by Sergej Sumlenny
Friday, 8
July 2022
Analysis
11:28

Boris Johnson’s political future may be in Ukraine

In that country the outgoing PM is more loved than ever
by Sergej Sumlenny
Best mates. Credit: Getty

There is no need to ask Ukrainians about who is their favourite Western politician. The answer is clear: it’s Boris Johnson.

Since the invasion, Ukrainians have depended on international support for the defence of their country. Over time, however, it became clear that some countries were more invested than others. For weeks on end, we heard the same tiresome political platitudes about ‘solidarity’ and ‘concern’ when what Ukraine really needed was weapons.

When German politicians kept harping on about the need for diplomacy, the UK was acting by sending anti-tank guided NLAW missiles to Kyiv. These deliveries — together with US Javelins — stopped the Russian offensives in Kyiv and saved Ukraine. In fact, such was the popularity of the UK that “God save the Brexit” became one of the most common refrains.

That may sound naive, but for Ukrainians the connection was clear: rebellious Britons, who left the EU and decided to go their own way with their clumsy and bullish Prime Minister were seen as an alternative to the bureaucratic and comparatively ineffective EU.

Boris Johnson knew how to use this image. He came to Kyiv twice without any warning and walked through the city with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. He greeted pedestrians and took presents from them. He played a role Ukrainians wanted to see — and seemed to enjoy it.

Ukrainians did too. A Kyiv bakery started to sell “Boris Dzhonsonyuk” croissants topped with cream resembling Johnson’s blonde hair, while Ukrainian rap band MyusliUA published a track dedicated to the Prime Minister, praising him for destroying Russian tanks and calling him “the world’s most positive politician and the biggest friend of Ukraine, a legend”. Ukraine’s most popular weekly NV even collected memes about the Tory leader.

Did Ukrainians care about all of the Prime Minister’s scandals? The truth is, when you are defending your homeland from Russian invaders, asking whether Boris had champagne with his birthday cake suddenly doesn’t seem so important. He is a hero to Ukrainians and will remain so.

So what could Boris do next? Many wonder if the outgoing Prime Minister will follow in the footsteps of Georgian ex-president Saakashvili, who has served for several years as a Ukrainian governor of Odesa region. If it were constitutionally permissible, there is no doubt that Ukrainians would invite Johnson to do the same thing too. Either way, they will miss Boris and the country is deeply sad to see him go.

Sergej Sumlenny is a German political expert with a particular focus on security and energy policy in Russia and Eastern Europe. In 2015-2021, he was an office director for Ukraine and Belarus at the German Heinrich-Böll Foundation.

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Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
1 month ago

It’s possible that the next PM may not support Ukraine as solidly as Johnson, and I certainly give him credit for it, while feeling disappointment in his other decisions or lack thereof, but even Theresa May supported Ukraine (operation Orbital), while it is highly likely that Ben Wallace will continue as Defence Secretary for the foreseeable future.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 month ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

The whole truth about Johnson’s and other Tories’ ties to Lebedev has yet to come out. Johnson’s very public support for Ukraine may have been a smoke-screen to hide his and their corruption.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 month ago

Will those ties be found to be similar to Barry Gardener’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party? Or will the media decree that they are worthy of far more condemnation?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago

Great idea! Foreign minister for Zelensky, using the platform to glad hand round the world – he’s born to it!

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 month ago

Boris Johnson could go to Ukraine, put on military fatigues and fight the Russians, similar to Churchill going to fight in the trenches in WWI after the disaster of Gallipoli. If Johnson survived, which is unlikely especially as the Russians would target him, he could return and perhaps take over the Tory Party after defeat in 2024. However, I doubt he’ll do that. It’s much easier to spend money we haven’t got on weapons to be shipped over there.

Kerie Receveur
Kerie Receveur
1 month ago

Keep him please. He seems to care far more about Ukraine than he ever has about us, the British.

Jeff Andrews
Jeff Andrews
1 month ago

Him and Zelinsky could go fight the Russians since Ukraine is running out of men. Could send Wallace, and bring back conscription over here since everyone hates Russia. Get Liz Truss as well to join the girls over there, you know the ones with the make up and the chic combat ‘body art’ ie tattoos.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Andrews

Maybe send that trans MP over too, for the sake of inclusiveness of course!