In a recent op-ed for the Daily Mail, Boris Johnson argued that “all of us in the West” need to “double and treble our support” to Ukraine. More specifically, he called for the transfer of “longer-range artillery” and “hundreds of tanks”. “They need planes”, Boris noted, hinting that the West should supply those as well. His final message: “Let’s give the Ukrainians all they need to win now.”
Now, I don’t deny that Boris’s reinvention as an ultra-hawkish cheerleader for Ukraine has less to do with any deep-seated principles he might hold than with a desire to rescue his reputation after the Partygate scandal (and a career of gaffes, missteps and foolish decisions).
What’s more, my own stance on Ukraine hasn’t changed. I still believe we should be pressuring both sides to negotiate – not at some point in the future, but now. So why the title of this post?
Simple. Boris has taken the ‘we must arm Ukraine’ position to its logical conclusion: namely, that we must arm Ukraine enough to actually win.
As I noted in a previous article, it’s unclear that Ukraine can win decisively with our current level of assistance. General Zaluzhny has said he needs “300 tanks, 600-700 IFVs, 500 howitzers” to push Russia back to the lines of February 23rd. But so far, he hasn’t got anything close to that. And if we’re not going to give it to him, why prolong the war?
Enter Boris: ‘We should give Zaluzhny what he’s asked for’.
By contrast, the position of Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz seems to be roughly: ‘We should give Ukraine as much as the Americans, Brits and Poles bully us into giving. If this prolongs the war, so be it. But at least we won’t look “pro-Russian” on the international stage’.
It’s abundantly clear that this war is a major loss for France and Germany – the supposed ‘leaders’ of Europe. Yet Macron and Scholz don’t have the courage to act in their national interest – for example, by leading a broad coalition of countries in support of diplomacy. Instead, they’ve been cajoled and strong-armed into handing over increasingly advanced weapons, while hoping that war will just kind of work itself out.
How can you respect that? In addition to ignoring their own national interests, they’re also ignoring the interests of Ukrainians – whom they supposedly care about. By giving the country some assistance, but not enough to actually win, they’re just ensuring that more of them get killed.
Don’t get me wrong: I strongly disagree with Boris’s proposal, which among other things carries a dangerous risk of catastrophic escalation. But at least it’s coherent. The Macron-Scholz position makes no sense at all.