British soldiers would be sent to defend Sweden and Finland from Russian invasion, Boris Johnson said on Wednesday as he sealed mutual defence pacts with the Nordic nations to strengthen opposition to Vladimir Putin.
The Prime Minister suggested troops could be sent even if the two countries did not join Nato as he gave his public support for expanding the military alliance to further contain Russia.
The defence pacts, signed during Mr Johnson’s visit to both countries on Wednesday, are a warning shot to Moscow in case it is tempted to invade Sweden and Finland before they are expected to join Nato.
Both have sent weapons and aid to Ukraine, but are not currently Nato members and not covered by the alliance’s Article Five, which says that an attack on one member country is an attack on all.
“We have been forced to discuss how best to fortify our shared defences against the empty conceit of a 21st-century tyrant,” said Mr Johnson, who has also offered to deploy more British air, land and sea forces in the region, which borders Russia.
Asked during a press conference alongside Sauli Niinisto, Finnish president, whether there would be “British boots on the ground” during a possible conflict with Russia, he said: “Yes, we will come to each other’s assistance, including with military assistance.”
Mr Niinisto told Putin to “look in the mirror” if he wondered why Finland might join Nato. “You caused this,” he said.
The Finnish president is expected to approve his country’s NATO application on Thursday.
Sweden has been non-aligned for more than 200 years, while Finland became neutral after its invasion by the Soviet Union in the Second World War. Both are said to be considering formal application to join Nato and, if they do, are expected to join together in a relatively short accession process.
Their accession would strengthen Nato’s position with Russia. The Telegraph understands that Nato leaders are drawing up a 10-year plan with a Cold War-style policy of “containment” of Russia at its heart.
Finland and Sweden have modern, well-equipped armies, and Sweden has one of the largest and best air forces in Western Europe. Five per cent of GDP, higher than Nato defence spending targets, is spent every year to equip and maintain the armed forces.
National conscription is still mandatory for all males in Finland, which boasts approximately 900,0000 reservists and a powerful navy in a country of only 5.5 million. It has an 810-mile border with Russia that could stretch Russian deployments.
The pacts were signed as Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, said Ukraine would feel the aftermath of Russia’s war “for 100 years” because of unexploded bombs littering cities.
Kyiv said Russian troops were forced to retreat behind their own borders after Ukrainian counter-attacks against Moscow’s advance in the east – a further setback for Putin’s forces.
Meanwhile, collaborators in Kherson will ask Putin to annex the southern region, and Russia’s defence ministry made wild accusations that Joe Biden, the US president, had overseen military biological testing in Ukraine.
Asked whether the new security pacts meant the UK would use its nuclear weapons to defend Sweden, Mr Johnson said: “That’s something we don’t generally comment upon. But what I made clear is that it’s up to either party to make a request, and we take it very seriously.
“What we are saying emphatically is that, in the event of an attack upon Sweden, the UK would come to the assistance of Sweden with whatever Sweden requested.”
Magdalena Andersson, the Swedish prime minister, said: “President Putin thought he could cause division, but he has achieved the opposite.”
Earlier, Mr Johnson had rowed her to a press conference at her official retreat in Harpsund and told her: “We are literally and metaphorically in the same boat.”
Nato membership in Europe
The defence pacts mean that joint military training and exercises and deployments will be stepped up, intelligence sharing intensified and defences against cyber attacks bolstered.
A Downing Street spokesman said the Swedish and British leaders “underlined that relations with Putin could never be normalised”.
Before the February invasion of Ukraine, Putin had demanded assurances that neither country would join Nato.
Finnish support for joining rocketed to a record high of 76 per cent – after years of being around 20 to 25 per cent – following the invasion of Ukraine. In Sweden, 57 per cent now want to join, also a historic shift.
Mr Johnson said both countries should be free to join if they wished without fear of Russian retaliation, adding: “We will be as useful and support [applications] as we can.”
Pekka Toveri, a former chief of intelligence for the Finnish defence forces, told The Telegraph: “We just want to be left in peace – but if you f—— come over the border, you will pay the price.”
Janne Kuusela, the director general of the Finnish ministry of defence, said: “We can deal with whatever Russia chooses to throw at our face. Finland is indivisible. We will fight until the very last Finn.”
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( Information from telegraph.co.uk was used in this report. To Read More, click here )