Interview with Boris Johnson: «No to a bad peace for Ukraine, the West does not give in to the fatigue of war. Putin must fail “

from Luigi Ippolito

The British Prime Minister: «The Ukrainians will not accept a frozen conflict in which the Tsar is able to continue to threaten further violence and aggression. We must go back to the borders before February 24th ». “We will always offer security support to Europe.” The economic crisis and the costs of Brexit? «We work better independently, we will return to the top of the growth chart in two or three years. And I’ll be the one to lead the party to victory in the next elections “

FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
LONDON – “Nice to meet you, Boris!”: Johnson introduces himself, a little disheveled as always, at the appointment in Downing Street for the interview with Courier (made together with the Spanish newspaper El Mundoin French Le Monde and to the German Suddeutsche Zeitung). The prime minister takes his place under the large portrait of Margaret Thatcherin what was once the private office of the Iron Lady, for a tour of the horizon on the eve of the G7 summits in Germany and NATO in Madrid. The focus is obviously the war in Ukraine And Johnson’s message to the allies is clear: now is not the time to stop.

Prime Minister, differences are emerging between Western allies regarding the ongoing conflict: are you afraid that there are European countries that are pushing for a too rapid negotiation solution?

There is the risk of a fatigue on Ukraine, c
‘is the risk that people fail to see that this is a vital battle for our values, for the world. Energy costs, the push of inflation, food prices are having an impact on the steadfastness of the people – but this is not impacting the steadfastness of the UK. We believe that we must help the Ukrainians gain strategic resilience: they must keep moving forward. But we can’t be more Ukrainian than Ukrainians, it’s their crisis, they have to decide what they want to do. But it is absolutely clear, if you go there and talk to the Ukrainians, with Zelensky, that they won’t give up territories in exchange for peace, they won’t make a bad deal. They do not want to be forced into a negotiation, they will not consent to a frozen conflict in which Putin is able to continue to threaten further violence and aggression. Ukrainian territory must be restored, at least in the borders before February 24, Ukraine’s sovereignty and security must be protected. And so yes, there is a tiredness, but it is something we must face, we must continue to plead the cause with our electorate and our populations. But I find that the unity of the West is far more evident than the divisions. The future of the world depends on maintaining a strong, robust stance on Ukraine: what we need to do is work together as Europeans to avoid what I believe would be a disaster, a bad peace in Ukraine, forcing Ukrainians to accept terms that should be anathema to Europeans.

You keep saying that Putin must fail: but what is the end point of this war?

When we say that Putin must fail we are not referring to events in Moscow or Russian politics: this is not my goal, we must be clear. What I mean is that we need to at least return to the status quo prior to February 24th – this is what I mean by failure. It means his forces are expelled from the areas of Ukraine they have invaded so far.

The question is: how does this happen?

At this moment, the conflict can go one way or the other. I think it is appropriate, in the coming months, to help the Ukrainians to change the dynamics of the situation: and this is what I will propose to the leaders of the G7 and NATO. This is not the time to maintain the status quo, this is the time to try and turn things around. As long as the Ukrainians are capable of mounting a counter-offensive, they should be supported, with the equipment they are asking of us.

The Pope said that Russia was provoked by NATO: do you agree or is the Pope fallible?

(Johnson bursts into a big laugh here.) Leaving aside the views of Holiness of him, which I will respectfully put in a corner, I think it has always been reasonable for NATO to have an open door policy. NATO is a peaceful alliance, it serves to protect, it is not an aggressive alliance. Places like Poland or the Baltics have long memories of attacks from both directions and I think they were entitled to seek solidarity.

French President Macron has proposed a European architecture in which Britain could fit into an outer circle. Would he agree, perhaps within a defense and security structure?

The UK’s role is to be in support of Europe and we will always continue to do so, we have been doing this for more than a century: we will always offer support regarding safety. We see our role as guarantors and supporters of Europe: we may no longer be in the architecture of the cathedral, in the Duomo, but we are a flying buttress, a beautiful extravagant piece of architecture, which supports from the outside. What we want to do is support European security and prosperity, we see it as an integral part of our security and prosperity.

Your choice to rewrite the post-Brexit agreements on Northern Ireland has created anger and irritation among the European allies, with the risk of shattering unity over Ukraine as well.

What I have noticed so far is how moderate the reactions have been everywhere. What we are trying to do is find a bureaucratic solution to bureaucratic problems: the general tone of the discussion so far has been very pragmatic, I think there is a way forward. The highest legal obligation for our country is peace and stability in Northern Ireland: at the moment, the two different traditions in Northern Ireland need to be kept in balance: what we are asking for are some fairly reasonable bureaucratic adjustments.

Speaking of Brexit, can it indicate even a single advantage, given that this year Britain will have the lowest growth among developed countries?
One of the reasons we had the strongest growth in the G7 last year and are going back to the fastest growth is because we had the fastest vaccination schedule. And this is because we were able to license our vaccine without going to the European Medicines Agency, which we had left. That’s why we were faster and we were the first country to inject people with an approved vaccine – it’s not something that hasn’t been noticed by the British public. We have also been able to attract investments by making use of our tax advantages, we have cut the VAT on solar panels, which we could not do before, we have cut the VAT on women’s healthcare products, we are able to move away from the European rules on protection data because we have a very different approach. We have been able to move away from the Common Agricultural Policy and support our farmers in different ways. We have concluded around 70 free trade agreements around the world.

Yet inflation is running towards 11 percent per year.

Well, we have a particular problem caused by our energy mix, but we also have a full labor market: there is excess demand in this economy. But if we look at the forecasts of the OECD and the Monetary Fund, we will return to the top of the growth chart in the next two or three years. And if you ask me why, I would like to remind you that thanks to some of the things we have done we have attracted more investments in technology than France, Germany and Israel combined. I remember economic crises in which there were millions of unemployed …

In fact, the newspapers write that it seems to have returned to the seventies …

I remember the crises of the 1980s and 1990s, they had millions of people out of work, we now have youth unemployment at its lowest ever – and that’s because we had the budget strength to support people the way we did. We want to have the friendliest relationship possible with our European friends, but we will continue to do things differently where we think it is reasonable..

Your policy of deporting immigrants who land in search of refuge to Rwanda has aroused much criticism: is it becoming illegal to seek asylum in Britain?

No, not at all. We have safe and legal routes for those who want to come here. And the UK welcomes huge numbers of people who come to this country because they fear for their lives. We took about 100,000 Chinese from Hong Kong, at least 15,000 Afghans, many thousands from Syria and we gave 120,000 visas for Ukrainians. Under my government, we have had more people fleeing to this country than at any time since 2015 – and I am proud of that. And we will continue to be a country that welcomes a huge number of people from abroad. London is by far the most diverse city in Europe, 40 per cent of Londoners are born abroad: in this respect, it is like New York and I am proud of it. And we will continue to welcome talent. But what we are trying to do is put an end to one particular problem, which is the trafficking of vulnerable people across the Channel in unreliable, life-threatening boats. I don’t think this is something a civilized country should let happen. We are trying to break the business model of human traffickers.

If the parliamentary inquiry into Partygate determines that you have misled Parliament, will you resign?

My plan is to lead the party to victory in the next election: you can assure your readers of this. I am very confident that we will win the next election.

June 22, 2022 (change June 22, 2022 | 20:01)

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Interview with Boris Johnson: «No to a bad peace for Ukraine, the West does not give in to the fatigue of war. Putin must fail ”


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