President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has heaped praise on Boris Johnson as Britain has emerged as one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters against Russian aggression.
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In conversation with The economist as the Ukraine war During a fifth week of raging, Zelenskyy said Johnson was helping the fight against Russia “more” than other NATO nations, partly due to British public support.
“Leaders react to how their constituents act. In this case, Johnson is an example,” said the Ukrainian leader.
“Britain on the Side”
Zelenskyy compared Britain’s stance on supplying arms to Ukraine to that of other NATO world leaders, telling The Economist that “Britain is definitely on our side”.
“It’s not a balancing act,” he continued. “Britain sees no alternative way out of the situation. Britain wants Ukraine to win and Russia to lose.”
His warm words for Britain and its Prime Minister contrasted sharply with his comments about Emmanuel Macron, who last week dismissed Johnson’s suggestion that the West could supply Ukraine with tanks.
Zelenskyy accuses the French President of being “scared” of Russia, adding: “And that’s it. And those who say [no] the first are the first to fear.”
The Ukrainian leader also told the magazine that Germany was “trying to be balanced” during the war, a tactic he called a “mistake”.
“They have a long relationship with Russia and look at the situation through the prism of economics,” Zelenskky said. “Sometimes they help. I think they’re trying to adapt to the situation as it develops. They are also looking at how the situation is affecting their own country.”
The Ukrainian head of state also expressed mixed feelings towards the United States. The White House has “urged many countries to help us, but a little more slowly than necessary,” he said.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, a close relationship between Johnson and Zelenskyy has “bloomed,” he said The Sunday Times. It is believed that the two leaders talk on the phone almost every day.
And in an interview with the newspaper, Johnson described Zelenskyy as an “absolutely charming fellow” who has “proved to be an inspiration and a heroic war leader.”
“The bond” between them “is so strong that Johnson has not ruled out a visit” by Zelenskyy to Ukraine, the newspaper reported. The Prime Minister said he had offered Zelenskyy and his family refuge in the UK, but added that the President “said clearly that his duty is to the Ukrainian people, he will stay there”.
Experts have also noted the close relationship between the duo. According to The Economist’s Russia editor Arkady Ostrovsky, who recently visited Zelesnkyy in his war bunker in Kyiv, the Ukrainian president believes Johnson is one of the few leaders who believe peace in Europe is more important than “just energy bills.”
Zelenskyy “really believes that Britain is the only country, or one of the very few countries, that has, as he put it, ‘independence and bravery’ not to be particularly balanced and to do the right thing,” Ostrovsky told Andrew Marr on his LBC show on Monday.
“Don’t think about pragmatism, but understand what’s at stake here, and what’s at stake is peace in Europe, not just energy bills.”
The Churchill Factor
For Johnson, the alliance with Zelenskyy must have been “a natural impulse,” he said The New York Times (NYT). Both leaders “share a sense of the moment.”
Wartime leader Winston Churchill is Johnson’s “hero” and the subject of a biography of the current Prime Minister. Zelenskyi seemed to capitalize on that admiration, citing Churchill’s “We Will Fight on the Beaches” speech, which he recently delivered via video link to MPs in the House of Commons.
Johnson, in turn, also “found that Zelenskyj is the man of the hour,” Simon Fraser, a former head of the British Foreign Office, told the US newspaper. “Politically, that’s very smart. Boris has a nose for these things,” Fraser said.
And the outbreak of war in Ukraine has “calmed uproar over illegal holiday parties” in Downing Street during the Covid lockdowns “at least for the time being,” the NYT has said. Johnson was able to “seize on the mantle of a global statesman” when he “assumed an early role in supplying Ukraine with deadly defensive weapons and pressuring Western allies to impose even more crippling financial sanctions on Russia.”
In many ways, the two heads of state appear to be “natural bedfellows,” the two agreed Financial review‘s Europe correspondent Hans van Leeuwen. “Johnson’s liveliness and boosterism is probably exactly what Zelensky, huddled in a bunker, needs to hear right now.”
And “not to mention” Johnson’s need to get away from his party gate Misery – which made waves again in the British press after 20 Downing Street officers were fined for breaking lockdown rules – the war in Ukraine is “the geopolitical moment it’s been waiting for,” continued van Leeuwen.
The “Brexiteer-in-Chief” has so far lacked “the opportunity to demonstrate how ‘Global Britain‘ can use its post-Brexit diplomatic maneuverability to dynamically move and shake on the world stage.”
But while supporting Ukraine against Russia is currently popular with the British public, van Leeuwen added it remains to be seen whether Johnson will continue to support Ukraine “to the max” in the “highly likely event that it becomes more difficult, costly and… unpopular will do this”.
https://www.theweek.co.uk/news/politics/956255/boris-johnson-volodymyr-zelenskyy How Boris Johnson and Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s friendship ‘bloomed’