Sweden ‘to deepen defence cooperation with UK’: PM in London

Sweden has agreed to "deepen defence cooperation with the UK", Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has said after her first bilateral meeting with her British counterpart, Boris Johnson.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson shakes hands with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside 10, Downing Street.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson shakes hands with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside 10 Downing Street. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

“We have agreed to deepen the bilateral defence cooperation between Sweden and Great Britain. That is an important assurance,” Andersson said after the meeting, according to a report in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. “This is something our defence and foreign ministers will now start to work on in more detail.” 

Andersson met Johnson during a gathering of leaders from the countries in the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF). JEF brings together Sweden and Finland, which are both outside the Nato security alliance, with eight Nato countries in the Nordic, Baltic, and northern European regions. 

The UK’s defence minister, Ben Wallace, gave assurances at the start of this month that the UK would aid Sweden if it were attacked by Russia. But he gave few details of what form this aid would take, and, crucially, whether the UK would send troops, ships or fighter planes to help repel an attack.

After the meeting in London, there was still no clarification on what sort of military aid the UK was promising. 

“We heard the UK’s defence minister who last week was clear that the UK would show solidarity with Sweden in such a situation,” Andersson told journalists after the meeting.

The JEF meeting, in itself, sent an important signal about the high level of defence cooperation in the region, she argued. 

“This meeting is an important signal to the world around us on our cooperation and unity,” she said. “We are determined to continue with our sanctions against Russia and our support for Ukraine.” 

But in its joint statement after the meeting, the JEF countries also stopped short of guaranteeing Sweden’s security. 

“We will work in complementarity to Nato and the EU to ensure that Russia cannot continue to threaten European security,” the statement reads.

The group will do this, it adds, by: “recalibrating our approach to Russia, reducing our reliance on Russian hydrocarbons, taking part in forward defence in conjunction with our Allies, reinforcing our cooperation within and beyond the JEF, and playing an active part in restoring a safer and more peaceful world.” 

In the statement, the countries also said they now planned to launch “an enhanced programme of integrated JEF exercises and activities at sea, on land and in the air in the High North, North Atlantic and Baltic Sea region.”

While in London, Andersson also held a bilateral meeting with Finland’s President, Sauli Niinistö, in which they discussed the changing debate over Nato membership in their respective countries. 

“We spoke about the process which is taking place in Finland, but also the process happening in Sweden, as well as how we can deepen the bilateral cooperation between Sweden and Finland,” Andersson said. 

After the meeting, Niinistö said that the Nato members among the JEF countries had assured him that Finland could join at any time. 

“In every discussion we have, we are hearing that Nato’s doors are open,” he said, according to the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.  

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Sweden to join Nato: ‘We are leaving one era and entering another”

Sweden on Monday officially announced it will apply for Nato membership as a deterrent against Russian aggression, entering a "new era" as it reverses two centuries of military non-alignment.

Sweden to join Nato: 'We are leaving one era and entering another''

In a joint press conference held with Ulf Kristersson, leader of the opposition Moderate Party, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said joining the alliance would act as a deterrent against Russian aggression. 

“The government has decided to inform Nato that Sweden wants to become a member of the alliance,” Andersson told reporters a day after neighbouring Finland made a similar announcement.

“We are leaving one era and beginning another,” she said, adding that Sweden’s Nato ambassador would “shortly” inform Nato.

Ulf Kristersson, whose party has long supported membership of the alliance, said that he wanted to put party political differences aside to support the government in its decision.  

“There are many major issues where we think differently, but we are going to take a joint responsibility for the process of taking Sweden into Nato,” he said. 

Sweden and Finland have both expressed a desire to act in lockstep on Nato membership and submit their applications jointly.

“We expect it shouldn’t take more than a year” for the alliance’s 30 members to unanimously ratify Sweden’s membership application, Andersson said.

The announcement was expected after her Social Democratic party on Sunday backed membership, in a dramatic turnaround after having opposed the idea since the birth of the Western military alliance.

It came after a debate in parliament in which all parties apart from the Green Party and Left Party spoke in favour of Sweden joining the alliance.  

“It is now clear that there is a broad majority in Sweden’s parliament for Sweden joining Nato,” she said. 

After Sweden’s announcement, Denmark, Norway and Iceland published a joint statement in which they promised to Sweden “by all means necessary” if the country is attacked in the gap between application and admission to the alliance. 

“Should Finland or Sweden be victims of aggression on their territory before obtaining Nato membership, we will assist Finland and Sweden by all means necessary,” the three countries said. “We immediately initiate preparations in order to effectuate these security assurances.”

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, said on Monday that Sweden and Finland joining Nato did not represent a direct threat to Russia’s interests, but he said that if Nato began to site equipment on their territories, Russia would have to respond. 

“Russia has no problems with these states (Finland, Sweden). There is no immediate threat to Russia,” he said at a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which groups Russia with Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

“But the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory would certainly provoke our response,” he said.  

Sweden’s defence minister Peter Hultqvist is flying to Washington on Monday, where he will meet his counterpart Lloyd Austin.