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UK signs security pact with Sweden, Finland

May 11, 2022

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK would "provide support" if the two Nordic nations were to be attacked. The agreement comes as Sweden and Finland are set to decide whether to join NATO.

Magdalena Andersson and Boris Johnson
The UK has said it will provide strategic support to SwedenImage: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday inked defense deals with Sweden and Finland that would see the UK send aid, including military support, in the event of an attack. 

The agreements will "fortify northern Europe's defenses, in the face of renewed threats,'' Johnson said in a statement, adding that they are symbols "of the everlasting assurance between our nations.''

The British government said that the new deals aim to intensify intelligence sharing and accelerate joint military training, exercises and deployments.

NATO decision expected soon 

The announcement comes as Sweden and neighboring Finland are expected in the coming days to decide whether to join NATO, as Russia's war in Ukraine has prompted both countries to rethink their security strategies. 

Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) land border with Russia.

During a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Helsinki, Johnson said NATO is a "defensive alliance" that "does not pose a threat to anyone." 

"It is there for the purposes of mutual defense," the British prime minister said.

Boris Johnson shaking hands with Finnish President Niinisto in Helsinki
Johnson met Finnish President Sauli Niinisto a day before Finland is expected to announce its decision on whether to join NATO Image: Frank Augstein/REUTERS

Johnson said the defense agreements were "a long-term commitment to bolster military ties and global stability.''

"And whether it's in the event of a disaster or a military attack, what we're saying today is that upon request from the other party, we would come to the other party's assistance,'' he told reporters at a joint press conference with his Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson, in Harpsund.  

Johnson did not specify whether the UK would send troops in the event of an attack, however.

Both Sweden and Finland are expected to apply for NATO membership.

However, processing the application could take up to a year, and both are seeking security assurances in the interim as Moscow staunchly opposes any expansion of the security alliance. 

Scholz: Germany would support Finland, Sweden joining NATO

Britain, the United States and Germany have pledged to support Sweden and Finland in whatever decision they reach. 

For decades, the two Nordic countries have pursued a policy of lower-level defense agreements, rather than taking the step of joining NATO. Both remained neutral during the Cold War.

The UK, Sweden and Finland are already part of the Joint Expeditionary Force, a multinational military group focused on security in the Nordic region, the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea.

However, Russia's invasion of Ukraine has changed the calculus in Stockholm and Helsinki that bilateral agreements are no substitute for Article 5 of NATO's charter, which states that an attack on one member state would be considered an attack on all.

Finland, Sweden mulling NATO membership

wmr/msh (AFP, Reuters)