Britain will provide military assistance to Sweden and Finland if they come under attack, including during their transition to NATO membership, Boris Johnson said.
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The British prime minister is visiting the Scandinavian countries Wednesday to sign bilateral security deals that would see London providing military assistance upon request from its two Nordic partners.
The agreement is reciprocal, but mostly intended to guarantee the security of Sweden and Finland during the sensitive process of applying for NATO membership — a move observers think is all but certain and could be announced within days. Russia’s foreign ministry has issued veiled threats of “consequences” against Stockholm and Helsinki if they join NATO.
“It’s worth emphasizing that if Sweden were attacked and looked to us for help and support, then we would provide it, but it’s up to Sweden to make the request and to spell out exactly what support is requested,” Johnson told reporters during a joint press conference with his Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson at her Harpsund country retreat.
He added: “What we are saying emphatically is in the event of a disaster or in the event of an attack upon Sweden, then the U.K. would come to the assistance of Sweden with whatever Sweden requested.”
Johnson’s visit takes place as the two countries explore what security reassurances they should expect from Western partners if they join the transatlantic alliance.
Under the deal, Britain and the two Scandinavian countries commit to intensifying intelligence sharing, joint military training and work to counter cyberattacks.
But the extent to which Britain would come to Sweden’s and Finland’s aid remains unclear. Johnson refused to clarify if the U.K.’s assistance would include nuclear weapons. And Andersson insisted the agreement with the Brits is “important” when asked if it made a tangible difference to security in the country.
“Are we safer with this declaration? Yes we are. Of course this means something. This is important whatever policy choice we make in Sweden,” she said.
Johnson will travel to Finland later today to sign a similar declaration with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.