Boris Johnson complains West ‘turned other cheek’ to Russia – despite his own record

The Tories have been in power for 12 years, taken millions from wealthy people with links to Russia, and Boris Johnson himself was branded a ‘Putin apologist’ over comments he made about Ukraine in 2016

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Boris Johnson labels Russian invasion of Ukraine ‘abomination’

Boris Johnson today declared the West had “turned the other cheek” to Russia “for too long”.

The Prime Minister penned a 1,300-word New York Times essay, lamenting how “we have failed to learn the lessons of Russian behavior that have led to this point”.

Warning “we need to prepare now for even darker days ahead”, he added: “No-one can say we were not warned: we saw what Russia did in Georgia in 2008, Ukraine in 2014 and even on the streets of the British city of Salisbury.”

Relations between the UK and Russia have been plunging ever further into the freezer in the last decade, and the PM has sounded warnings about this before.

However Mr Johnson did not mention that he himself was branded a “Putin apologist” during the Brexit campaign, when he sought to blame the EU over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

He and the Conservatives have also faced criticism on multiple fronts over 12 years in government, including when Mr Johnson served as Foreign Secretary.

Since Mr Johnson became Prime Minister, the party has accepted £2m of donations from people or firms with links to Russia.

Boris Johnson meets military personnel at RAF Brize Norton to thank them for their ongoing work facilitating military support to Ukraine and NATO



The Prime Minister refuses to apologize for or return these donations, saying not all Russian dual nationals should be excluded based on the behavior of Putin and his cronies.

Today, he faces calls to be investigated by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee over a peerage he gave a Russian-born pal.

The Prime Minister made Evgeny Lebedev, the media mogul, socialite and son of a billionaire ex-KGB agent, Lord Lebedev of Siberia in 2020. He intervened after the security services raised initial concerns, according to The Sunday Times.

Meanwhile, the government faces accusations it has not cracked down quickly enough on “dirty” Russian money flowing through the UK.

The controversial ‘Tier 1’ investor visa used by wealthy Russians only closed on February 17, since there has been a wave of sanctions.

In his essay today, Mr Johnson said: “Have we done enough for Ukraine? The honest answer is no.”

He said “for too long, we have turned the other cheek”, adding: “It is no longer enough to express warm platitudes about the rules-based international order.

“We are going to have to actively defend it against a sustained attempt to rewrite the rules by force and other tools such as economic coercion.”

Critics highlighted a speech Mr Johnson gave in the Vote Leave campaign on 9 May 2016, just before the EU referendum.

Boris Johnson on 9 May 2016, the day on which he was branded a ‘Putin apologist’



Two years after Russia illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine, he said the EU was a “force for instability” after failing to stop the action.

“It is the EU itself, and its anti-democratic tendencies that are now a force for instability and alienation,” he said in 2016.

He added: “If you want an example of EU policymaking on the hoof and EU pretensions to running defense policy that have caused real trouble, then look at what has happened in the Ukraine.”

The MP went on: “What worries me now is that it is the EU’s pretensions to run a foreign policy and a defense policy that risk undermining Nato. We saw what happened in Bosnia, we’ve seen what happened in the Ukraine…

“All the EU can do in this question, in my view, is cause confusion and, as we’ve seen in the Balkans, I’m afraid of a tragic incident, and in the Ukraine things went wrong as well.”

Former Swedish PM Carl Bildt hit out at Boris Johnson on Twitter at the time, saying: “I’m sorry to say, but @BorisJohnson is totally ignorant of the facts on Ukraine, EU and Russia. Apologist for Putin.”

1 Shutting off Russian banks’ access to the West, with plan to move to full asset freeze on all Russian banks.

2 Sanctions on Russian central bank and financial institutions, already in effect.

3 Preventing Russian firms and the Russian state raising debt in the UK, already enacted.

4 Asset freeze against individual oligarchs, with 15 so far including Putin and Lavrov and more to come.

5 Targeting key strategic sectors including defense with more planned on services and energy.

6 Blocking access to SWIFT, with UK still pushing for a full SWIFT ban against all Russian banks.

7 Banning Russian plans and ships landing in UK, with new laws next week to put this on longer-term footing.

8 Banning export to Russia of ‘dual-use’ items such as electronics that could be used in military computers or weaponry.

9 Setting a £50,000 limit on wealthy Russians’ deposits in UK bank accounts.

10 Extending the above sanctions to Belarus due to its role supporting the Russian invasion.

11 Extending UK-Crimea total trade embargo to the Luhansk and Donetsk ‘People’s Republics’. But still no date, due to concerns about protecting Ukrainians still there.

12 Sanctions on all members of Russian Parliament and Russian National Security who voted in support of invasion. Still in progress despite EU acting already.

For more information click here.

In his essay Mr Johnson again ruled out putting troops on the ground in the Ukraine. Britain has also ruled out a no-fly zone.

He said: “The truth is that Ukraine had no serious prospect of Nato membership in the near future.

“This is not a Nato conflict and it will not become one. No ally has sent combat troops to Ukraine.

PM Boris Johnson in rare talks with Vladimir Putin in January 2020, when relations were already decidedly frosty


Alexei Nikolsky/TASS)

Mr Johnson called on leaders to mobilize an “international humanitarian coalition” for Ukraine and support the country “in its efforts to provide for its own self-defence”.

The economic pressure on the Kremlin should be ratcheted up, he said, and leaders must resist the “creeping normalization” of what Russia is doing in Ukraine.

Shadow defense secretary John Healey said the Prime Minister must match his rhetoric with action.

He told Times Radio: “In many ways, some of our allies could reasonably turn around and say ‘well it’s all very well for you, Boris Johnson, but you’ve got to now match some of your tough rhetoric with your own action, particularly on humanitarian assistance, on diplomacy and on sanctions’.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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