In evidence on Wednesday to the House of Commons’ foreign policy select committee, Boris Johnson was unable to provide evidence directly linking Russia to the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal.
Instead he provided conclusive evidence (if more such evidence were needed) of his total unfitness for public office.
Responding to a question from Ian Austin, a Labour Party MP who obviously disagrees with the far more measured position taken throughout the Skripal crisis by the Labour Party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn, Johnson compared the 2018 Football World Cup in Russia with Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics.
The Guardian reports the exchange as follows:
Ian Austen: Putin is going to use it in the way Hitler used the 1936 Olympics
Boris Johnson: I think that your characterisation of what is going to happen in Moscow, the World Cup, in all the venues – yes, I think the comparison with 1936 is certainly right. It is an emetic prospect of Putin glorying in this sporting event
That this is a totally absurd comparison, deeply offensive to Russians tens of millions of whom died in Hitler’s war, and whose country played the leading – though in Britain all too often unacknowledged – role in defeating Hitler, does not need explaining.
It is however typical of Johnson’s behaviour throughout the Skripal crisis.
British media reports say that it was Johnson who at a British Security Council meeting on Saturday 10th March 2018 – just days after Sergey and Yulia Skripal were found poisoned – insisting on naming Russia as the country responsible, overriding objections from Prime Minister Theresa May and from Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who wanted to give the police time to complete their investigation (Amber Rudd has been conspicuously quiet ever since).
It was also Boris Johnson who without offering a scintilla of evidence claimed that it was “overwhelmingly likely” that the attack on Sergey Skripal was ordered by no less a person than Russian President Putin himself.
It is also Boris Johnson’s department – the Foreign Office – which is claiming, again without providing a scintilla evidence, that Russia has been “illegally stockpiling” Novichok chemical agents.
It is difficult to avoid the impression that Boris Johnson – whose ambition to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister is as transparent as a pane of glass – is manipulating the crisis in order to strike a Churchillian pose, which he presumably thinks will impress Conservative Party members and Conservative Party MPs. As it happens Boris Johnson has written a biography of Churchill and is not above making comparisons between Churchill and himself.
That the real Churchill, who despite his many faults was a brilliant diplomat, would never have behaved in this irresponsible way is presumably something that Boris Johnson either does not know or does not care about.
Putting aside these Churchillian comparisons, Boris Johnson’s behaviour throughout this crisis is doing Britain real damage.
It is difficult to see how the Russians can deal with him in future after the things he has said about them, and by definition a foreign minister who is no longer able to deal with the Russians is going to struggle to get himself taken seriously.
Already the British have been sidelined by the Germans and the French in handling the Ukrainian crisis, and after the way Boris Johnson has been behaving over the last three weeks the Germans and the French will want to keep him at arms’ length in any matter concerning Russia.
This is over and above the concerns the Germans and French are already known to have about his eccentric behaviour and poor judgement.
Even in the US doubts about Boris Johnson were already in evidence before this latest crisis began. Note that three weeks after the start of the crisis he has still not been invited to Washington to discuss the crisis with any senior US official.
What makes this even worse is that – along with his desire to strike a Churchillian pose as part of his campaign to become British Prime Minister – it seems that Boris Johnson’s behaviour is partly fuelled by resentment at the public put down he received from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during his ill-starred trip to Moscow last December.
During that trip Boris Johnson did exactly what he is doing now: make unsupported claims of Russian misbehaviour – in that case of Russian meddling in Western elections – only to be flatly and publicly contradicted by Sergey Lavrov.
That at a time when Britain is leaving the EU and has yet to find its way internationally it cannot afford a clown for its foreign minister ought not to need saying.
In this case, with actual evidence of Russian involvement in the Skripal attack failing to appear three weeks after the crisis began, there must also be a particular concern that because of Boris Johnson’s behaviour the British are now walking on dangerously thin ice.
In truth there is never a good time to employ a clown for a foreign minister. In Britain’s own interests Boris Johnson should be got rid of as soon as possible.