Daniel Williams, a Briton living in Ukraine, said Vladimir Putin and Russia may have a longer term goal than an imminent invasion.
21 February 2022
Boris Johnson and Joe Biden risk becoming the “boys who cried wolf” over their pronouncements of an impending Russian invasion, according to one Briton living in Ukraine.
Mr Johnson said on Sunday the region could be heading towards “the biggest war in Europe since 1945”, while Mr Biden said on Friday he was “convinced” Vladimir Putin was planning an invasion within the next few days.
But Daniel Williams, a business investor who lives in Kyiv, said such words were already beginning to ring hollow among locals.
Mr Williams, 45, told the PA news agency: “The people of Ukraine are increasingly annoyed, not to mention tired, of hearing extreme statements and invasion dates being thrown out in the Western press while nothing is being done in terms of giving support that is actually needed – to shore up the economy, to counter Soviet disinformation.
“Biden and the leaders run a real risk of being the boys who cried wolf now, and the mood of the nation is turning more and more here to disappointment with the West, I fear, which is truly dangerous on many levels.”
Mr Williams, originally from the Isle of Wight, described an ongoing “tug of war” in Ukraine between Russia and the West.
And he said that the destabilisation of the country will lead to a chance for Mr Putin to stoke anti-Western sentiment.
“Whether or not Russia invades, Russia has its eyes on Ukraine – and there’s two ways they can do it,” he said.
“They can engage in a bloody and expensive war that will cause great animosity and lead to resistance, but the longer term effect here is we’ve got elections coming up in Ukraine in 2024.
“There is a real danger that even if Putin doesn’t put his troops in, the economy is going to struggle. The ports are blockaded by Russian navy in the south, western investment isn’t coming into Ukraine right now.
“People are going to suffer and, in that disharmony and that chaos and economic turmoil, there is an opportunity for Russia.”
Mr Williams said the idea that Ukraine is united against Russia is “absolute BS” as many feel a stronger affiliation with their eastern neighbours than with the West.
And he believes countries like the UK, the US, France and Germany are not doing enough to win hearts and minds.
He said: “There is this narrative going on on social media of, ‘the West is talking tough and saying they support you, but their money’s run away, their embassies have run away, where’s the support from the West?’
“That will fester, and that will be pushed by the pro-Russian lobby here, which is huge, and it will cause long-term damage to Ukraine.”
Mr Williams said there was scepticism around proposed summit talks between Mr Putin and Mr Biden, saying: “Negotiations at the end of of a gun are never negotiations, they’re terms of surrender.”
He added: “I think there’s a slight sense here and again, I can’t disagree with it, that a summit would be better served with Russian soldiers sleeping soundly in their regular barracks rather than camped out in tents 10 minutes from the border.
“But maybe you take what you can get at this point.”