U.K. Strikes Security Pact With Sweden And Finland
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday the U.K. reached deals with Sweden and Finland as Sweden and Finland race to find new means of protection following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including an expected decision on applying for NATO membership in the coming days.
The declarations will intensify intelligence sharing, accelerate joint military training and allow the U.K. to collaborate with the two countries and their armed forces, according to 10 Downing Street.
The U.K. will also increase military deployments to the two countries so that it can “support the two nations’ armed forces should either face crisis or come under attack.”
Johnson admitted during a press conference in Sweden there is a “separate conversation going on” about Sweden’s NATO membership, but he said the U.K. will “support whatever course of action Sweden decides to embark upon.”
Johnson also said that regardless of Sweden’s decision, if the country were attacked, “the U.K. would come to the assistance of Sweden with whatever Sweden requested” due to the new security agreement.
The prime minister signed the agreement with Sweden during his trip to Harpsund, and will sign the deal with Finland when he travels to Helsinki Wednesday afternoon.
Russia’s invasion into Ukraine has forced Finland and its neighbor, Sweden, to re-evaluate their longstanding military neutrality. Both countries held a joint press conference last month announcing that they are conducting security reviews, which could include applying for NATO membership. Finland, which declared independence from Russia in 1917, shares an 810-mile border with the country. Russia invaded Finland in 1939 and sparked a year-long war that ended with Finland ceding 11% of its territory to Russia. Sweden has pledged to avoid military alliances for over 200 years, though a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea could be a vulnerable target if conflict broke out in the region.
The deals between the U.K., Finland and Sweden come after the U.S. and Germany offered similar assurances of protection for the period between applying for NATO membership and gaining full membership, if the countries choose to join the alliance. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also said last month the two countries could expect some arrangements and protection from the alliance during the interim period, after Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said Russia is prepared to send nuclear weapons to the Baltics if the two countries join the alliance.
What To Watch For
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto is expected to announce the country’s stance on joining NATO on Thursday, Reuters reports, days after Finnish Parliament’s defense committee recommended applying for membership, saying it is the best option for security. Finland’s Foreign Minister indicated last month Sweden could make their decision within days of Finland’s announcement.
The prime minister’s office said the declarations will reinforce Finland and Sweden’s security in “the face of renewed threats.” “These are not a short term stop gap, but a long term commitment to bolster military ties and global stability, and fortify Europe’s defenses for generations to come,” Johnson said in a statement.