“What I’ve really changed my mind on was whether it is possible to reset with Russia,” the prime minister told the British Spectator magazine in an item published on December 23.
“I really thought, as I think many foreign secretaries and prime ministers have thought before, that we could start again with Russia. That it’s a great country we fought with against fascism,” he answered after being asked by the magazine “When have you changed your mind” about something.
“It was very, very disappointing that I was wrong,” said Johnson, who was Britain’s foreign secretary from 2016 to 2018 and assumed the premiership in July 2019.
The comments come after Johnson on December 21 said during a visit to Estonia that he hoped to improve relations with Russia but that the two nations had “terrible problems” separating them.
Johnson made those remarks in an interview with Estonia’s ERR news while he was visiting the 850 British soldiers serving in the Baltic country to counter what the West sees as aggression by Russia following its seizure and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine battling the central government’s forces.
In the ERR interview, Johnson said that “I am like many people in Western Europe who always hope that we can have better relations with Russia. Always we hope.”
“We want to have better commercial relations, we want to have more trade, but it is always so disappointing because we have terrible problems,” he added.
Johnson cited the incident in the English city of Salisbury in which former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious on a park bench on March 4, 2018.
It was later discovered they had been exposed to Novichok, a Soviet-made military nerve agent, and Britain and the West blamed Moscow for the attack. Russia denied involvement.
The Skripals both recovered, but two other British citizens were exposed to the nerve agent in June 2018, apparently by accident; one of them, Dawn Sturgess, died.