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The former British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, visited Ukraine and met Volodymir Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President, on several occasions between February and August 2022. He was the first western leader in making such visits during the war. Johnson was a staunch Ukrainian supporter and spent significant money on military support and humanitarian aid. Zelenskyy thanked the former British PM for the considerable support he offered Ukraine, which included air defense weaponry, artillery, ammunition, armored vehicles, and money. In addition, Boris Johnson significantly contributed to the Russian-Ukrainian crisis by providing funds and military equipment to help Ukraine protect its territorial integrity and calling for a solution to avert the rising energy and food prices in the U.K. and Europe.
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Boris Johnson’s Position on Russia and Ukraine War
Boris Johnson was strongly against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He was concerned with Europe’s security and the rise in energy and food prices. Furthermore, Ukraine is a friendly country to the U.K. and acts as a buffer zone to NATO’s eastern European frontier due to its geographical location. Thus, a strong Ukraine would make an effective barrier between Russia and the European NATO members. However, if Ukraine is weak, Russia would feel emboldened to utilize the weak non-NATO countries in Europe (Lanoszka, 2022). Additionally, the U.K. promotes Ukraine’s democracy and economic development despite the country’s systemic corruption.
Johnson’s Visits to Ukraine
Boris Johnson’s first visit to Ukraine was on the 1st of February, 2022. During this visit, he claimed that Putin intended to redraw Europe’s security map and reiterated that Russia under Putin is a threat. He met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv and declared U.K.’s support for Ukraine. The PM reported on the ongoing Ukrainian military personnel training and promised to send anti-tank weaponry and $119 million to help the country fight corruption and attain energy independence (Kakissis & Maynes, 2022). The PM also warned Putin against invading Ukraine, saying that such an invasion would result in political and humanitarian disaster for Russia and the world.
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The PM’s second visit to Kyiv occurred on the 9th of April, 2022. He reassured President Zelenskyy of the U.K.’s unwavering stand with Ukraine and promised more economic and military support. He pledged high-grade military equipment worth £100 million, which included high-tech loitering munitions for precision strikes, 800 anti-tank missiles, and Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles. On economic support, the PM guaranteed $500m more to Ukraine in World Bank lending, totaling loan guarantee to $1 billion (Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street, 2022). This amount was in addition to the $500m that the U.K. had given Ukraine grants to aid in humanitarian services. Also, Johnson reported that the U.K. had agreed to liberalize all tariffs Ukraine had requested to provide customs easements and promote Ukraine’s economic stability (Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street, 2022). The PM said the U.K. was participating in a global alliance to end the conflict and liberate Ukraine’s national sovereignty.
The third PM’s visit to Kyiv was on the 17th of June, 2022. In a press conference, he encouraged the Ukrainian citizens to remain resilient to the course and reiterated on U.K.’s support. As he noted life was resuming normality in some areas due to the efforts made during the war, he acknowledged that more needed to be done. He also pointed out the massive and illegal deportation of people from Ukraine’s towns and villages due to indiscriminate bombings by Russian forces targeting civilians. He saluted the Ukrainian forces for their bravery (Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street, 2022). In words of encouragement, Johnson stated that Putin’s troops were under pressure and incurring heavy casualties.
The PM said that even after spending 114 days attacking Ukraine, Putin had fallen short of achieving his goals in a week. He offered strategic advice and urged world leaders to intensify sanctions against Russia. The PM further noted the problem of holding grain and promised his commitment to liberate it and resolve the hunger crisis Russia caused by holding it hostage and preventing its distribution (Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street, 2022). In his press conference, Johnson reassured Zelensky of his commitment to military aid and training and re-building Ukraine to benefit the world economy.
Johnson’s fourth visit was during Ukraine’s Independence Day on the 24th of August, 2022. The PM met the Ukrainian President in Kyiv and promised that “Ukraine can and will win this war” (Kottasová, 2022). Zelensky awarded Johnson the gift of “the Order of Liberty” to appreciate the PM’s support for Ukraine. According to a Downing Street statement, the U.K.’s total support amounted to $2.71 billion. During this visit, the U.K. government pledged drones and mine-hunting vehicles worth $63.5 million to Ukraine (Kottasová, 2022). Such contribution boosted Ukraine’s military significantly.
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Analysis of Johnson’s Visits
While referring to Russia, Boris Johnson accused Putin of “weaponizing” the energy crisis to torment households. The PM urged the public to endure the current hardship, which experts interpreted as admitting Europe’s vulnerability to the dependency on Russian energy, especially gas (BBC News, 2022). The PM’s appeal compounded that many European nations lack sufficient and independent energy supply. He lamented that the current energy crisis could not have had a significant impact if Europe had invested in energy (BBC News, 2022). The PM acknowledged that Europe faces a challenge in assisting its citizens with energy bills during winter. It is also under pressure to fix its independent energy supplies that meet domestic demand. Europe, therefore, is in dire need of finding ways to be self-sufficient with its own energy supply to avoid being held hostage during conflicts or by random price fluctuations. Johnson was concerned with security, the economy, and the rising food and energy prices. Johnson was determined to protect Ukraine is also one of the U.K.’s major trading partners.
Despite Boris Johnson playing a significant role in the Russia-Ukraine conflict before his exit as PM, the war is still in a critical state. It will still require sustainable western allies’ support. Additionally, many world governments are under pressure due to the high cost of living caused by rising energy costs. Such governments may have to contend with the current situation until the crisis is over. The end of the current world crises that have resulted from war is uncertain, as actors have divergent views with no party willing to compromise. This stand-off is rendering the solution to the ongoing crisis unfeasible.
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- BBC News. (2022, August 24). Boris Johnson: Endure energy crisis to counter Russia in Ukraine. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-62663247
- Kakissis, J., & Maynes, C. (2022, February 1). U.K.’s Boris Johnson visits Kyiv to stand with Ukraine and Putin remarks on tensions. NPR.org. https://www.npr.org/2022/02/01/1077371555/u-k-s-boris-johnson-visits-kyiv-to-stand-with-ukraine-and-putin-remarks-on-tensi
- Kottasová, I. (2022, August 24). ‘Ukraine can and will win this war,’ says Boris Johnson as he visits Kyiv on Ukraine’s Independence Day. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2022/08/24/europe/boris-johnson-ukraine-visit-intl-gbr/index.html
- Lanoszka, A. (2022, June 15). Why Britain should continue to support Ukraine. Council on Geostrategy. https://www.geostrategy.org.uk/britains-world/why-britain-should-continue-to-support-ukraine/
- Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street. (2022, April 9). Prime Minister pledges U.K.’s unwavering support to Ukraine on visit to Kyiv: 9 April 2022. GOV.UK. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prime-minister-pledges-uks-unwavering-support-to-ukraine-on-visit-to-kyiv-9-april-2022
- Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street. (2022, June 17). Prime Minister’s remarks at a press conference in Kyiv: 17 June 2022. GOV.UK. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/prime-ministers-remarks-at-a-press-conference-in-kyiv-17-june-2022