Boris Johnson has warned of the likelihood of ‘fatigue’ among Western countries over continued support for Ukraine, as he kicks off talks at the G7 summit in Germany, where he hopes to push for new sanctions against Russia.
Ahead of the first day of the annual gathering of political leaders, held amid ultra-tight security in the Bavarian countryside, Johnson also hailed a new international export ban on Russian gold.
Speaking to reporters at the summit, Johnson, who has pledged his support for Ukraine and its president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a defining feature of his tenure as prime minister, warned it would be difficult to maintain a united front in the longer term.
“In reality, there is going to be fatigue among people and politicians,” he warned, saying it was possible that the current near-unanimity of the response to Russia’s invasion could begin. to fracture.
“I think the pressure is there and the anxiety is there, we have to be honest about that,” Johnson said.
“But the most incredible thing about the way the West reacted to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was unity – NATO was strong, the G7 was strong and we continue to be. solid.
“But to protect that unity, for it to work, we need to have really, really honest discussions about the implications of what’s going on, the pressures that individual friends and partners are feeling, that people are feeling – whether it’s is about the costs of their energy or their food or whatever.
Following reports that Johnson hoped to host Zelenskiy in the UK, potentially for a state visit, if possible, he confirmed the general idea.
“I think Volodymyr Zelensky has done an absolutely amazing job leading his country and leading world opinion in a terrible time,” Johnson said in a pool interview with ITV News.
“If he ever becomes free to go and it makes sense for him to leave Ukraine, then obviously the UK would be only too honored to welcome him.
“But the most important thing is that we continue to be united here at the G7. And we are.
Johnson arrived at the talks from Rwanda, where he had attended a Commonwealth summit. He will then travel from Germany to Madrid for a gathering of NATO leaders, which will also be dominated by Ukraine.
Zelenskiy is expected to attend both summits virtually, with Downing Street saying Johnson will push for new sanctions and, at the NATO rally, more countries increase defense spending.
In what could be seen as a pointed omission, when asked just before a bilateral meeting with Emmanuel Macron on whether France and Germany were doing enough for Ukraine, Johnson mentioned only the German response.
“I never believed in my lifetime that I would see a German Chancellor step in like Olaf Scholz and send weapons to help Ukrainians protect themselves,” he said.
“He’s made huge progress. We have 4% of our gas coming from Russia; in Germany it’s 40%. They face real, real pressures, they have to source their energy elsewhere. But They do it. They make the effort. They make the sacrifice. It is because they see that the price of freedom is worth paying.
“It’s something we are worth fighting for together. And that is the principle that a sovereign, free and independent country like Ukraine should not be violently invaded and should not have its borders changed by force.
Johnson, who is spending nine days abroad for the three summits, amid renewed dissatisfaction with his leadership among Tory MPs in the UK, is due to have a meeting with Scholz later on Sunday.
In high-profile comments just before his departure from Rwanda, the Prime Minister sought to dismiss speculation that he could be replaced after two devastating partial election defeats for his party on Thursday by saying he hoped to serve a third term as Prime Minister and remain in power until the end of the 2030s.
Ahead of the start of the G7, a joint announcement by the UK, Canada, the US and Japan said new Russian gold exports would no longer be allowed into the countries.
A statement from Downing Street said Johnson would use the G7 to urge other leaders to follow suit and seek to isolate Russia from the international financial system.