Ukraine invasion disastrous ad for Russian military hardware: Boris Johnson

Updated on Nov 12, 2022 08:30 PM IST

Russia’s exports of military equipment will be affected because the campaign in Ukraine is a “disastrous advertisement for Putin’s war machine”, Boris Johnson said, noting that 60% of precision-guided missiles had turned out to be duds while tanks were “blown up like biscuit tins”

Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson, speaking at HT Leadership Summit, brushed aside a suggestion that European countries could have done more to allay Putin’s security anxieties related to NATO (Ht Photo)
Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson, speaking at HT Leadership Summit, brushed aside a suggestion that European countries could have done more to allay Putin’s security anxieties related to NATO (Ht Photo)

NEW DELHI: Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday it is only a matter of time before Russian President Vladimir Putin is forced to retreat from Ukraine though the “catastrophic” invasion will “greatly strengthen China” and have security implications across the Indo-Pacific region.

Johnson made what he said were “three confident predictions” while speaking at the 20th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit: that “Putin will lose”, Russia’s defence exports will be badly affected across the world because of the poor performance of its weaponry in Ukraine, and “this disastrous miscalculation by Putin will severely weaken Russia and greatly strengthen China”.

There is no deal the Ukrainians, who have cleared Russian invaders from Kharkiv and Kherson regions, “can or should do” with Russia, said Johnson, who played a key role in providing military and diplomatic support to Ukraine during his stint as prime minister. Putin will “deservedly” lose because of the “simple heroism and love of country of the Ukrainian people”, he added.

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Russia’s exports of military equipment will be affected because the campaign in Ukraine is a “disastrous advertisement for Putin’s war machine”, Johnson said, noting that 60% of precision-guided missiles had turned out to be duds while tanks were “blown up like biscuit tins”. He added that Russian combat planes still don’t control Ukrainian airspace though Moscow earlier claimed this would be achieved within hours of the launch of the invasion.

“Across the whole of Asia, this disastrous miscalculation by Putin will severely weaken Russia and greatly strengthen China,” he said, adding that the effects were already being seen in Kazakhstan and parts of the former Soviet Union.

“The bear is looking increasingly moth-eaten and forlorn and pushed around by a giant kung fu panda,” Johnson said. Contending that Putin consulted only Chinese President Xi Jinping before launching the invasion in February, he said, “Increasingly, you can see that he [Putin] is the punk of Xi Jinping.”

The end goal in Ukraine has to be Putin retreating to the “pre-February 24 borders”, Johnson said, adding that he didn’t see a risk of the use of nuclear weapons by Russia.

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“I think were he [Putin] to use weapons of mass destruction, Russia would tender its immediate resignation from the club of civilised nations. It’ll be disaster for Russia, I think that he would immediately lose the support of the swing voters in the world, and I have to say I include India as perhaps the most important of those swing voters – the people who are willing to cut him some slack on this thing,” he said.

“I think he would lose the patronage of the Chinese, I think he would terrify the Russian people about the possible implications for them and he would put Russia into a...cryogenic eco isolation from which it would be very difficult to recover.”

Johnson brushed aside a suggestion that European countries could have done more to allay Putin’s security anxieties related to NATO and said Russia’s worries in this regard were “nonsense and absolute hogwash”. He added, “There was not a snowball’s chance in hell of Ukraine joining NATO, there was never any plan for NATO missiles in Ukraine.”

Putin believed Ukraine is not a “real country” and that Russian forces would be “garlanded by a grateful Ukrainian population” but he was “deluded and simply didn’t understand that Ukraine today is a free, independent, sovereign European nation”, he said.

“All he’s done by his invasion is entrench that nationalism and intensify it...and that’s why he is going to lose because he’s fighting something that’s basically unconquerable,” Johnson added. “In a way, he has already lost and it’s only a matter of time before he is forced to retreat not only from Kherson but from everywhere.”

The UK, Johnson said, will continue to support Ukraine economically, politically and militarily till the people have “taken back their country” and “can say they have a free, sovereign and independent Ukraine”. He said the world community needn’t worry about how Putin manages his eventual defeat since “he is a master of propaganda” who seems to be able to persuade the Russian people that black is white.

“He will be able to claim that he has vapourised the so-called Nazis in Ukraine like the climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark or whatever, protected the Russian language and culture, and achieved the objectives of his special military operation. That’s not our problem, that’s for him, and the Russian people will swallow it,” he said.

However, the Ukraine conflict has already resulted in stresses and tensions in the Indo-Pacific, including concerns about what “could happen in Taiwan and South China Sea” and it is vital that democracies such as India and the UK work together for their collective security and stability, he added.

Johnson emphasised the need for a sense of proportion and balance while managing relations with China – “a giant fact of our lives” - since both the UK and India have a massive trade relationship with the country. “We have to work with China, we have to try to embrace China and engage...but we also have to be very wary,” he said.

The UK learnt a “very tough lesson” after allowing China to invest in critical national infrastructure such as civilian nuclear facilities and 5G and then concluding it was a “risk that we couldn’t take”, he said. India and the UK will also have to recognise China’s impact, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, where it is going to “grow and grow”, he cautioned.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2022
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