British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been one of Ukraine’s most adamant supporters in Europe, so the announcement of new security pacts with Sweden and Finland, both worried about a threat to security of Moscow, is based on an intransigent British policy of resistance to Russia. assault.
The agreements, however, cross a new line by saying that Britain could support the two countries militarily if they were attacked by Russia, even if they are not members of NATO, the transatlantic military alliance.
Despite warnings from Moscow not to, Sweden and Finland are debating whether to approach NATO, whose members are covered by the Article 5 mutual defense guarantee.
But Mr Johnson’s pact would provide support for the Swedes and Finns in any process of joining NATO, when they might be particularly vulnerable to Russian reprisals, or if they decide not to join the club.
Mr Johnson, visiting the two countries on Wednesday, was asked whether the deal could mean 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 the aid of each other, including with military assistance,” he said. The type of assistance will depend on the request made, he added.
Sweden and Finland offered mutual guarantees to Britain in return. “We will stand together and support each other in all circumstances, rain or shine,” said Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, who added that his country’s decision to consider NATO membership had was motivated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier in Stockholm, after posing for a photo in a rowing boat with his Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson, Mr Johnson said the deal with Sweden “enshrines values” held dear by both countries.
He added: “As you said so well, Magdalena, when we were on the lake: we are now literally and metaphorically in the same boat.”
Looking forward to welcoming PM @BorisJohnson to Sweden. Important discussions on our extensive bilateral relations and our joint efforts to support Ukraine against Russian aggression. Agreed to strengthen 🇸🇪 🇬🇧 security and defense cooperation through a political statement of solidarity. pic.twitter.com/ZUjF54jZsS
—SwedishPM (@SwedishPM) May 11, 2022
For Mr Johnson, who has forged 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 a lockdown breach at Downing Street. When asked on Wednesday whether that might cause him to resign, Mr Johnson deflected, saying he was more focused on the threat from Russia.
Wednesday’s decision was also in line with Mr 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, alongside France, as one of the most willing and capable of deploying significant military power.
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 played a leading role in discussions not just within NATO, but in a smaller diplomatic format, called the Joint Expeditionary Force, comprising Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
Some European Union diplomats believe Britain may try to use this influence to split the 27-nation bloc. For example, member countries receiving military support or guarantees from Britain might be reluctant to take tough action against London in any escalation of its dispute with the European Union over post-Brexit trade deals for Ireland. North.
But Downing Street, asked on Wednesday whether such links could be forged in talks with Sweden and Finland, said there were no strings attached to its security guarantee.