resign in July after repeated scandals sank his reputation and caused dozens of his ministers to resign.

Johnson told CNN that Zelensky has been “absolutely outstanding” in his leadership. “He’s a very brave guy. I think the history of this conflict would have been totally, totally different it he hadn’t been there.”

He added that “if Ukraine chooses to be a member of the EU, they should go for it. and I think it would be a good thing for Ukraine,” helping it achieve political and economic reform. Kyiv applied to join the bloc earlier this year.

Johnson was replaced in Downing Street by Liz Truss, who had the shortest tenure of any British Prime Minister. Her disastrous seven-week term was sunk by a “mini-budget” that spooked markets and caused global financial agencies to express alarm.

In a euphemistic criticism of that mini-budget, Johnson told Quest: “It’s kind of like when I play the piano. The notes individually sound perfectly OK, but they’re not in the right order, or occurring at the right time.”

Truss has since been replaced by Johnson’s Chancellor-turned-political rival, Rishi Sunak, who visited Kyiv for the first time as Prime Minister on Saturday.

7 comments

  1. CNN is no friend of Boris. It wants Marxist Labour in power and wrecking Britain. It is generally supportive of filthy puker arse lickers like Hollande, Merkel, Macron and Scholtz.
    But even they have to acknowledge the treachery of France and Germany. Boris was up against them, Italy, Hungary, Austria and a whole host of indifferent turds. In Europe, only Poland, the Balts and Britain showed integrity.
    The result of this is important for Ukraine too. They now know who their friends are and so does Britain.
    I am sure that the Ukraine project that Boris is currently working on will have very good results and I look forward to seeing full details soon.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Damn. I am not surprised. The French and Germans are incredible arses.

    I really wished Johnson didn’t behave like such a clown because I do think he has his heart on the right place.

    It is a good thing Sunak still supports Ukraine, but I feel he mainly is an opportunist seeking for power than someone principled.

    I disagree on what Scradje said about CNN. I don’t see them very positive about Labour, but I do not think there is a lot more to report on the Tories than a lot of chaos currently.

    Yes, I do think the UK is on the right side of history in the fight against Russia, in contrast to most countries across the Channel. But there are many problems that need to be addressed, because reform is needed to fix the economy and reduce the exploding deficit and the Tories are dragging their feet on this or even make problems worse by reducing tax for the rich.

    I don’t think pointing this out means you support Labour, as I think they have their flaws too. I think it means that whoever is in the government needs to get their shit together and focus on much needed reforms instead of infighting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clown is a pejorative used by his enemies, to hide the fact that they are failures and he is not. He’s a Latin scholar, a historian, a brilliant writer and one of the most successful democratic politicians of this century; having been elected Mayor of a profoundly socialist city; London, twice. As PM, managing to overturn a remainer parliament by defeating the “red wedge” and being Ukraine’s most reliable friend, means that his place in history is assured.
      His predilections for younger skirt causes jealousy in some quarters and outrage amongst the prudes, but most of all his sense of fun and bon viveurism simply upsets humourless leftist twats.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I do not doubt he is very intelligent and a skilful politician.

        But I do think he overplayed his hand when I thought he could get away with covid parties and appointing someone very questionable.

        I think he thought he was the only one that could manage the post-Brexit chaos (I do actually think he was) and that he could get away with too much.

        I think he was inspired by Churchill: he was also having an extravagant life, drank a lot and spending a lot of money. But he knew he was an exceptional kind of a politician in an exceptional time. When there is a war, you don’t sack your leader for having a drink or some affair and I think he was well aware of that.

        I do think they have a lot in common, but Johnson played his hand too soon. But I mean, if he was a bad politician he wouldn’t have remained in power for quite some time considering the chaos the country was in.

        Liked by 2 people

        • The “covid party” claims were nonsense. They were all at it. Marxist Labour leader Kier Starmer was photographed having a beer at a similar event for his party workers.
          Starmer is a staggering hypocrite: in private he likes champagne and ballet, but in public he pretends to be a beer and football man.

          Liked by 1 person

          • So?
            He was sacked by the Conservative party, Labour has nothing to do with it as they only have a minority in Parliament.

            The Conservative party itself thought the parties were too damaging for the party’s reputation.

            Liked by 1 person

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