In the lead-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Boris Johnson claimed that Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile attack during an “extraordinary” phone call.
It “would just take a minute,” according to the then-prime minister, who quoted Mr. Putin.
During a “very long” chat in February 2022, Mr. Johnson reportedly said the comment was made after he warned the war would be an “absolute catastrophe.” A BBC documentary analyzing Mr. Putin’s interactions with international leaders discloses specifics of the encounter.
Invading Ukraine would result in Western sanctions and more NATO troops stationed on Russia’s borders, Mr. Johnson told Mr. Putin. By warning Mr. Putin that Ukraine will not join Nato “for the foreseeable future,” he further attempted to prevent Russian military action.
However, according to Mr. Johnson, “He once threatened me and said, ‘Boris, I don’t want to hurt you but, with a missile, it would only take a minute,’ or something along those lines. Jolly.
However, he appeared to be going along with my attempts to persuade him to negotiate based on his extremely laid-back demeanor and impression of detachment, in my opinion.
During the “most remarkable call,” President Putin had been “quite familiar,” according to Mr. Johnson. It’s impossible to determine whether Mr. Putin’s threat was real.
However, given prior Russian assaults on the UK, most recently in Salisbury in 2018, any threat from the Russian leader is likely one that Mr. Johnson would have had to take seriously, regardless of how lightly delivered.
Ben Wallace, the defense secretary, traveled to Moscow to meet with Sergei Shoigu on February 11, nine days later.
Mr. Wallace was given guarantees that Russia wouldn’t invade Ukraine, according to the BBC documentary Putin Vs the West, but he claimed both sides were aware that this was a deception.
“I’m going to lie to you, you know I’m lying, and I know you know I’m lying, but I’m still going to lie to you,” he said, describing it as a “demonstration of bullying or strength.”
Mr. Wallace remarked, “I think it was about declaring ‘I’m powerful.
The “pretty terrifying, but direct falsehood,” he claimed, had strengthened his conviction that Russia would invade. Gen Valery Gerasimov, the head of the Russian general staff, reportedly promised him as he left the conference that “never again would we be humiliated.”
Less than a month later, on February 24, as tanks poured across the border, Mr. Johnson received a late-night call from President Zelensky. According to Mr. Johnson, Zelensky is “very, extremely calm.” However, he informs me that they are attacking everywhere.
Johnson claims to have offered to assist in getting the president to safety.
“He declines my invitation to take him up on it. He bravely remained where he was.”