Boris Johnson has attacked the government over its policy on Ukraine, saying it should urgently provide more weaponry requested by Kyiv and asking the west: “What the hell are we waiting for?”
The former prime minister, who formed a close relationship with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy after the outbreak of the war with Russia, called on the UK to provide howitzers – an artillery weapon – Storm Shadow cruise missiles and “as much help as we can give them with drone technology”.
Writing for the Spectator magazine, which he used to edit, Johnson said it could be a “relatively trivial outlay for extraordinary potential reward” if western nations were to provide more military support. He called for a “far greater sense of urgency about our programme of military assistance”.
“I have asked it before and I ask it again: what the hell are we waiting for?” Johnson wrote.
He said Ukrainians did not want warm words but “weaponry to finish the job – and so I simply do not understand why we keep dragging our feet”.
“Why are we always so slow?” he said. “How can we look these men in the eye, and explain the delay? Throughout this war we have underestimated the Ukrainians and overestimated Putin, and we are doing the same today.”
Johnson directed his message not just at the UK but the US and other western nations, as well as global “swing voters” such as India.
“If Putin wins – and all he has to do, to claim a victory, is hang on to at least a chunk of the territory he has taken since 24 February 2022 – the dreadful message will go round the world: that this was the moment when the democracies pledged to stand up to the autocracies, and we flunked it,” he wrote. “The story of Ukraine will be of lion-hearted Ukrainian troops finally betrayed by western loss of nerve.”
No western country has provided any troops to Ukraine but the US has provided military assistance of more than $43bn (£34bn) since the start of the Biden administration.
The UK is the second largest donor, having committed £4.6bn in military assistance to Ukraine so far, including £2.3bn in 2022 and a commitment to match that funding in 2023. It is also involved in a programme of training 30,000 new and existing Ukrainian personnel by the end of the year.
Britain is providing long-range precision strike missiles, and has recently committed to training Ukrainian fast jet pilots, but has said that combat fighter aircraft will not be provided for the moment.
The UK’s new defence secretary, Grant Shapps, said on his appointment that he was looking forward to “continuing the UK’s support for Ukraine in their fight against Putin’s barbaric invasion”.
A government spokesman said:
“Under this prime minister’s leadership, the UK was the first to send long range air missiles to Ukraine and host an international conference which raised over $60bn towards Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction. We have also surged our support by sending main battle tanks.