Germany has angrily rejected claims by Boris Johnson that ahead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine it said it would be better for Ukraine to fold than get embroiled in a long war.
Johnson, interviewed by CNN, also claimed that French President Emmanuel Macron denied the threat of invasion, and that Italy, led at the time by Mario Draghi, said it could not help because it was so dependent on Russian hydrocarbons. .
A spokesman for the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, dismissed the claims with a diplomatically worded swipe at Johnson.
“We know that the highly entertaining former prime minister always has a unique relationship with the truth; this case is no exception,” the official said. Miguel Berger, the German ambassador to the UK, supported the dismissal of Johnson’s account.
Johnson’s claims resemble those made by Andriy Melnyk, the former Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, who said German politicians had told him before the invasion that they expected Ukraine to be defeated within three days and that it was therefore pointless to seek help. offer.
Melnik claimed on Twitter in March: “On February 14, we warned German politicians: ‘Kiev could be bombed in the coming days! We urgently need 12,000 anti-tank missiles from Germany.’ In response: just mockery. Such a pity. So furious.”
He later claimed that German Finance Minister Christian Lindner was against supplying arms to Ukraine or cutting Russia off from Swift international bank payments. Melnyk told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that Lindner told him with a smile that he thought Ukraine would collapse in a matter of hours and that he was ready to talk to a puppet regime that Russia would install. The German finance ministry denied the accusation.
Macron was dispatched before the invasion and made desperate pleas to Vladimir Putin to hold talks with Joe Biden.
Johnson stressed in his interview that EU countries later aligned themselves with Ukraine and provided steadfast support, but he said this was not the case everywhere in the period before the invasion in February.
“This was a huge shock… we could see the Russian battalion tactical groups growing, but different countries had very different perspectives,” Johnson told CNN’s Richard Quest in Portugal.
“The German view at one point was that if it happened, which would be a disaster, it would be better that the whole thing is over soon and Ukraine stops,” he claimed, citing “all sorts of sound economic reasons for that approach.
“I couldn’t support that, I thought that was a disastrous way to look at it. But I can understand why they thought and felt the way they did,” Johnson said. Germany has been making rapid efforts to reduce its dependence on Russian energy since the invasion of Moscow.
“Have no doubt that the French were in denial until the last minute,” Johnson also said. The chief of French military intelligence, General Eric Vidaud, was told in March to resign, in part because he failed to foresee Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The British position, best expressed by Johnson in a speech at the Munich security conference on the eve of the invasion, was that the UK would support any Ukrainian resistance mounted once the invasion began.
Britain was unsure how Ukraine or its leader, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, would react once the invasion began, in part because British and US intelligence agencies struggled for some time to convince Zelenskiy that Russia’s massive troop buildup was not a bluff.
The thrust of Johnson’s remarks was that only Britain and the US had the right judgment about Putin’s intentions. Johnson said in the interview that once Russia launched its invasion, attitudes quickly changed across Europe.
“What happened was everyone – Germans, French, Italians, everyone, Joe Biden – saw that there was just no option. Because you couldn’t negotiate with this man [Putin]. That is the main point,” he said, adding that the EU has done “brilliantly” in its opposition to Russia ever since.
“After all my worries… I pay tribute to the way the EU has acted. They are united. The sanctions were heavy,” Johnson continued.
He added that he thought it would be good for Ukraine to join the EU and praised Zelensky’s personal courage.