This is no 'punishment' of the Russians, they had nothing coasting on it -- only Johnson
British foreign minister Boris Johnson has just canceled his visit to Russia scheduled for April 10. This is already being presented as a rebuke of the Russians and 'punishment' for their policies. Indeed, Johnson himself has blasted the Russians and explained his cancelation as protest against Moscow's "continued defense of Assad".
Except that when the planned trip was first announced it was presented as a visit during which Boris Johnson was going to read the riot act to the Russians. A Foreign Office source told the BBC:
“This is not a return to business as usual ... It does not ‘signal any shift in UK policy towards Russia’.”
“He is not going in order to reset the relationship... This is not about cosying up, in fact quite the opposite.”
If Boris was indeed going to stand firm in Moscow and do the opposite of cosying up then why cancel the trip at all? If anything, if the west is right about Assad's chemical weapons, the Russians now need a firmer talking to than ever.
Obviously, the spin given back when the trip was announced was laughable. So is the spin given now.
There has not been bilateral Russian-UK contact at foreign minister level for a very long time. A British Foreign Secretary has not traveled to Russia since 2012. Boris Johnson was going to break this streak. And crucially, it was Johnson who was meeting with the Russians — Lavrov was not coming to Britain.
Clearly it was Boris who was making the trip who was hoping to get something from the Russians. The Russians didn't have anything coasting on it. Even if he intended to restate UK's well-known positions on Syria and Ukraine while there, that could not have been the reason why he was making the trip.
And this is why he has now canceled the trip.
Because he knows that after he fell in line behind Trump's bombing of Syria there was no way he could still hope to get anything from the Russians.
In essence, by attacking Russia's ally Trump had ruined Johnson's planned meeting.
Of course Johnson could have avoided endorsing the US strike. Actually that might have been logical given that he publicly advised against it.
That however would have required courage. Something that Boris — who had the mandate to lead Conservatives after Brexit but mysteriously backed down — does not have.