Boris Johnson has said China will be making an “historic mistake” if it supplies Russia with weapons – as he urged the UK to “break the ice” by becoming the first country to supply Ukraine with fighter jets.
Speaking to Sky News’ Mark Austin as the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion approaches, the former prime minister said he was “very concerned” to see China’s top diplomat meet President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday.
Asked about the possibility of Beijing supporting Russia’s war effort with weapons, Mr Johnson said: “I think it would be an historic mistake by the Chinese.
“Why does China want to be contaminated by association with Putin, who has revealed himself to be this gangster and adventurer? I think it would be a big, big mistake by China.
“But what it shows is the urgency of us giving the Ukrainians what they need to succeed this year and to make sure that 2023 is their victory.”
Mr Johnson, who was prime minister when Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, spoke after Sky News exclusively reported that the Treasury has signalled there is no new money for defence despite recognising the urgent need to rearm in the wake of the war.
As things stand, the British army would run out of ammunition within a few days if called upon to fight and would take up to 10 years to field a modern warfighting division of some 25,000 to 30,000 troops.
Asked whether the UK defence industry should be put on a “war footing” in light of its low stocks of ammunitions, Mr Johnson replied: “I certainly think we need to be making sure that we equip ourselves with what we need.
“But if you look at the UK’s own defences and how to make sure that our own country is protected and the entire Euro-Atlantic security area is protected, then the best thing you can do, the most economical thing you can do is to make sure that Putin fails in Ukraine and that the Ukrainians win.”
Mr Johnson added: “What I’m saying is that we should continue to supply the munitions that we can. We need to make more munitions.”
Johnson: Ukraine can use jets to recapture territory
The former prime minister was speaking as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urges Western powers to supply his country with fighter jets to support their war effort.
However, there are fears among Western leaders that Ukraine would use the aircraft to strike targets inside Russia.
Mr Johnson appeared confident that Ukrainians would only use them to defend their country and encouraged the government to supply some of the UK military’s Typhoon jets.
“What the Ukrainians want is F-16s. As it happens, we don’t have F-16s but we do have Typhoons. I think there’s an argument for the UK breaking the ice and giving them some Typhoons. If it’s a question of training people up to use those machines – we can do that.”
Mr Johnson added he has “no doubt” Ukraine can recapture territory from Russia if it has fighter jets to take out their artillery positions and command and control centres.