Boris Johnson has urged the west to end its “addiction” to Russian fuel as he heads for Saudi Arabia in a push for increased oil output.
in an article for the Daily Telegraphthe UK prime minister said western leaders had made a “terrible mistake” by letting President Vladimir Putin “get away with” annexing Crimea in 2014 and becoming more dependent on Russian power sources.
Johnson is expected to travel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday evening despite an outcry over the regime’s execution of 81 men on Saturday. He will have talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the hope Saudi Arabia can raise its production of oil and gas to make up for a reduced reliance on Russia.
Johnson said the west’s reliance on Russian fuel had “emboldened” Putin to bomb civilians during his invasion of Ukraine, while at the same time profiting from soaring global oil and gas prices.
He said: “We cannot go on like this. The world cannot be subject to this continuous blackmail. As long as the west is economically dependent on Putin, he will do all he can to exploit that dependence. And that is why that dependence must – and will – now end.”
Last week, the UK government announced a plan to phase out imports of Russian oil by the end of the year.
Stating that Russia produced “virtually nothing else… [the] rest of the world wants to buy”, Johnson said: “If the world can end its dependence on Russian oil and gas, we can starve [Putin] of cash, destroy his strategy and cut him down to size.”
He said there was a need to press ahead with investment in renewables, including expanding the number of UK offshore wind farms and creating more solar power.
Johnson also said there needed to be a “series of big new bets” on nuclear power to make sure the UK’s energy supply was “no longer at the mercy of bullies like Putin”.
However, the prime minister warned the British public that diverging from Russian power would be “painful” and that the financial assistance offered by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to help pay with rising bills this year could not be afforded “for long”.
James Cleverly, a Foreign Office minister, said the UK continued to express opposition to the death penalty in its communications with Saudi Arabia.
Speaking on Sky News, he said: “The UK has a longstanding and principled opposition to the use of the death penalty. We will have communicated back to Saudi Arabia. I have no doubt we will do so in response to the executions that have been recently announced.”
Cleverly refused to be drawn on whether the government would lift a ban on fracking to increase gas supply. He said: “I get the importance of securing energy in the short term – that is an incredibly important point. But ultimately the really important thing for us to focus on is moving away from our addiction to hydrocarbons.
He added: “The situation in Ukraine presents a unique and terrible additional emphasis to us collectively to move away from our addiction on hydrocarbons. And it’s absolutely right we seek to do that because it’s the right thing to do for the environment and it denies Russia an incredibly important source of income that they rely upon to fund this war.”
Before his flight to Riyadh, Johnson was due to host leaders from the Joint Expeditionary Force, an alliance of northern European countries.
Representatives from Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway had been expected to dine with Johnson at his Checkers country retreat on Monday night before talks in London on Tuesday.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism