British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that new military security agreements are in place with Sweden and Finland to enhance their security should the two countries come under attack from another country.
This news comes after both Sweden and Finland have expressed extreme interest in joining NATO following heightened tensions with Russia due to their invasion of Ukraine. It also comes after United Kingdom’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace expressed their country’s willingness to provide aid to Finland and Sweden.
“Do I think if Finland didn’t join NATO, Britain wouldn’t come along to help? No. Britain will always be here in the Nordics, to be part of you, to help you, to support you,” Wallace said.
As Johnson signed these new military security agreements, the British Government said it was a “step-change in defense and security cooperation.”
“What it says is that in the event of a disaster, or in the event of an attack on either of us, then we will come to each other’s assistance, including with military assistance,” Johnson explained during a news conference held in Helsinki.
"This is not a short term stop-gap… this is an enduring assurance between two nations"
UK PM Boris Johnson says Russia invading Ukraine has "rewritten our reality" in Europe and pledges UK support for Finland as the country debates Nato membershiphttps://t.co/9WNhhhTmHJ pic.twitter.com/9NLYwk79ps
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) May 11, 2022
He is correct in saying that it is a “step-change” and perhaps more than as Sweden and Finland have been neutral countries for the longest time. However, their stances have clearly changed ever since the Russians invaded Ukraine and expressed explicit threats toward the two countries.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, when asked if Finland is provoking Russia by joining NATO, says that Russian President Vladimir Putin caused his country to join due to their aggressive rhetoric. “My response would be that you caused this. Look at the mirror,” Niinisto said.
“The war in Ukraine is forcing us all to make difficult decisions. But sovereign nations must be free to make those decisions without fear or influence or threat of retaliation,” Johnson stated.
This sentiment from the British Prime Minister comes amid threats of retaliation from Russia when both Sweden and Finland finally begin the process of joining NATO officially, which has been predicted to start within this week.
SOFREP has previously reported on this matter. Finnish publication Iltalehti claimed that they gained information from government insiders that Finland would begin the membership process on May 12th, while Sweden may shortly follow in the footsteps of Finland as Stockholm needs to review its security policy. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has stated that the decision to join NATO would be “quite fast” and that it would be made within “weeks and not months.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has stated that both Finland and Sweden were practically already “a member without being a member,” and both the countries could easily join if they wanted to.
The United Kingdom signed this new security agreement with the two countries as there is a gap between applying for membership, satisfying requirements, and officially becoming a member. This process typically takes up to a year, which means that Russia may attack the two countries during this gap as they are technically not part of NATO yet. This does seem implausible at the moment as they currently have their hands full with their liberation of the Donbas region in Ukraine, which has seen slow advances and morale challenges.
This being said, the military pact is reportedly flexible for all countries, and the nature of the military assistance would “depend on the request of the other party.” Johnson would then reiterate that NATO was not an aggressive alliance but a purely defensive one as they are not inclined to attack if they are not attacked first.
“NATO poses no threat to anyone. It is there for the purposes of mutual defense,” he explained.
With the military pact now in place, a caveat and a weak point in Finland and Sweden’s application to NATO is addressed. If Russia does decide to attack any of the two countries, the United Kingdom can assist them. If Russia attacks the United Kingdom, then NATO can now defend itself by invoking Article 5. However, Johnson expressed that the security pact was not simply a “stop-gap” and would last even if the two countries did not join NATO.
The signing of new security declarations with Sweden and Finland is a symbol of the everlasting assurance between our nations.
They are a long term assurance to bolster military ties and global stability, and fortify Europe’s defences for generations to come.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) May 11, 2022
Johnson also admitted that there were separate talks with Sweden and their membership application to NATO, as it is known that Sweden was the more hesitant of the two. However, the British Prime Minister stated that the UK was ready to support Sweden regardless of what it would do next.
Regardless of Sweden’s membership in NATO, Johnson promised that “the U.K. would come to the assistance of Sweden with whatever Sweden requested,” signaling a more united Europe amidst a Russian threat.
After Johnson and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s meeting in Stockholm, she was asked whether the pact was beneficial to her country.
“Are we safer with this declaration? Yes,” she stated.
On the other hand, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has said that the decision to join NATO is a “historic step” and that if it does push through, the membership is for the security of their own citizens.
“Joining NATO would strengthen the whole international community and stand for our common values.”
With the military security pact now in place, both countries have technically already removed themselves from being neutral. The pact is most important for Finland, which shares the longest land border with Russia at 810 miles.