It was met with despair in Kyiv.
Ukraine is supported by the entire West. Johnson was seen as an ally in Kyiv. Johnson was the first foreign leader to travel to Ukraine’s capital in April. He returned last month to surprise the nation with a second visit.
“We all received this sad news with sadness. According to his office Zelensky called Johnson on Thursday and told him that not only did he, but the whole Ukrainian society. Zelensky stated that while we have no doubt about the support of Great Britain, it will be maintained. However, your personal leadership and charisma made it unique.
Kristine Berzina is a senior security and defense policy fellow at The German Marshall Fund of America. She said that Johnson’s personality played a major role in how the Ukrainians view him.
“The loudness, brashness, and support Johnson gave for Ukraine’s struggle… is in stark contrast with the more subtle support provided by Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz. In an email, she stated that Johnson was the leader of a major European power and a nuclear power. She did not hesitate to support Ukraine and call Russia out.”
Zelensky has criticised French President Emmanuel Macron for trying to appease Russian President Vladimir Putin. Johnson, however, was always a strong supporter.
In Ukraine, the popular British prime minister is so beloved that many towns have suggested naming streets after his departure. Silpo, a leading supermarket chain, added a photo of Johnson’s trademark mop with messy blond hair as part of its logo when the news about his resignation broke.
Mykhailo Podolyak (the Ukrainian presidential adviser) called Johnson “a great hero” while Dmytro Kuleba (the Foreign Minister) said Johnson was “a man of no fear and willing to take risks in support of the cause he believes.”
British journalist, polling expert and visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe Peter Kellner said that Johnson’s devotion to Ukraine was likely inspired both by history and his own political needs.
Johnson said that Ukraine had given him a rare opportunity to imitate his hero, to take a strong and uncompromising stand on an issue that is both military and moral.” He spoke to CNN via email. His comments were in reference to Johnson’s admiration for Winston Churchill, Britain’s World War Two leader. Kellner stated that Johnson was known to try to draw attention to Ukraine in times of crisis.
He stated that “the Russian invasion happened at a moment when Johnson was engulfed in scandal, particularly over ‘Partygate’. And was also affected by the political cost of rapidly rising inflation.” He isn’t the first or last national leader to use toughness overseas to hide weakness at home.
He said, “If one were to be cynical one might think Johnson’s commitment towards Ukraine was a shameless effort distract attention from his longstanding relations with Russian business interests as well as his crumbling popularity at the time in the UK.”
“If it were romantic, one might believe that Johnson’s dedication to Ukraine was a reflection of a British love for the underdog, the brave hero standing up against the bigger bully.” Johnson is nothing short of a romantic who sees himself as the hero of an epic.
Support has been long-standing
Johnson is a champion for Ukraine. However, Britain’s commitment in helping it face Russia began before Johnson was elected to power. It was when Russia illegally annexed Crimea.
Operation Orbital, a UK military initiative launched in 2015, was designed to provide guidance and training to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The relationship was strengthened when the two countries signed a 15 year defense cooperation agreement. This agreement focused more on intelligence sharing and training.
However, the UK was reluctant in that moment to provide arms to Ukraine, as it feared supplies of lethal weapons could escalate the conflict, anger Russia, and make matters worse.
Late last year, however, things changed as Russian President Vladimir Putin began deploying troops at Ukraine’s border.
Johnson directed the UK to ship its first shipment of weapons, 2,000 anti-tank rockets, to Ukraine in January. Since then, a steady supply has been available in weapons and ammunition.
According to a British government statement, the UK has announced £2.3 billion ($2.77 billion) worth of military support for Ukraine since the outbreak of the war in late February — more than any other country except for the United States.
Johnson’s exit will likely end this type of support.
Johnson’s charisma, and the UK in turn, has made Johnson so popular with Ukrainians, even though he didn’t support many of Kyiv’s main demands. Like NATO, the UK did not impose a no flight zone over Ukraine. The UK also failed to support Ukrainian refugees and refused to waive visa requirements. However, the UK was not subject to the same criticism that Zelensky wasn’t afraid to voice at other European countries.
The material support will likely continue for the short term, but the long-term strategy may shift.
Kellner stated that Johnson, like Churchill, his hero, demanded Germany’s unconditional surrender during World War Two. He also argued against compromise and for a strategy of total victory over Russia.
He stated that Zelensky might not be pressing Britain’s new prime Minister as hard as Johnson did to press Johnson for a negotiated end of the fighting.
Kyiv will need a British prime Minister who is willing and able to spend money on helping other countries, especially as the British are facing a serious cost-of living crisis.