The UK has pledged to help Sweden and Finland in the event of an attack, as it seeks to provide security guarantees to the two countries to ease their path to NATO membership in the face of a possible threat. of Russia.
As Stockholm and Helsinki prepare to submit bids to join the Western defense alliance this week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed a security deal with his Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson on Wednesday. He would later sign a similar deal with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.
Johnson called the statement a ‘statement of the obvious’, adding to the Swedish Prime Minister’s country residence: ‘It is worth pointing out, if Sweden were attacked and looked to us for help and support, we would provide it”.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, another non-NATO European country, Finland and Sweden quickly prepared the ground to apply for NATO membership.
Niinistö and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin will outline their positions on Thursday, and ruling parties in both countries will give their views over the weekend ahead of formal NATO bids expected next week.
Both countries were keen to receive security guarantees to cover the period between NATO candidacy and full membership, covered by the alliance’s Article 5 on collective defence. Russia threatened “serious military and political consequences” if either country joined the military bloc.
“President Putin thought he could cause division, but he succeeded in the opposite. We are here more united than ever,” Andersson told a press conference in Stockholm on Wednesday. She added that it would help Sweden to apply or not to join NATO: “Are we safer with this declaration? Yes. Of course, that means something.
Any assistance, which could include military resources, would depend on a request from the country under attack, Andersson stressed. The support would cover conventional, hybrid and cyber threats, the two governments said.
The UK will also step up intelligence sharing and joint military training, exercises and deployments with Sweden and Finland in what it called “a step change in defense and security cooperation”.
Finland and Sweden are awaiting public statements of support from NATO and its major member states, including the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as less visible security commitments to deter any Russian attack after a bid. Neither country perceives an imminent threat, but their intelligence services have said they expect Russian mischief in terms of cyberattacks or hybrid attacks.
Johnson offered to increase deployments of army, air force and navy resources and personnel to Sweden and Finland as part of the cooperation.
Diplomats also highlighted the possible role of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force, which is made up of 10 countries, including Sweden and Finland, and is designed to respond quickly to threats in the region, especially those that would not meet the threshold of Article 5 of NATO, which states that an attack on one member state is an attack on all.