UK signs deal pledging to defend Sweden if attacked

Sweden fears an attack from Russia in an interim period if the country applies to join NATO.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson sign documents
Johnson met Andersson in Harpsund, Sweden [Christine Olsson/TT News Agency via Reuters]

The United Kingdom has pledged to defend Sweden if the country came under attack, with Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Magdalena Andersson signing a security assurance deal outside Stockholm.

The accord was signed on Wednesday as Sweden and Finland are pondering whether to join NATO following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Andersson said Russia would increase its “military presence in this region if Sweden and/or Finland sends in an application”.

Should they apply, there will be an interim period lasting from when an application has been handed in until all 30 NATO members’ parliaments have ratified it.

Johnson is later expected to make a similar defence commitment to Finland, where he will meet President Sauli Niinisto.

The agreement will “fortify Northern Europe’s defences, in the face of renewed threats”, Johnson said in a statement, adding it “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,” Johnson said in the statement.

Finland shares a 1,340km (830-mile) land border with Russia.

“And whether it’s in the event of a disaster or a military attack, what we’re saying today is that upon request from the other party, we would come to the other parties’ assistance,” Johnson told a joint news conference. He said the war in Ukraine is Russian President Vladimir “Putin’s bloodthirsty campaign against a sovereign nation”.

Andersson said: “Putin thought he could cause division, but he has achieved the opposite. We stand here today more united than ever.”

British troop deployments

Johnson met Andersson in Harpsund, the country retreat of Swedish prime ministers, which is located about 90km (55 miles) southwest of Stockholm.

Johnson, who said Putin was “a 21st-century tyrant”, also offered during his one-day visit to increase the deployments of British troops and military assets to the region.

The UK is already present in the Baltic Sea areas with the Joint Expeditionary Force, which consists of 10 Northern European nations: Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Norway along with the UK.

In 2017, Sweden and Finland joined the British-led military rapid reaction force, which is designed to be more flexible and respond quicker than the larger NATO alliance.

It uses NATO standards and doctrine, so it can operate in conjunction with NATO, the UN or other multinational coalitions. Fully operational since 2018, the forces have held a number of exercises independently and in cooperation with NATO.

Source: News Agencies