Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has changed Europe forever. That was the argument that Boris Johnson made on Friday when he held a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. One of the changes Johnson was keen to emphasise was that European leaders are united in their support of Ukraine and against Putin. This, he argued, was one of the ways in which the Russian President had failed: he had sought to create divisions in Europe, but had ‘demonstrably failed’. ‘The Europe we knew just six weeks ago no longer exists: Putin’s invasion strikes at the very foundations of the security of our continent,’ he said, adding: ‘Putin has steeled our resolve, sharpened our focus, and he has forced Europe to begin to rearm to guarantee our shared security.’
He congratulated Scholz on what he called the ‘seismic’ step of moving Germany away from Russian hydrocarbons. But there were still differences between the two leaders, despite his insistence that the pair had agreed on almost everything in their talks. For instance, Johnson claimed Germany would stop importing Russian gas by 2024, something Scholz did not repeat. Instead, Scholz explained that it would take longer to end Russian imports of gas than for coal but that he was ‘optimistic’ about getting ‘ride of the need of importing gas from Russia very soon’. The German Chancellor also said criticism of Emmanuel Macron for talking to Putin was ‘unjustified’, while Johnson said he didn’t think such negotiations were full of promise because the Russian President can’t be trusted.
But the commitments by Germany to change its energy market so that it doesn’t rely on Russian imports do back up Johnson’s central thesis about Europe fundamentally changing. The hope now is that Putin’s miscalculation will be felt not just from the huge troop losses, but also when countries like Germany turn their backs on the energy supplies they had come to rely on.
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