PM to visit Sweden and Finland on Wednesday as both mull over NATO membership

Published by Rhys Taylor-Brown on May 11th 2022, 8:08am

Prime minister Boris Johnson will visit both Sweden and Finland on Wednesday as both nations weigh-up whether to join the NATO military alliance.

Johnson will travel to Sweden first before moving onto Finland, giving a news conference in each country and then returning to the UK all within 24 hours.

The PM’s official spokesman suggested that during the trip, Europe’s co-ordinated response to Russian aggression in Ukraine would be on the agenda, as well as “broader security issues”.

The PM’s spokesman said: “We understand the positions of Sweden and Finland and that is why the prime minister is going to discuss these broader security issues.

On the possibility of Sweden and Finland joining NATO, the spokesman simply said that the UK supports “democratic capabilities to decide on things like NATO membership.”

Despite Sweden and Finland having a history of pursuing neutrality to avoid being drawn into direct conflict, support for the Western military alliance has increased in both nations since Russia attacked Ukraine.

The leadership of both countries also agreed that Russia’s invasion had “dramatically changed the landscape of European security” during a Downing Street meeting between the leaders of the Joint Expeditionary Force, a coalition of countries which includes the UK, Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Norway.

Both Sweden and Finland also adhere to NATO’s membership criteria, and the alliance’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has suggested that both would be welcomed.

Back in April, UK foreign secretary Liz Truss suggested that either country should be integrated into NATO “as soon as possible” if they did formally apply to join.

However, Moscow has already warned both countries of a “military technical response” if they attempt to join the alliance, on account of Finland’s land border with Russia.

Yet, Finland’s foreign minister Pekka Haavisto has previously suggested that it would be “useful” for Sweden and Finland to launch joint NATO membership bids, but no firm timeframes have yet been announced on when an application could be launched.

A Finnish security report published back in April suggested that joining NATO could lead to “tensions on the border between Finland and Russia”. At the same time, Finland’s prime minister Sanna Marin said during a visit to Sweden that both countries needed to be “prepared for all kinds of actions from Russia”. 

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons

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Rhys Taylor-Brown
Junior Editor
May 11th 2022, 8:08am

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