Russian-Ukrainian War News: Live Updates

LONDON — When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to 10 Downing Street on Friday, the two men work...


LONDON — When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to 10 Downing Street on Friday, the two men worked hard to avoid echoes of Margaret Thatcher’s famous admonition to President George HW Bush three decades ago: “Now is not the time to go wavering.

Mrs Thatcher urged Mr Bush not to relax the pressure on Iraq after his invasion of Kuwait. Mr Johnson is urging Germany not to relax the pressure on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. But the prime minister was also determined to project unity, and whether he was as persuasive with Mr. Scholz privately as his hawkish predecessor was with Mr. Bush in 1990 is still unclear.

Speaking after their meeting, Mr Johnson said Germany was committed to weaning itself off Russian energy, even though the European Union has rejected British calls for a clear timetable to phase out gas imports Russian. President Vladimir V. Putin, he said, was betting he could divide European allies on this issue, but he had failed.

“It’s not easy for any of us, and I applaud the seismic decisions taken by Olaf’s government to steer Germany away from Russian hydrocarbons,” Mr Johnson said. “We cannot transform our respective energy systems overnight, but we also know that Putin’s war will not end overnight.”

Britain, under Mr Johnson, has played the most aggressive role of any major European power in supporting Ukraine and condemning Russia. Yet its influence on Germany and France is questionable, given that Britain, having left the European Union, no longer has a seat at the Brussels table.

“We are doing everything we can, and we are doing a lot,” Scholz said of Germany’s efforts to reduce its dependence on Russia. But he warned it would take massive investment to set up the infrastructure to import gas from other countries.

Credit…Pool photo by Neil Hall/EPA, via Shutterstock

For Mr. Scholz, the economic and political costs of the Russian gas cut outweigh anything Mr. Johnson can tell him.

After making the historic pledge to increase Germany’s military spending soon after taking office, critics say, Mr. Scholz began to feel the brunt of his country’s geopolitical role in Europe. It has fueled fears that he will end up allowing Mr Putin to continue doing business with Russia, just as critics now say his predecessor, Angela Merkel, did.

“There is a leadership vacuum in Europe, and Germany should be the country that fills this void,” said Norbert Röttgen, a Christian Democrat who chaired the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee until 2021. “But instead of leading, we are too slow, too late, and doing too little to put maximum pressure on Russia.

Mr Johnson, however, avoided criticism over Mr Scholz’s visit to London, his first as chancellor. To the extent that he showed the light of day with a European leader, it was with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has come under scrutiny for continuing to talk to Mr Putin since the start of the war. Mr Johnson has not spoken to him since Russian troops crossed the Ukrainian border.

“Negotiating with Putin doesn’t seem very promising to me,” he said. “That’s not to say that I don’t admire the efforts of those trying to find a way, but I for one am very skeptical and even cynical.”

Mr Johnson has made Britain one of Ukraine’s top arms suppliers. On Friday, he announced new deliveries of an anti-aircraft missile system, known as the Starstreak, and 800 anti-tank missiles. Defense Minister Ben Wallace said Britain would also supply Ukraine with armored vehicles. Last week he convened a conference of donors from more than 35 countries to pledge arms.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Before leaving the European Union, Britain often acted as a bridge between the United States and Europe, using its close ties with Washington to defend American positions vis-à-vis France and the United States. Germany. It had mixed results even before Brexit, and it seems even less plausible now.

“Britain is very unlikely to be able to play a bridging role, as it has tried to outflank even Poland by being hard on Russia,” said Jonathan Powell, who served as Prime Minister Tony’s chief of staff. Blair during the last war in Iraq. “Boris Johnson sees himself as the vanguard rather than a bridge.”

The risk for Britain, Mr Powell said, is that it is seen in other European capitals as merely “a running dog for Americans”. It’s convenient for the Biden administration, he said, because “they can always count on him to come out and say something even more extreme than them.”

Mr Johnson has forged a highly visible relationship with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, calling him virtually daily. During Mr Zelensky’s virtual tour of foreign parliaments, his first stop was the British House of Commons, where he singled out Mr Johnson to thank him for his support.

“Having someone on a limb is helpful because you can use that to shame other countries,” Mr Powell said.

For Mr Johnson, the war in Ukraine has completely overshadowed a web of political scandals in his country. He certainly showed a shrewd ability to seize the moment. Last week he recorded a video for the Russian people in which he tried to separate him from Mr Putin. “Your president is accused of committing war crimes,” he said in passable Russian. “But I can’t believe he’s acting on your behalf.”

On Friday, Britain imposed sanctions on two daughters of Mr Putin and a daughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov. They were the latest in what critics say is a long overdue effort to crack down on wealthy Russians, many of whom have poured ill-gotten gains into London property.

“Before the crisis, the UK’s stance was seen as hypocritical due to the failure to tackle the influx of Russian wealth into London,” said Malcolm Chalmers, deputy chief executive of the Royal United Services Institute, a group reflection. “But now he’s done things that people have been urging them to do for years.”

Mr Johnson also insisted on the need for Europe to reduce its dependence on Russian energy, an easier goal for Britain since it depends on it much less than its continental neighbors. On Wednesday, Britain announced it would stop buying Russian coal and oil by the end of 2022, and gas “as soon as possible thereafter”.

“He is right to be a standard bearer on the energy issue, even if it is easier for us to do so,” said Kim Darroch, former British ambassador to the United States. “Europeans will say, ‘What are you doing in Londongrad?’ he said, referring to the flow of suspicious Russian money. “And the answer is, ‘Not enough yet.'”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Russian-Ukrainian War News: Live Updates
Russian-Ukrainian War News: Live Updates
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