Ukraine War: Boris Johnson's successor must stand up to Vladimir Putin and continue his strong support for Kyiv – Scotsman comment

Boris Johnson is a flawed individual whose lack of honesty means he cannot remain as Prime Minister. However, on one issue his policy was correct: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Boris Johnson meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv in February before the Russian invasion later that month (Picture: Peter Nicholls/pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv in February before the Russian invasion later that month (Picture: Peter Nicholls/pool/Getty Images)

Unlike fellow populist Donald Trump, Johnson appears to have been in no doubt about the need to stand up to Vladimir Putin.

While the UK cannot intervene militarily, there is a moral obligation to support the defence of Ukraine and also a strategic imperative.

It is a moral duty because the free people of a democracy cannot be allowed to fall under the control of a brutal tyrant who slaughters civilians and soldiers alike, while poisoning his political opponents at home.

It is strategically necessary because victory would embolden him, possibly to the point where he is prepared to invade the Baltic states, despite their Nato membership, risking a Third World War. Any Putin victory would also encourage other dictators to be similarly aggressive.

Allow that, and the world could experience a new age of war and a decline in the number of democracies.

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All of the candidates to replace Johnson have mostly said the right things about Ukraine, but the debate has been focussed on taxation, the cost-of-living crisis and culture war issues. These are important and, if the candidates are agreed on Ukraine, there may be less to talk about.

However, they must not allow domestic issues to undermine their commitment to Ukraine. This war is, as has been noted many times, the frontline of the defence of global freedom.

Cynics may say Johnson’s interest in Ukraine stemmed from the need to divert attention from his lies during the Partygate affair, but his true motivation is a matter for him and his conscience. What matters is that he moved quickly to supply weapons to Ukraine which made a real difference on the battlefield.

The UK is beset by many troubles. But, however bad things get, we still need to realise that, although our troops are not actually fighting, we are in this war, whether we like it or not. We should not try to defy the reality of our situation.

Defeating Putin may take years and come at a considerable cost, but it will be as nothing compared to the cost in lives being paid by the Ukrainian people. Their cause is our cause.

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