Germany accused Boris Johnson of spouting “utter nonsense” yesterday after he claimed Berlin wanted Ukraine to quickly fold to Russia to avoid a protracted conflict.
The former British prime minister had accused the European Union’s three most powerful nations of having initially adopted a “disastrous” approach to the Russian invasion.
In an interview in Lisbon, he also accused France of being “in denial” about the possibility of Moscow’s troops crossing Ukraine’s border and Italy of being too reliant on cheap fuel to adopt a hardline approach to Moscow.
“We know that the very entertaining former prime minister always has his own relationship to the truth; that’s no different in this case,” Steffen Hebestreit, spokesman for Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said.
A source close to Mario Draghi, Italy’s former prime minister, suggested Mr Johnson had changed his tone. “Boris Johnson in the past has been very appreciative about Italy’s role in supporting Ukraine against the Russian invasion,” the source told The Daily Telegraph.
Speaking to CNN, Mr Johnson said the differing opinions fuelled tensions between Western governments over how best to support Ukraine.
“The German view was at one stage that if it were going to happen, which would be a disaster, then it would be better for the whole thing to be over quickly and for Ukraine to fold,” he said.
“I thought that was a disastrous way of looking at it; but I can understand why they thought as they did.”
He also accused Emmanuel Macron of failing to anticipate the all-out invasion on February 24. “Be in no doubt that the French were in denial right up until the last moment,” Mr Johnson said.
The French president has previously been criticised for pursuing a diplomatic approach to ending the war long after many in the West believed it was impossible to negotiate with Vladimir Putin. In March, the head of France’s military intelligence, General Eric Vidaud, was reportedly sacked for failing to correctly anticipate the Russian invasion.
Mr Johnson said Mr Draghi was “at one stage... saying they would be unable to support the position we were taking”.
Britain has promised to send rescue helicopters to Ukraine for the first time in a £50m support package.
Three Sea King helicopters, the first of which has arrived in Ukraine, will form part of the new military aid as well as 10,000 rounds of artillery ammunition. Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, said that the donations would help Ukraine to defend the territories it had captured around Kherson in recent weeks. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)
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