By JAN M. OLSEN and JARI TANNER, Associated Press
HELSINKI (AP) — Britain has pledged to come to Sweden and Finland’s aid, including military support, if the two Nordic nations come under attack under security agreements that the Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed on Wednesday with his Swedish counterpart in Stockholm and the Finnish president in Helsinki.
Sweden and Finland are debating whether they should give up their historic neutrality and join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Johnson said in a statement that Wednesday’s agreements will allow Britain, a major nuclear-armed NATO member, “to cooperate with Nordic Partners and their armed forces, in all areas, including the cyberspace.
Sweden’s eastern neighbor Finland shares a 1,340 kilometer (830 mile) land border with Russia.
Wednesday’s agreements also cover closer collaboration on new technologies and intelligence gathering between Britain and the two Nordic countries. Johnson said he would offer to increase British military deployments to the region, including with assets and personnel from the air force, army and navy.
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Wednesday’s agreements will “strengthen the defenses of Northern Europe, in the face of renewed threats,” Johnson said in a statement, adding that they are symbols of “eternal assurance between our nations.”
“This is not a short-term stopgap, but a long-term commitment to strengthen military ties and global stability, and to fortify Europe’s defenses for generations to come,” he said. Johnson in the release.
“And whether it’s a disaster or a military attack, what we’re saying today is that at the request of the other side, we’ll come to the aid of the other side,” he said. Johnson at a joint press conference in Sweden with the prime minister. Minister Magdalena Andersson.
He called Russian President Vladimir’s war in Ukraine “Putin’s bloody campaign against a sovereign nation”.
Andersson said: “Putin thought he could cause division, but he realized the opposite. We are here today more united than ever.
In Finland, Johnson spoke with President Sauli Niinisto, who plays an important role in the country’s foreign and security policy decisions, at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki. The Finnish head of state said that Moscow could only blame itself if his country of 5.5 million inhabitants became a member of NATO.
“It was you (Russia) who caused this. Look at the mirror,” Niinisto said pointedly, “So in my thinking, it’s quite simple, actually. We increase our security and we do not take it away from anyone. It is not a zero-sum game. »
The Kremlin has warned of “military and political repercussions” if Sweden and Finland decide to join NATO. Andersson said Russia would increase its “military presence in this region if Sweden and/or Finland send in a bid.”
If they apply, there will be a transitional period from when a request has been made until the parliaments of all 30 NATO members have ratified it. The two Nordic countries are expected to announce their positions on NATO membership in the coming days.
“If Finland takes this historic step, it is for the safety of our own citizens,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told a news conference after talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Wednesday. “Joining NATO will strengthen the whole international community that stands for common values.”
Johnson met Andersson at Harpsund, the Swedish prime ministers’ country retreat, located about 90 kilometers (55 miles) southwest of Stockholm.
“In times of crisis, cooperation becomes even more important. And this applies in particular to our international defense partnerships. And Sweden’s partnerships with the UK and with NATO have been crucial in these exceptional times,” Andersson said.
Britain is already present in areas of the Baltic Sea with the Joint Expeditionary Force, made up of 10 northern European countries: the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Norway.
In 2017, Sweden and Finland joined the British-led military rapid reaction force, which is designed to be more flexible and react faster than NATO’s largest alliance. It uses NATO standards and doctrine, so it can operate in conjunction with NATO, the United Nations, or other multinational coalitions. Fully operational since 2018, the force has held a number of exercises both independently and in cooperation with NATO.
Olsen reported from Copenhagen, Denmark. Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Japan contributed to this report.
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