In Britain the Conservative politician Boris Johnson, who is one of the leaders of the campaign for Britain to quit the European Union, and who is openly positioning himself to take over from David Cameron as Prime Minister, has become the first mainstream British politician to break ranks over British policy towards Ukraine and Russia.
This is what he said in a question and answer session after a speech on the European Union he gave on Monday:
“…..if you want an example of EU foreign policy making on the hoof, and the EU’s pretensions to running a defence policy that have caused real trouble, then look at what has happened in Ukraine. I think it is very, very important that we don’t muddle up the role of the EU with the role of Nato …
What worries me now is that it is the European Union’s pretensions to run a foreign policy and a defence policy that risk undermining Nato. We saw what happened in Bosnia. We’ve seen what happened in the Ukraine …
All the EU can do in this question, in my view, is cause confusion and, as we’ve seen in the Balkans, I’m afraid a tragic incident, and in the Ukraine things went wrong as well.”
These comments come very close to saying what is the truth: that it was the Western powers including the European Union not Russia that caused the conflict in Ukraine by their aggressive policy of seeking to gain influence there.
This is a view that to my knowledge is widely shared within the British establishment – especially within the Conservative party – though it is heresy to speak or even hint at it.
Johnson’s comments immediately provoked an angry reaction with a flood of critical comments calling Johnson a “Putin apologist” pouring in from people like former British foreign secretary Jack Straw, former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, former Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorsky and the Economist’s writer and editor Ed Lucas.
Johnson has a habit of saying contradictory things and as his critics are already pointing out that he placed all the blame for the Ukrainian conflict on Russia in a piece he wrote for the Daily Telegraph some time ago. However his latest off-the-cuff comments almost certainly express what he really thinks – which is why they have provoked such a fast and angry reaction. Indeed if Johnson had felt free to speak entirely openly he would undoubtedly have gone further.
The fact that there is a very real possibility Johnson could be Britain’s Prime Minister in a matter of weeks irrespective of the result of Britain’s EU referendum is the reason for the alarm.
Britain would in that case have a Prime Minister who is known to disagree privately with the whole direction of Western policy towards Ukraine and Russia. That for the neocons in the US and Europe – already alarmed by the rise of Donald Trump – would be another big headache.