Boris Johnson and the Russian Invasion of Ukraine


Why was the Johnson administration so enthusiastic to support Ukraine following the Russian invasion of February 2022? Why did the UK provide more economic and weapons support for President Zelensky than any country except the United States?

After all, as Foreign Secretary in the May government, Johnson had tried a ‘reset’ of relations with Putin and his reaction to the Russian incursion onto Ukrainian territory in 2014 was in line with the EU and NATO consensus to play down the crisis and to impose only symbolic and trifling sanctions.

The 2018 Salisbury poisonings certainly led Johnson to reassess Putin’s motives and the nature of his regime and its hegemonic foreign policy. Johnson thus moved from regarding Putin as benign to malign. Some scholars claim that Johnson was influenced by his hero Winston Churchill and that he saw Putin’s aggression as equivalent to that of the Nazi regime in the 1930s. But does this claim stand up?

These and other important issues, including the bi-partisan support of Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer, will be addressed in this talk.

This lecture is part of the 'Controversies in UK Foreign Policy: Diplomacy or Military Force?' lecture series, taking place on Fridays from 20 October to 24 November 2023. You may either register for individual lectures or you may choose to register for the entire lecture series at a reduced price.

Please note: this lecture will close to enrolments at 23:59 UTC on 21 November 2023.

Programme details

2–3.15pm GMT (UTC)

For those attending in person at Rewley House, registration takes place from 1.45pm. The lecture will last approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, followed by questions. Tea and coffee are provided in the Common Room after each lecture, from 3.15pm.

For those joining us online, please join in good time before each lecture to ensure that you have no connection problems. We recommend joining 10-15 minutes before the start time.


Description Costs
Course Fee - in-person attendance (includes tea/coffee) £30.00
Course Fee - virtual attendance £25.00


Dr Martin Holmes

Dr Martin Holmes is a member of the Senior Common Room at St Hugh’s College, where he was previously Lecturer in Politics for over 20 years. Additionally, he has been Director of the annual Nebraska at Oxford summer program since 1989. For the OUDCE he has taught several syllabi on the Foundations of Diplomacy course over the past decade, as well as guest lectures for the Diplomatic Studies Program. A strong supporter of lifelong education, he has also been a regular lecturer for the University of the Third Age (U3A). A specialist in International Relations and European Integration, he is the author of seven books. His latest publication, a diplomatic history of 20th century Europe, was published by Routledge in August: From the Treaty of Versailles to the Treaty of Maastricht: Conflict, carnage and cooperation in Europe 1918 – 93.


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.

IT requirements

For those joining us online

We will be using Zoom for the livestreaming of this course. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Zoom interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.