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What’s clear and what’s not about Sweden’s security deal with the UK

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed a "Political Declaration of Solidarity" with Sweden on Wednesday. What's in it, and is it it enough to protect Sweden from Russian reprisals should it decide to join Nato next week?

What's clear and what's not about Sweden's security deal with the UK
UK PM Boris Johnson rows Magdalena Andersson in the traditional "Harpsundseka" rowing boat. Photo: Ninni Andersson/Regeringskansliet

To what extent is the deal a mutual defence agreement similar to Nato’s Article 5? 

The key lines in the “Political Declaration of Solidarity” are a commitment to mutual assistance in the event that either country is attacked. 

“Should either country suffer a disaster or an attack, the United Kingdom and Sweden will, upon request from the affected country, assist each other in a variety of ways, which may include military means,” the text reads. 

It stresses, however, that any “intensified cooperation” must remain “fully in line with each country’s security and defence policy”, and is “designed to complement not replace existing European and Euro-Atlantic cooperation”.

This indicates that the UK might require clearance from Nato before engaging militarily, and also makes clear that were Sweden not to join Nato, this deal would not function as an alternative. 

Is it a mutually binding agreement? 

No. The last line reads, somewhat dispiritingly, “this document is a political declaration and not a legally binding commitment under international law.”

So would Britain engage militarily if Sweden (or Finland) were attacked by Russia? 

In the press conference, Boris Johnson went further than the actual agreement, saying that the UK would come to the assistance of Sweden with “whatever Sweden requested,” in the event of an attack.

The text is much more qualified. While the support “may include military means”, it does not say what factors or which government would get to decide whether it actually does, and “military means”, could include the sort of support currently given to Ukraine. 

If Sweden and Finland decide to join Nato, will the UK send ships or jets to the Baltic? 

The UK government’s press release says the UK will offer to deploy ships, jets or troops near Sweden and Finland as a result of the deal. 

“As part of increased defence cooperation with Sweden and Finland, the Prime Minister will offer to increase deployments to the region, including with Royal Air Force, British Army and Royal Navy assets and personnel,” the press release reads. 

But it doesn’t give any timing on this. Is this something which might happen between the two countries’ decisions to apply to join Nato (likely early next week) and their becoming members (this autumn)? ‘

This is what was suggested by an article in Aftonbladet this week, but it still remains unclear. 

How much safer does it make Sweden?

Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson said at the press conference that the agreement bolstered Sweden’s security, whether or not it decided to join Nato. 

“Are we more secure with this declaration? The answer is ‘yes’,” she said. 

Malena Britz, a researcher at the Swedish Defence University, said that the deal essentially gave Sweden the same level of guarantees from the UK that it had before Brexit. 

“You could say we are back to having the support from the Brits before they left the EU,” she said, saying the language was “pretty exactly what was agreed in the current EU treaties”. 


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Turkey summons Swedish envoy over ‘insulting’ Erdogan TV satire

Turkey on Wednesday summoned the Swedish ambassador after a TV satire called President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "a fool" and "grumpy", joked that his farts had caused the Nord Stream bubbles, and depicted him bending over in his underwear.

Turkey summons Swedish envoy over 'insulting' Erdogan TV satire

“The Turkish foreign ministry summoned today the Swedish ambassador to Ankara, Staffan Herrstrom, because of a broadcast on Swedish television (SVT) that contained insulting statements and images against Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” news agency Anadolu said.

In the dressing down, Herrstrom was told that the “impertinent and ugly expression and images” about Erdogan and Turkey were unacceptable. 

On Friday, Kristoffer Ahonen Appelquist, the host of the satire show Svenska Nyheter on Swedish state broadcaster SVT called on the Swedish-Kurdish comic Kadir Meral, who for several minutes ridiculed Erdogan in Kurdish, finishing with what looked like a homophobic slur. 

At the same time Ahonen Appelquist, called Erdogan dåre, Swedish for “a fool”. 

The title of the episode, Vetoturken, or “the veto Turk”, was already offensive, as it use the “X-turken” format often used for racist Swedish meme videos (such as Pizzaturken, Bussturken, etc).  

In the episode, Ahonen Appelquist at first ridicules Erdogan for his campaign theme song, then covers a woman who was imprisoned for calling Erdogan “grumpy” on Twitter, and talks of Turkeys 38,000 political prisoners, and lack of a free press.

He then covered the agreement struck at the Nato Madrid summit, and why allowing Swedish weapons exports to Turkey might mean they are used to wage war on Kurds in northern Syria, and how Erdogan is demanding Sweden send back ordinary Kurdish journalists who he sees as “terrorists”. 

“It’s just ridiculous,” Ahonen Appelquist says. “He doesn’t even like them [the Kurds], and we do! And we use the Kurds for things, like culture and politics and Sommarprat [the Summer broadcasts from celebrities on Swedish radio] and stuff.” 

He then brings on Meral, who joked that the bubbles from Nordstream were from Erdogan farting, calls him “grumpy” (thereby repeating the mild insult which had someone jailed), ridicules him for balding, and then attacks his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Finally, he says, “Erdogan, you think you are a Sultan, but really you are like a Sultan bed from Ikea, which stands on all fours in the bedroom.” 

Then there’s a picture of Erdogan bent over in his underwear. 

“But you know what, in Sweden, we think that that kind of thing is totally OK,” Meral ends. 

You can see the episode (in Swedish) here.