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On a visit to Stockholm, Sweden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson he signed a mutual assistance pact in which the United Kingdom undertakes to come to the aid of Sweden in the event of an armed attack, and Sweden to do the same in the event of an attack on British territory. Johnson is expected to sign a similar agreement with Finland in the next few hours.
The agreementalso signed by the Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, center-left, is however not binding: therefore it is not obliges the two countries to help each other. As James Landale points outdiplomatic correspondent of BBCthe agreement does not provide for legal and automatic security guarantees: it is rather a political declaration of mutual support.
Johnson explained that the agreement includes military assistance in the event of an attack, greater sharing of information between intelligence agencies and joint military exercises, but despite requests from reporters he did not explicitly say, for example, whether the agreement implies that in the event of an attack on Sweden, the United Kingdom will send its soldiers to defend the country, and has limited himself to saying that “at the request of the other side, we would mobilize to help him”.
Today, @SwedishPM Magdalena Andersson received UK PM @BorisJohnson in Sweden. They signed a Joint Declaration on Security and Defense and discussed bilateral relations and cooperation between Sweden and the UK.
– Sweden in EU (@SwedeninEU) May 11, 2022
In the coming weeks, both Sweden and Finland are expected to make an official request to join NATO, the military alliance of Western countries, which they have approached after decades of neutrality due to the aggressiveness of Russian foreign policy, which culminated in the invasion of ‘Ukraine.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Boris Johnson’s Conservative government has shown itself to be one of the most sympathetic to the Ukrainian resistance: more in words and symbols than in deeds, as the UK remains the only Western European country to require Ukrainian refugees to apply for asylum in order to remain in their territory. In any case, the agreement signed on Wednesday with Sweden confirms Johnson’s desire to carve out a more central and autonomous space than that enjoyed by the United Kingdom in recent years, when British foreign policy was substantially comparable to that of the European Union.
“The war in Ukraine is forcing everyone to make difficult decisions,” Johnson said in the press conference after the signing of the agreement: “but sovereign states must be free to make these decisions without fear of external influences or retaliation.” Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov, answering a question about the agreement, vaguely replied that Russia will be watching closely the possible enlargement of NATO near its borders.
The agreement between the United Kingdom and Sweden is of considerable importance even if it does not provide for the same automatisms asarticle 5 the founding treaty of NATO, which has been talked about a lot in recent months. Article 5 states that every attack on a member state must be considered an attack on the whole alliance, and consequently that every member must make his own contribution in the defense of those who are attacked. The United Kingdom is part of NATO and in the event of Sweden’s entry it would be obliged to help it militarily, should it be attacked.
Plus the deal it took effect immediatelytherefore it will be active “also in the period of gray area that will be created between the moment in which Sweden asks to join NATO and the one in which it actually enters it, which could last several months”, explains Landale.