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Sweden and Finland bolster defense with UK pledge

The Nordic countries signed bilateral agreements with the United Kingdom ensuring military support should they come under attack while deciding whether to join NATO.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (CN) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday signed two separate security declarations with Sweden and Finland, promising support if the two northern European countries should come under military attack.

Johnson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö started their press conference by signing what they call a “historic” bilateral agreement on Wednesday evening in Helsinki.

The agreement opens the possibility of United Kingdom military support should Finland be a target of war while it is considering applying to join NATO.

"In the event of a disaster or an attack on either of us, we will come to each other's assistance including with military assistance," Johnson said, adding "the nature of that assistance will depend upon the request of the other party."

Niinistö said that joining the military alliance would maximize Finland’s security but should not be seen as an act “against anybody,” an apparent reference to Russia, which has claimed it was forced to invade Ukraine due to NATO expansion.

"Here in Finland, we appreciate U.K.'s strong support for NATO’s open-door policy and for potential NATO membership," he said.

Johnson's visit to Finland comes at a time when the Nordic nation and its neighbor Sweden are very close to deciding whether to join NATO. If Finland joins the alliance, Russia will add an 830-mile-long land border with NATO.

In another press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson earlier Wednesday, Johnson signed a similar pact with Sweden and assured that the U.K. will stand by the Scandinavian country should the situation call for it, without going into concrete details of the agreement.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, is welcomed by Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Harpsund, the country retreat of Swedish prime ministers, on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

"In the event of a disaster or an attack upon Sweden, the U.K. would come to the assistance of Sweden with whatever Sweden requested," he said.

Andersson said that the agreement could include military support, if needed.

It is still unclear what Sweden’s position is in potentially ending over 200 years of neutrality in foreign affairs and security policy by joining NATO, but the new security situation in Europe will force the country to decide.

"The tensions in this part of Europe has increased in the last years given Russia's aggression towards Ukraine," Andersson said.

Last month, Dmitry Medvedev, a senior member of Russia’s security council and a close ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin, warned that Russia will strengthen its defenses with nuclear weapons in the Baltic region should Sweden and Finland join NATO.

It is down to a matter of days before the world will know if Sweden and Finland will apply for NATO memberships.

The biggest worry for the two northern countries is their security situation should they decide to join the alliance. The application period could take a year or more, as all 30 current members will have to vouch for them.

This would lead Sweden and Finland into a “grey zone” where both countries have declared themselves in an unneutral standing without the guarantee of military support from NATO. The new security declarations with the U.K. should make it safer for Sweden and Finland to apply for NATO memberships.

Local media reports suggest that Finland will make its decision this week. Many are expecting it to ask to join the alliance.

On Tuesday, the Finnish Parliament’s defense committee said that joining NATO is the best solution for Finland’s national security. A recent poll from Finnish broadcaster YLE found that 76% support NATO membership.

Previous polls suggests that Swedish citizens would be more in favor of joining NATO if Finland decided to do so.

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