British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been one of Ukraine’s most emphatic supporters in Europe, so the announcement of new security pacts with Sweden and Finland, both concerned about a security threat from Moscow, is based on uncompromising British policy. of resistance to Russia aggression.
The agreements, however, cross a new line, saying that Britain could militarily support the two countries if they were attacked by Russia, even if they are not members of NATO, the transatlantic military alliance.
Despite Moscow’s warnings not to do so, both Sweden and Finland are debating whether to apply to NATO, whose members are covered by the Article 5 Mutual Defense Guarantee.
But Mr. Johnson’s deal would provide support to Swedes and Finns during any NATO membership process, when they might be particularly vulnerable to Russian retaliation, or if they decide not to join the club.
Johnson, on a visit to the two nations on Wednesday, was asked if the deal meant the deployment of British troops to Finland, which has an 800-mile border with Russia.
“In the event of a disaster or an attack on one of us, then yes, we will come to each other’s aid, even with military assistance,” he said. The type of help would depend on the request made, she added.
Sweden and Finland offered mutual guarantees to Great Britain in exchange. “We will stand together and support each other in all circumstances, in good and bad weather,” said the Finnish president, Sauli Niinisto, who added that his country’s decision to consider joining NATO was prompted by the invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier in Stockholm, after posing for a photo on a rowboat with his Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson, Mr. Johnson said the deal with Sweden “saves the values” dear to both countries.
He added: “As you said so well, Magdalena, when we were on the lake: now we are literally and figuratively in the same boat.”
Pleased to welcome PM @Boris Johnson in Sweden. Important discussions about our extensive bilateral relations and joint efforts to support Ukraine against Russian aggression. Agreed to strengthen security and defense through a political declaration of solidarity cooperation. pic.twitter.com/ZUjF54jZsS
– Swedish PM (@PM Swedish) May 11, 2022
For Mr. Johnson, who has formed a close relationship with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the initiative is a useful distraction from his political troubles at home after he was fined by police for violating the blockade on Downing Street. Asked Wednesday if that might prompt him to step down, Mr. Johnson deviated, saying he was more focused on the threat from Russia.
Wednesday’s move was also in line with Johnson’s efforts to forge a new foreign policy role for Britain after Brexit. Now outside the European Union and unable to influence its decisions, Britain is trying to make the most of its status, along with France, as one of the most willing and capable Western European nations to deploy significant military force. .
In February, Britain announced a trilateral security pact with Ukraine and Poland, and British ministers made several visits to Baltic states that feel particularly vulnerable to Russian aggression.
And Britain has played a leading role in discussions not just within NATO, but in a less important diplomatic format, called the Joint Expeditionary Force, which includes Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania. , The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
Some EU diplomats believe Britain could try to use that influence to divide the bloc of 27 nations. For example, those member countries that receive military support or guarantees from Britain may be reluctant to take tough action against London in any escalation of its dispute with the European Union over post-Brexit trade deals for Northern Ireland.
But Downing Street, which was asked Wednesday whether such links could be established in talks with Sweden and Finland, said there was no conditionality on its security guarantee.