For these two Scandinavian countries, which say they fear an attack from Russia if they decide to join NATO, signing a formal defense pact with the UK serves to send a clear signal to Moscow. At the same time, it comes at the right time for London, which, in the context of Brexit, wants to strengthen its role in European defence.
The United Kingdom formally committed itself to the defense of Sweden and Finland in the event of military aggression.
On Wednesday 11 May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, met respectively with the Swedish Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson, and with the Finnish President, Sauli Niinistö, to sign defense and security agreements.
As Sweden and Finland consider putting their neutrality aside and formalizing their application to join NATO in the coming days, Boris Johnson traveled to Stockholm and Helsinki to assure them military protection.
The British Prime Minister said in a statement that these agreements will strengthen “Northern Europe’s defenses against new threats”.
The signing of new security declarations with Sweden and Finland is a symbol of the permanent guarantee between our two countries.
It is a long-term guarantee to strengthen military relations and global stability, and fortify Europe’s defenses for generations to come.
– Boris Johnson May 11 2022
“This is not a short-term agreement, but a long-term commitment to strengthening military relations and global stability, and fortifying Europe’s defenses for generations to come,” he added.
The period of “danger” for the two Scandinavian countries before a possible entry into NATO
The change in the position of Sweden and Finland and their willingness to join NATO comes after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. But alarmed by Moscow’s reactions, the two countries welcomed the British initiative as a guarantee of security.
And before these two Scandinavian countries – belonging to the European Union – become part of NATO, there will be an intermediate period between the moment of application and the moment in which the parliaments of the 30 countries are. NATO members ratify it.
Both countries say they may find themselves in a difficult position against Russia during this transition period, which could last up to a year.
“One always measures friendships by how they appear in bad weather.” Finland and the United Kingdom are great friends and strong partners. We are deepening our security cooperation. pic.twitter.com/ZrAFYGnxvY
– Sully Niinisto (@niinisto) May 11 2022
Russia has already made it clear that it will not stand idly by and in this context Sweden and Finland have requested security guarantees (Finland shares a 1,340 km border with Russia).
Several NATO member states, such as the United States and Germany, as well as other Scandinavian countries, have indicated that they will support these two nations during their accession process. However, this agreement signed with the United Kingdom is exceptional.
“Putin had intended to cause division, but he achieved the opposite,” the Swedish prime minister said. “Today we are here more united than ever,” he added.
Strengthening the UK’s military role in Europe
The British Prime Minister also suggested increasing the deployment of British forces and military assets in the region.
The United Kingdom is already present in the Baltic Sea regions through the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), made up (in addition to the United Kingdom) of 10 countries in Northern Europe: Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Norway.
In 2017, Sweden and Finland joined this military force, which is designed to be more flexible and responsive than NATO. It uses NATO rules and doctrine, so that it can work in conjunction with this organization, with United Nations forces or other multinational military alliances.
Since 2014, the Joint Reconnaissance Force has been conducting large joint military exercises and cooperating in combating cyber or hybrid attacks.
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