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Send for Agent BoJo! Boris Johnson sent to Texas to bolster Republican support for Ukraine – POLITICO

DALLAS — Britain may have fallen in love with Boris Johnson. But Ukraine’s allies in the United States believe the charismatic former prime minister is still the ideal messenger to bolster support for the war in wavering Republican hearts.

On Monday, pro-Ukrainian oil thinkers brought Johnson to a private lunch in Dallas, Texas, to meet with two dozen prominent conservative figures in the state, including politicians, donors and captains of industry.

The message Johnson was there to deliver was simple: America must stay the course in Ukraine.

“I urge you all to stick to it,” Johnson told people seated in the large, wood-paneled dining room in downtown Dallas, where POLITICO was also present. “It will pay off massively in the long run.”

The former British prime minister flew to Texas as a growing number of conservative lawmakers, candidates and activists began to question the scale of the US support package for Ukraine as it attempts to fight against the invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2022. .

War-related political tensions are expected to rise further ahead of the 2024 US election.

The two most prominent potential candidates for the Republican nomination – former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – have both expressed skepticism about the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine. Trump pledged to reach a “deal” to “end this war in one day”, while DeSantis rejected him as a “territorial dispute” that does not involve America’s “vital national interests – though later partially remote”.

But Johnson told Texan Republicans on Monday, “You’re supporting the right horse. Ukraine will win. They will defeat Putin.

This lunch was not the first time Johnson had lobbied US lawmakers on behalf of Ukraine. He visited Washington in January, where he publicly urged the US administration to donate fighter jets to Ukraine, and met privately with Republican lawmakers on the same trip.

Following that visit, the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) — a bipartisan, Ukraine-supporting, Washington-based think tank — decided to seek Johnson’s support for a broader mission.

The group wanted him to take his forceful, pro-conservative wartime record out of metropolitan DC and deep into Republican territory.

“We wanted to make this case outside of Washington – where we all live in a bubble – and really take it to the heart of the country, to places like Texas, to get more support for Ukraine and to make the case with people who are skeptical about this support,” said Alina Polyakova, CEO of CEPA.

“In many ways, Dallas and Texas are at the center of the Republican debate,” she added.

Texas will be a key battleground in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. Trump held his first presidential rally in the Lone Star State in March, while DeSantis and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley also courted the voting in Texas.

Johnson is “highly regarded as the architect of Western policy” on Ukraine, Polyakova said, adding that “because Trump had nice things to say about him when he was president” it also gives Johnson “a lot credibility as well. with the base of the Republican Party.

In addition to the private lunch with Republicans in Dallas on Monday, Johnson also met with former US President George W. Bush, who lives in the city with his wife Laura. Johnson is scheduled to meet Texas Governor Greg Abbott in Austin on Tuesday.

Unusually, the former UK prime minister, who raked in nearly £5m from speaking fees in the first six months after leaving office, was not paid for speaking on Monday at noon. However, he organized the trip to Dallas as a stopover en route to the SCALE Global Summit in Las Vegas, a fintech conference where he will be paid a six-figure sum for a scheduled speech.

man on a mission

Johnson has kept Ukraine at the top of his public agenda since being forced to resign as prime minister last July due to a series of personal scandals, including his attendance at anti-lockdown parties. COVID-19 at his home and office in Downing Street.

In office, Johnson had forged a strong personal bond with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and played a leading role in early Western efforts to arm Ukraine. His allies even floated the idea of ​​him becoming an official envoy to Ukraine after his abrupt exit from Downing Street, although the idea never materialized.

That didn’t stop Johnson from continuing his personal lobbying, however. He visited the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in January 2023 – although he is no longer a frontline politician – and continued to express his support on several occasions.

During Monday’s Dallas luncheon, Johnson insisted Western support for Ukraine need not be indefinite, telling those in attendance that he had “every hope that Ukrainians will be able to to provide a very substantial backlash this summer”, and that he believed there was “a prospect of a complete collapse of the Russian military.

And addressing concerns in Republican quarters that the United States should focus its attention on China rather than a ground war in Eastern Europe, Johnson said Putin’s victory would be “terrible in its ramifications for the Southeast Asia, for the South China Sea, for all areas of potential great power conflict in the coming decades.”

By contrast, he added, Western solidarity with Ukraine had already sent a clear message to China.

“From Beijing’s perspective, they’re looking at this and they think it’s significantly increased the strategic ambiguity and risk surrounding a venture against Taiwan,” Johnson said.

A businessman present pressed Johnson on corruption in Ukraine, which he said he had heard was “really bad again”.

But the former prime minister insisted the $50 billion spending package agreed by President Biden would prove “value for money”. The United States is getting a “huge, huge boost to global security for a relatively small outlay,” he said.

And Johnson being Johnson, he couldn’t resist a jab at his former rival Emmanuel Macron, which he reportedly privately called a “Putin spit”.

“I think it was my French friend and colleague Emmanuel Macron who said ‘Putin should not be humiliated,'” Johnson said over lunch, adopting a fake French accent to gently mock the president.

“I think it takes a lot to humiliate Vladimir Putin, frankly,” Johnson continued. “I don’t think it’s our job to worry about Vladimir Putin’s ego, his political prospects or his career development.”

It remains to be seen, however, whether Johnson retains the populist credentials to win over Trump’s most ardent supporters in the United States.

In an interview with Nigel Farage on GB News last month, Trump said that while Johnson was a “wonderful guy” and “a friend of mine”, he was disappointed in his tenure.

Johnson had gone “a bit on the liberal side,” Trump noted sadly. “Probably in a negative way.”

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