France was "in denial" about the prospect of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told CNN. He also accused the German government of initially preferring a quick Ukrainian military defeat to a protracted conflict.
Johnson revealed that attitudes among Western nations differed significantly before Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
"This thing was a huge shock ... we could see the Russian battalion tactical groups coming together, but different countries had very different points of view," Johnson said.
"The German view at one stage was that if this happened, which would be a disaster, then it would be better if the whole thing were over quickly and Ukraine collapsed," Johnson said. He said that behind the German position were "all kinds of reasonable economic justifications".
"I couldn't support that, I thought it was a catastrophic way to look at things. But I can understand why they thought and felt that way," Johnson added.
"Make no doubt that the French were in denial until the last moment," Johnson added.
French President Emmanuel Macron took the lead in Europe's efforts to dissuade Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine. He even visited him in the Kremlin just a few weeks before the Russian president ordered his troops to invade the country.
In March, the head of French military intelligence, General Eric Vidaud, was ordered to step down from his post for "failing to foresee" the Russian invasion of Ukraine, CNN reported, citing a French military source.
Johnson also criticized Italy's initial response to the threat of invasion. At the time, the government led by Mario Draghi "at one stage simply said that they would not be able to support the position that we are taking" given their "enormous" dependence on Russian hydrocarbons, Johnson said.
Johnson said attitudes in Europe quickly changed when Russia invaded Ukraine.
"What happened was that everyone - Germans, French, Italians, everyone, Joe Biden - saw that there was simply no other choice. Because you couldn't negotiate with this guy (Putin). That's the key moment." said Boris Johnson.
Johnson said Zelensky had been "outstanding" in his leadership. "He's a very brave man. I think the history of this conflict would have been completely, completely different if he hadn't been there."
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