Speaking to Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” hours after Russian missiles struck Kyiv and shattered the relative calm in the Ukrainian capital, Johnson urged Americans, Brits and others in the West to remain determined despite the impact To punish Moscow the war has led to global oil prices.
“All I would say to the people of the United States is that this is something that America has historically done and must do, and that is to stand up for peace, freedom and democracy,” Johnson said. “And if we let Putin get away with it and just annex sizable chunks of a free, independent, sovereign country, conquer what he is willing to do… the consequences for the world will be absolutely catastrophic.”
Johnson is set to join fellow G7 leaders this week in the Bavarian Alps for talks focused on the conflict in Ukraine, which has become a grueling conflict of attrition as it enters its fifth month.
Leaders are expected to discuss new methods of punishing Moscow, including a ban on new gold imports from Russia that US President Joe Biden announced on Sunday. But the summit depends on whether the West can maintain its resolve to punish Putin in the face of skyrocketing energy prices – and the political backlash the spike has caused for leaders at home.
Johnson, who has twice traveled to Kyiv to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said a Russian success in its invasion would set a dangerous precedent.
“You can see the consequences, the lessons that are being learned,” he said. “This is ultimately catastrophic, not only for democracy and the independence of the countries, but also for economic stability.”
The cost to Western nations of defending Ukraine — including billions of dollars in security aid provided by the United States — is “a price worth paying for democracy and freedom,” Johnson said.
The G7 summit has offered a sanctuary of sorts for Johnson, who is facing serious political headwinds back home in the UK. The aftermath of the ‘Partygate’ scandal – which saw Covid lockdown events taking place at Downing Street – continues to linger and questions about Johnson’s leadership have only intensified, despite saying he is interested in a third term.
Just last week, Johnson suffered a blow to his authority after his Conservative Party lost two parliamentary by-elections in a single night. But so far the prime minister has resisted calls for a change in his policy approach, recently stating he will not undergo a “psychological transformation”.
In Germany, Johnson tried to portray his troubles as a sign that democracy was working when Tapper questioned him about the cascade of criticism.
“I think the great thing about democracy is that leaders are scrutinized. And I have, you say, I got things working at home — that’s a good thing. I have people for my case, I have people to argue,” he said.
And he used Putin, who exists in a largely frictionless political environment, as an example of how leaders can wield power in anti-democratic systems.
“Do you really think that Vladimir Putin would have launched an invasion of another sovereign country if he had people to listen to, to argue properly, if he had a committee of backbenchers?” Johnson asked.
On American democracy, Johnson expressed similar optimism – despite the violent attempted coup on Jan. 6, 2021. He declined to blame former President Donald Trump, with whom he had a close relationship: “I will take you.” the Fifth on top of that,” he said, adding, “Basically, we shouldn’t talk about each other’s domestic politics. This is for the people of the US.”
Scenes of violent chaos in the US Capitol that day shocked Americans and the world. But Johnson insisted that the rupture did not mean the demise of American democracy.
“I think reports of the death of democracy in the United States are grossly, grossly exaggerated. America is a shining city on a hill to me and will continue to be,” he said, pointing to Biden’s efforts to unite the West as evidence of a system that still works.
“I think the mere fact that Joe Biden stepped up to the plate like that shows that America’s instincts are still very much in the right place,” he said.
Still, Johnson acknowledged that the violent uprising in the Capitol had alarmed observers overseas.
“There were some weird and kind of unattractive scenes,” he said.
“Strange?” Tapper asked. “People died.”
“I mean, from the outside, it was pretty weird,” Johnson said. “But I don’t think American democracy is seriously threatened. Not even close. I continue to believe America is the greatest global guarantor of democracy and freedom.”