Blundering Boris Johnson has spent a decade struggling with whether or not he is actually Russian, likes Russia, or can even stomach a visit to Moscow. Even his views on RT threaten to cause a rift around the Johnson family dinner table.
The foreign secretary has swung from heaping praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin to condemning everything that comes out of the country. Confused? We sure are. Every move Boris makes is a political power play. But his comments on Russia range so widely from complementary to contradictory even he doesn’t seem sure what he makes of Moscow.
From Russia with love?
In a bid to win favor with those of us who did not attend Eton, Oxford, or move in elite social circles, bizarre Boris said in 2008 he was, well, a little bit Russian.
“I am the proud offspring of Turkish immigrants. I want you to know that my great-great-grandmother was a slave … She was a Circassian slave [from a region in southern Russia], and she was sold: my great-great-grandfather literally purchased her.”
Putin: House elf or hero?
“Despite looking a bit like Dobby the House Elf he (Putin) is a ruthless and manipulative tyrant,” Johnson wrote in his Telegraph column in 2015.
Comparing President Putin to a Harry Potter character was a bold move by Boris, whose morning jogs in Bermuda shorts are enough to leave even the strongest-stomached Londoners in urgent need of magic memory-erasing potion.
Yet months later, Johnson heaped praised on the Russian leader over the liberation of Palmyra in Syria.
“If Putin’s troops have helped winkle the maniacs from Palmyra, then – it pains me to admit – that is very much to the credit of the Russians. It is alas very hard to claim that the success of the Assad forces is a result of any particular British or indeed western policy.
“It has been Putin who with a ruthless clarity has come to the defence of his client, and helped to turn the tide. If reports are to be believed, the Russians have not only been engaged in airstrikes against Assad’s opponents, but have been seen on the ground as well.”
Can’t make your mind up, Boris?
“We deplore Russia’s continued defence of the Assad regime even after the chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians,” Johnson wrote in April.
“We call on Russia to do everything possible to bring about a political settlement in Syria and work with the rest of the international community to ensure that the shocking events of the last week are never repeated.”
After the US accused the Bashar Assad government of dropping chemical weapons on families in Syria, US President Donald Trump reacted with fury.
And Boris? Apparently awakened by the North Korean threat, Boris has decided to make the trip to his alleged ancestral home.
“Our relationship with Russia is not straightforward,” he declared last week.
“That is all the more reason to be talking to Russia – to manage our differences and cooperate where possible for the security of both our nations and the international community.”
The foreign secretary has lashed out at Jeremy Corbyn and Labour ministers for appearing on RT.
“If we study the output of Russia Today and consider the state of the press in Russia at present, we see that it is an absolute … scandal that Labour members should be continuing to validate and legitimate that kind of propaganda by going on those programs,” he told Parliament.
Clearly relations in the Johnson household are more akin to a Cold War than between Britain and Russia. Boris made the comments around a month after his own father spoke on the channel.
Boris has a colorful history in journalism, which began memorably with him being sacked for making up quotes.
What is it they say about glass houses, Boris?