The UK’s new security pact with Sweden and Finland, signed on Wednesday, May 11, is a reflection of Putin’s “own worst nightmare” coming true. The two Scandinavian countries are considering joining NATO, and Britain’s strengthening of ties with them is yet another message from a growingly united West to Moscow. As author Mark Almond put it: “Russian aggression will not be tolerated. We stand together to defend our freedom and security.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson ventured on a day-long trip to Europe on Wednesday to seal security deals with Stockholm and Helsinki in which they agree to aid one another should either nation come under attack.
Both the Swedish and Finnish governments are contemplating NATO membership – and they are doing so in the wake of the Ukraine invasion.
In the wider Nordic region, Norway, Denmark and the three Baltic states are already members of the North Atlantic Alliance. The addition of Finland and Sweden is set to anger the Kremlin, which views the enlargement of the organisation as a direct threat to its security.
READ MORE: NATO allies – Finland to join alliance ‘without delay’, statement in full
Since the start of the full-scale war on February 24, Putin has resorted to tactics of intimidation, “issuing threats about nuclear weapons in the region and sending military planes and ships into Sweden’s air and waters”, Mr Almond said as he compared the military strategy to a chess blunder.
But his attempts have backfired, the author noted. He said: “As a result, public opinion has swung behind NATO membership, with 76 percent of Finns and 57 percent of Swedes backing it.”
The wording surrounding the pacts signed by the UK was general. Yet Moscow’s aggressions on Kyiv, the subsequent decisions of the Scandinavian nations to reconsider their military neutrality, and Russia’s threats of “serious military and political consequences” if this happens have unmistakably prompted Wednesday’s move.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, when asked if the possible move could provoke President Putin, said Russia would be responsible if Sweden or Finland joined NATO.
He told a press conference: “They are ready to attack their neighbouring country, so… my response would be that ‘you caused this – look at the mirror’.”
Mr Almond, the Director of the Crisis Research Institute in Oxford, wrote in the Daily Mail: “Now, with these new pacts, Mr Johnson is not only guaranteeing these democracies our support but demonstrating what a catastrophic mistake Putin has made.”
Diplomats and officials expect Finland to announce its intention to join NATO on Thursday, with Sweden likely to follow soon after.
The Alliance and its allies expect them to be granted membership quickly, five sources told Reuters.
The two countries became official partners of NATO in 1994 and have since become major contributors to the alliance. Thus, in some ways, not much will change if they join. It would signal, though, a significant shift in military stance.