Boris Johnson says Russia has plans for ‘biggest war in Europe since 1945’


Russia plans to launch the biggest war in Europe since 1945 by attacking Ukraine in a “bloody and protracted conflict”, Boris Johnson has warned as he vowed to use “all the pressure we can bring” to “make sure that this this venture does not succeed”.

The UK prime minister vowed that Nato would not be “pushed back” to appease Moscow and stressed that Vladimir Putin was “totally wrong” to think that provocations designed to curtail the Western alliance’s influence would succeed.

In a direct attack on the Russian president, Johnson said Putin may be “thinking illogically” and could not seem to “see the disaster ahead”. He implored the Kremlin to “pull back and engage in serious diplomatic conversation”.

Meanwhile, a Foreign Office minister said an invasion by the more than 100,000 Russian forces stationed on the border with Ukraine “seems far more likely than unlikely”.

Western leaders were gathered on Saturday in Germany for the Munich Conference to discuss continuing efforts to avoid war breaking out in eastern Europe and the huge repercussions for neighbouring countries and the wider region.

In an interview with the BBC after his speech at the conference, which was aired on Sunday morning, Johnson said Russia’s plan was to launch “the biggest war in Europe since 1945” with an invasion of Ukraine through the eastern region of Donbas and from Belarus in the north, with soldiers encircling the capital of Kyiv.

“I think people need to understand the sheer cost in human life that that could entail – not just for Ukrainians, but also for Russians and for young Russians,” the prime minister said.

“What we don’t want to see is a violent invasion that would take away one of the most important gains of my lifetime, which was the creation of a Europe whole and free.”

Johnson admitted that Putin had “got everybody fixated” by the fear of war, but denied the Russian president had already won by bringing into question whether Ukraine could ever join Nato.

“What matters is the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine and ultimately, that is still for Ukrainians to determine,” Johnson said.

He said “there’s one person who knows what’s going happen”, which was Putin – but if Russia “temporarily succeeds” in launching a lightning war that leads to the capture of Ukraine, western countries would hit back hard.

“People will draw the false conclusion that might is right and that aggression pays, and so what we’ve got to ensure is that it doesn’t pay off, and even if a lightning war is initially successful, that over time, through our economic might, through all the pressure we can bring, we make sure that this this venture does not succeed.”

Johnson said he believed Putin was anxious about the encroachment of Nato since the end of the cold war as the old Soviet Union dissipated.

He said: “I think what he wants to see is Nato pushed back, and he’s going to see the exact opposite. What we’re doing is putting more UK forces into Estonia, more into Poland, more in the skies above Romania. And if he thinks he’s going to get less Nato as a result of this. he’s totally wrong, he’s going to get more Nato.”

Earlier, the Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said he believed US intelligence that 5 million people could become refugees if Russia invaded Ukraine.

He told Times Radio “it won’t just be the people of Ukraine” but people in other eastern European countries were “watching about what’s going on here”.

Labour said it stood “four-square” behind the UK government and Nato. Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, told Sky News: “There should be no doubt on the resolve of the UK, on a cross-party basis, and the resolve of Nato across the alliance.”

However, he urged ministers to take a tougher approach to the City of London being used as a “centre” for “Russian kleptocrats and money laundering”.

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Olivia Wilson
By Olivia Wilson


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