Saving Ukraine: Looking for a world leader to stand up

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The world has rallied behind the Churchillian figure of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for his bravery and resilience in the defense of his country. Zelenskyy in his speeches has thrown down the gauntlet to world leaders by telling them to stand up and do more to help.

“Slava Ukraini (glory to Ukraine),” was how Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson ended a video address to Ukrainians last week. His opening remarks were also in Ukrainian. Johnson speaks regularly to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and observers think he could be the world leader to shine in absence of strong U.S. leadership.  

Last week following the Russian attack on the Ukrainian nuclear station Johnson immediately called for a U.N. Security Council meeting on the attack, and Monday in London, Johnson seemed to be leading the way as he stood alongside the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte and Canada’s Justin Trudeau to rally international support for Ukraine.  

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During his press conference Johnson announced that so far, the U.K. had given around $500,000 of aid to Ukraine and said the moment had come for “Ukraine’s friends to create a coalition of humanitarian, economic and defensive military support to ensure that Putin fails.” 

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives to deliver an address on the attack by Russia on Ukraine

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives to deliver an address on the attack by Russia on Ukraine
(Jeff Mitchell /Pool Photo via AP)

Speaking as if he had taken it upon himself to lead a type of coalition of the willing, Johnson noted that Putin “has underestimated the unity of the West. And we will continue to strengthen that unity in the days ahead to ensure that Putin fails in this catastrophic invasion of Ukraine.” 

Johnson was part of a secure video call with President Biden and the leaders of France and Germany on Monday, during which they discussed the latest in the crisis, according to a readout from the White House, as well as underscoring their commitment to assist Ukraine. Observers worry that while the U.S. is playing a leading and pivotal role in the Ukraine crisis, there is still a perceived lack of leadership coming from the president. 

“Biden is not the leader of the free world right now, and for an American president to cede that role is career-threatening,” Alan Mendoza the executive director of the Henry Jackson Society in England told Fox News Digital. 

Mendoza believes Boris Johnson is one world leader who could be capable of filling the void on the world stage, even with an embarrassing scandal during the COVID crisis noting his impressive leadership skills. 

 “With the future of the free world in the balance, we clearly have bigger problems than debating the minutiae of coronavirus regulations. But I think the crisis also plays to his strengths as a communicator and a visionary — Boris has always been good about creating a clear message about an issue, creating the intellectual space for it in a public forum, and then working with others to provide the detail. It was the secret of his success as London mayor, and for the first time he has been able to transpose it to the world stage.” 

Clifford May, founder, and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD,) told Fox News Digital, “Johnson has been articulate as always. More substantively, he’s pushing for the expulsion of ‘every Russian bank from SWIFT.’ He’s recognized that Europe needs to ‘wean itself off’ Russian oil and gas. And he’s on the record opposing ‘creeping normalization’ of Putin’s aggression. All that is helpful.” 

Other world leaders who are getting some notice on the world stage include Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Bennett traveled to Moscow for a surprise visit with Putin over the weekend. Bennett was reportedly given the blessing by the U.S. for the meeting to try and mediate between the two sides.   

Israel has good relations with both Ukraine and Russia, and Bennett is seen as having good ties to Zelenskyy, whom he has been in constant contact with over the last few days. Bennett also flew to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz before going back to Israel, according to the Associated Press. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett
(Sputnik/Evgeny Biyatov/Kremlin via REUTERS)

Clifford May said Bennett needed to be applauded but that his task isn’t an easy one. 

“Bennett is doing his best to be an honest broker. The Israelis are in a tough position because Russian military forces are — literally, not figuratively — just across their northern border in Syria, a nation that has been ravaged thanks to Putin and of course his friends in Tehran. Will Bennett’s diplomatic efforts succeed? Highly doubtful but I give him an A for effort.” 

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is another name being touted as someone who has taken a stand on Russia having changed a years-old policy path on his country’s dealings with them. May told Fox News Digital, “The most dramatic transition we’ve seen is Germany. Olaf Scholz now appears to recognize that Putin is a threat to Germany and the European Union.” 

Yet while Scholz has changed his country’s post-war policy of not supplying lethal weapons to war zones by allowing weapons to be sent to Ukraine. The Associated Press reported that those included the shipment 1000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger surface-to air-missiles. 

Yet still an Achilles heel for the Germans and some others in the European Union is their dependency on Russian energy. Reuters reported that Scholz on Monday said in a statement that sanctioning the Russian energy sector was still not on the cards.  

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine
(AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

The FDD’s May concluded that Scholz “seems to understand, as his predecessor, Angela Merkel, never did, that close commercial ties with Russia would not be of mutual benefit. Scholz needs to do more — for example, he needs to persuade former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder to sever his lucrative links with Putin — but what we’ve seen over recent days is encouraging.” 

Yet while France tries to play a role in the crisis, especially on the humanitarian front, Alan Mendoza from the Henry Jackson Society says Macron has been an under-performer so far. 

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“Macron is playing domestic politics for his re-election and is being typically different to the rest of Europe in order to show his voters France still has a voice,” Mendoza said, adding that it’s working since nobody thinks he is any danger of losing the election that is set for this coming April. 



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