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Ukraine has little reason to thank Boris Johnson

Both the Cameron and Johnson government rebuffed the plucky nation’s repeated plea for weapons over the last decade

Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire/PA Images

Boris Johnson may now be Ukraine’s best-known war tourist, but the imperilled country has little, if anything, to thank him for.

In the decade leading up to the Russian invasion, successive Tory governments – and Johnson and David Cameron in particular – rebuffed the plucky nation’s repeated pleas for weapons that might well have stayed Vladimir Putin’s murderous hand. As prime minister, it was Cameron who conceived the policy of denying assistance to Ukraine, but it was Johnson, on becoming foreign secretary in 2016 – the very point when Russia began to be seen as a clear and present danger to Ukraine – who decided that wooing Putin was preferable to defying him.

Johnson sought only a “normalisation” of relations with the Kremlin and a “constructive” relationship with Sergey Lavrov, his opposite number. In December 2017, Johnson became the first British minister to visit Moscow in five years, saying how “delighted” he was that trade between the UK and Russia – at least in relation to British Kettle crisps and Bentleys – was picking up. (He seemed unaware Bentley is now a subsidiary of the German VW group).

The year Johnson became prime minister, the Tory party gladly accepted £1.5m – the most in a single year – from Russians. The last thing Johnson wanted to do in those days was do anything to antagonise his rich friendskis. All Johnson has done since the war with Ukraine began – as I have reported – is to try to send a few of Britain’s clapped-out Challenger 2 tanks their way, via Poland.

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