Speed Reads

Knocking on NATO's door

Britain signs mutual security pacts with Sweden and Finland ahead of NATO decision

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson traveled to Sweden and Finland on Wednesday to sign mutual security agreements with the two non-aligned countries, both close to deciding whether to join NATO. Under the agreements, signed separately with Swedish Prime Minster Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, the countries would provide military and other assistance to the other signatory upon request, tailored to the specific request.

Johnson said the agreements are "not a short-term stop gap" while Finland and Sweden debate NATO membership, but rather "enduring assurance between two nations." Still, the agreement could ease concerns about aggression from Russia in the period between the two countries applying for NATO membership and being accepted and sheltered under the alliance's more robust Article 5 mutual security arrangement. Russia is vehemently opposed to NATO expansion, especially close to its territory; Finland and Russia share an 800-mile border.

Johnson's "agreements with Sweden and Finland are not a legal or automatic security guarantee but a political declaration that the U.K. would come to their aid, if requested," BBC News reports. Andersson and Niinistö both attributed the mutual security pacts and possible NATO membership to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Niinistö is expected to reveal his opinion on Finland joining NATO this week, and if Finland applies, Sweden is expect to do so at the same time.

Johnson, after meeting with Andersson at her country residence and posing for a photo in a rowboat, said the agreement "enshrines the values" held by both Britain and Sweden. 

"As you put it so well, Magdalena, when we were out on the lake," Johnson added: "We are now literally and metaphorically in the same boat."