U.K. Takes a Hawkish Lead on Russia, but Will Europe Follow?

The risk for Britain, Mr Powell said, is that it is seen in other European capitals as merely “a running dog for Americans”. It’s convenient for the Biden administration, he said, because “they can always count on him to come out and say something even more extreme than them.”

Mr Johnson has forged a highly visible relationship with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, calling him virtually daily. During Mr Zelensky’s virtual tour of foreign parliaments, his first stop was the British House of Commons, where he singled out Mr Johnson to thank him for his support.

“Having someone on a limb is helpful because you can use that to shame other countries,” Mr Powell said.

For Mr Johnson, the war in Ukraine has completely overshadowed a web of political scandals in his country. He certainly showed a shrewd ability to seize the moment. Last week he recorded a video for the Russian people in which he tried to separate him from Mr Putin. “Your president is accused of committing war crimes,” he said in passable Russian. “But I can’t believe he’s acting on your behalf.”

On Friday, Britain imposed sanctions on two daughters of Mr Putin and a daughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov. They were the latest in what critics say is a long overdue effort to crack down on wealthy Russians, many of whom have poured ill-gotten gains into London property.

“Before the crisis, the UK’s stance was seen as hypocritical due to the failure to tackle the influx of Russian wealth into London,” said Malcolm Chalmers, deputy chief executive of the Royal United Services Institute, a group reflection. “But now he’s done things that people have been urging them to do for years.”

Mr Johnson also insisted on the need for Europe to reduce its dependence on Russian energy, an easier goal for Britain since it depends on it much less than its continental neighbors. On Wednesday, Britain announced it would stop buying Russian coal and oil by the end of 2022, and gas “as soon as possible thereafter”.