The clownish figure of Boris Johnson comes with a trunk load of anti-Russia baggage as he arrived in Downing Street this week as new British prime minister.
The dour, hapless Theresa May has been replaced by a guy who seems to think that geopolitics is a circus conducted with custard pies to the face.
His past deplorable comments about the Skripal affair blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin for ordering an assassination plot in England last year, plus his outrageous denigration of Russia’s World Cup as comparable to Nazi Germany holding the Olympic Games in 1936, demonstrate that this politician is unfit for office. He can only make relations with Russia even worse.
Moreover, Johnson’s cringing sycophancy to US President Donald Trump adds a whole new disturbing risk of war with Iran.
Everything about this 55-year-old polemist, who made his journalistic career on the back of concocting sensationalist rubbish, speaks of someone who is unscrupulous and a self-serving egomaniac. Added to those “qualities” are his dense stupidity and insufferable arrogance characteristic of the pampered English upper-class.
The Eton-Oxford educated, toffee-nosed Johnson is a proponent of a “hard Brexit” from the European Union. In his acceptance speech this week, he declared that Britain would exit the EU this October with or without a follow-on trade deal with the European bloc. Johnson appears to suffer from delusions of Britain as somehow capable of restoring its presumed greatness as a free-trading nation, as in the days of empire over a century ago. He is prepared to walk away from the EU in a “hard Brexit” departure, meaning that the United Kingdom will be dependent on the Trump administration offering a new “free trade pact” with London. Johnson needs to ingratiate himself with the Trump White House in order to find a major trading partner in place of the EU after more than four decades of membership to the bloc. He shows every sign of being a pathetic Trump minion.
That inevitably means Johnson being beholden to Washington’s whims and demands, not just on trade matters, but on every other way of following and pandering to US foreign policy.
Already, the British have shown a reckless deference to Trump’s policy of aggression towards Iran in recent months. London is dispatching more warships to the Persian Gulf “to protect” British shipping through the strategic waterway. Such deployment of increased military forces by Britain, in lock-step with US escalation, is an incendiary move in a highly tense situation. It further exacerbates tensions and raises the stakes over a miscalculation, leading to a full-on military confrontation. Where wiser heads would be more restrained and seek diplomatic negotiations to resolve a potentially explosive stand-off, Boris Johnson seems too much of a lackey to Trump and his aggressive policy towards Iran.
Johnson is bombastic, arrogant and ill-informed – not unlike Trump – and that is a very dangerous combination.
With regard to Russia, the new British prime minister has previously displayed an appalling lack of knowledge on geopolitics, history and basic norms of diplomacy.
Recall that it was Johnson who as foreign secretary pushed the absurd narrative over the Skripal incident in Salisbury last year. Within days of the mysterious apparent poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in March 2018, Johnson was asserting – with no proof at all – that the Kremlin was responsible for an assassination attempt. He even laid the blame for the incident on Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordering the alleged plot.
It soon emerged that Johnson was mendaciously distorting “intelligence” seemingly implicating Russian state agents. That intemperate and reckless official British response to the incident – which more than a year later remains a bizarre, unexplained event – led to US and European expulsion of Russian diplomats and sanctions, and a further deterioration in Western relations with Moscow.
Johnson doubled down on his anti-Russia rants when days later in March 2018 he likened the then forthcoming World Cup held in Russia to the 1936 Olympic Games hosted by Nazi Germany. The British politician went on to compare President Putin to Adolf Hitler and urged the US and Europe to take more punitive actions against Moscow. He has made ridiculous, spurious historical analogies between Russia’s alleged “annexation of Crimea” and the Nazi invasion of the Czech Sudetenland in 1938, saying that if Europe “doesn’t stand up to Putin” it would be like the notorious appeasement policy of the 1930s towards the Third Reich leading to World War II.
In making such wild and historically illiterate statements, Johnson shows himself to be an ignorant buffoon. Ironically, he has pretensions of being something of a history scholar and a big fan of Winston Churchill.
Johnson is not just a clown. He is a very dangerous and erratic showman whose top objective seems to be self-aggrandizement. On one hand his dubious “election” as prime minister this week by a tiny minority Conservative party (less than 1 per cent of the British voting population) is a farce. Good luck with his fantasies of resurrecting British “imperial greatness”. Most Britons shudder at his new role, according to opinion polls.
On the other hand, his ascent to Downing Street marks the descent into British delusional madness. The prospects for international relations, tensions with Iran and Western animosity towards Russia are far from funny. It’s grim to think of a clown in charge of a nuclear power, whose guiding priority is being a Yes Man to Washington.