Boris Johnson warned Sweden and Finland must be free to decide whether to join NATO without ‘fear of retaliation’ as he visited the countries to sign historic security assurance declarations today.
The PM sent a stark message to Vladimir Putin as he inked pledges to ‘bolster military ties’ and support both countries should they come under attack.
Speaking alongside Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson at her Harpsund country residence, Mr Johnson said it was a matter for the country’s people whether to apply for membership of the military alliance.
But he insisted: ‘The war in Ukraine is forcing us all to make difficult decisions.
‘Sovereign nations must be free to make those decisions without fear or influence or threat of retaliation.’
Mr Johnson set out a UK commitment to come to the country’s aid in the event of a crisis, saying if help was requested ‘we will provide it’. However, he sidestepped questions about whether that might include using nuclear weapons.
Ms Andersson said Sweden was safer as a result of the deal.
The premier later visited to Finland, where he formalised a similar agreement with the country’s President Sauli Niinisto during a whirlwind 24 hours.
An offer to increase deployments to the region, including with Royal Air Force, British Army and Royal Navy personnel and assets, has also been made.
Boris Johnson arrived in Stockholm before travelling to Harpsund, the country residence of his Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson, where he set out a UK commitment to come to the country’s aid in the event of a crisis
The UK and Swedish leaders enjoyed lunch before holding a press conferennce
The PM (pictured in Sweden) is inking pledges to ‘bolster military ties’ and support both countries should they come under attack
Both countries consider the prospect of Nato membership in the face of Putin’s ongoing military aggression
It comes as both countries consider the prospect of Nato membership in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing military aggression.
But the Kremlin has warned that it is ‘watching very closely anything that can affect NATO configuration near our borders’.
Ms Andersson said: Are we safer with this declaration? Yes we are. Of course this means something. This is important whatever policy choice we make in Sweden.
Mr Johnson said it was ‘a matter for Sweden’ whether it chose to apply for membership of Nato.
‘What we are saying emphatically is in the event of an attack upon Sweden then the UK would come to the assistance of Sweden with whatever Sweden requested,’ he said.
Mr Johnson said earlier: ‘We are steadfast and unequivocal in our support to both Sweden and Finland and the signing of these security declarations is a symbol of the everlasting assurance between our nations.
‘These are not a short-term stop-gap, but a long-term commitment to bolster military ties and global stability, and fortify Europe’s defences for generations to come.’
The declarations build on claims made earlier in the month that the UK would always aid Finland if it were attacked by Russia, regardless of whether the country was a member of Nato.
Speaking at a press conference in Helsinki alongside Finnish president Sauli Niinisto, Mr Johnson said the two countries would ‘always come to one another’s aid’.
‘The security declaration, the solemn declaration we have signed today, ensures that our two nations can intensify our partnership and take it to unparalleled heights, both latitudinal and metaphorical,’ he said.
‘From the high north, to the Baltics and beyond, our armed forces will train, operate and exercise together, marrying our defence and security capabilities and formalising a pledge that we will always come to one another’s aid.
‘Because this is not a short-term stop gap, Sauli.
‘This is not a short-term stop gap as you consider Nato membership, but an enduring assurance between two nations, an assurance that brings us ever closer as we face the challenges of today, the threats of tomorrow, side by side.’
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said it was ‘inconceivable’ that Britain would not help either Finland or Sweden if it were in crisis, even ‘without any big formal agreement’.
Mr Johnson held talks with Ms Andersson and Mr Niinisto in March as part of a meeting of the Joint Expeditionary Force nations, which includes Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania the Netherlands and Norway.
After the meeting, Downing Street said the two leaders agreed that ‘Putin’s invasion had dramatically changed the landscape of European security’.
Finland shares a lengthy land border with Russia and is only about 250 miles from St Petersburg.
The leaders went for a walk around the lake at the Swedish residence
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