- Boris Johnson signed new security agreements with Finland and Sweden on Wednesday.
- The pacts aim to boost the two countries defenses as they inch toward joining NATO.
- Russia has threatened a military response if Finland and Sweden join the alliance.
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The UK signed new security agreements with Sweden and Finland on Wednesday aimed at boosting the two countries' defenses against Russia as they move toward NATO membership.
The UK pledged to come to the defense of either country if support is requested in the event of an attack. The agreements are reciprocal.
In a statement, the UK government said the agreements with the two countries would "reinforce their security and fortify northern Europe's defenses, in the face of renewed threats."
"The declarations will see a step-change in defense and security cooperation between the UK and each country, intensifying intelligence sharing, accelerating joint military training, exercising and deployments, and bolstering security across all three countries and northern Europe," the statement said.
Both Finland and Sweden appear poised to join NATO in the near future due to growing concerns in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Such considerations come despite warnings from Moscow against pursuing membership in the alliance. Finland shares a border with Russia, while Sweden neighbors Finland.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that Stockholm potentially moving to join the defensive military alliance is "a matter for Sweden," but he added that the new pact means the UK would help it if asked, per The Guardian.
"What we are saying emphatically is that in the event of a disaster or the event of an attack upon Sweden, then the UK would come to the assistance of Sweden with whatever Sweden requested," Johnson said.
Similarly, Johnson said in Helsinki on Wednesday that the security agreement signed with Finland was not a "short-term stop gap" but an "enduring assurance between the two nations." The British prime minister said Russia's invasion of Ukraine "opened a new chapter" in the post-Cold War period and "changed the equation of European security." Johnson visited both of the Scandinavian countries on Wednesday.
Public and political support for joining NATO is at an all-time high in Sweden and Finland, catalyzed by Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine. At a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Stockholm last month, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said, "Everything changed when Russia invaded Ukraine."
The BBC reported on Tuesday that the two countries could formally apply to join in the next few days.