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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’s Erdogan puts conditions on support for Sweden, Finland Nato bids

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said Turkey would not look "positively" on Sweden and Finland's Nato bids unless its terror-related concerns were addressed, despite broad support from other allies including the United States.

Turkey's Erdogan puts conditions on support for Sweden, Finland Nato bids

Turkey has long accused Nordic countries, in particular Sweden which has a strong Turkish immigrant community, of harbouring extremist Kurdish groups as well as supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher wanted over the failed 2016 coup.

Erdogan’s threat throws a major potential obstacle in the way of the likely membership bids from the hitherto militarily non-aligned Nordic nations since a consensus is required in Nato decisions.

“Unless Sweden and Finland clearly show that they will stand in solidarity with Turkey on fundamental issues, especially in the fight against terrorism, we will not approach these countries’ Nato membership positively,” Erdogan told Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg in a phone call, according to the presidency.

On Twitter, Stoltenberg said he spoke with Erdogan “of our valued ally” on the importance of “Nato’s Open Door”.

“We agree that the security concerns of all Allies must be taken into account and talks need to continue to find a solution,” he said.

On Thursday, Stoltenberg said Turkey’s “concerns” were being addressed to find “an agreement on how to move forward”.

Erdogan, who refused to host delegations from Sweden and Finland in Turkey, held separate phone calls with the two countries’ leaders on Saturday, urging them to abandon financial and political support for “terrorist” groups threatening his country’s national security.

He told Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson that “Sweden’s political, financial and arms support to terrorist organisations must end”, the presidency said.

Turkey expects Sweden to “take concrete and serious steps” that show it shares Ankara’s concerns over the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Iraqi and Syrian offshoots, Erdogan told the Swedish premier, according to the presidency.

The PKK has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and is blacklisted as a “terrorist organisation” by Turkey and Western allies like the European Union — which includes Finland and Sweden.


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has shifted political opinion in both Nordic countries in favour of joining the Western military alliance.

Membership requires consent of all 30 existing members but Turkey is putting a spanner in the works.

Sweden and Finland, while solidly Western, have historically kept a distance from NATO as part of longstanding policies aimed at avoiding angering Russia.

But the two nations moved ahead with their membership bid, in shock over their giant neighbour’s invasion of Ukraine, which had unsuccessfully sought to join NATO.

Erdogan also told Andersson to “lift restrictions imposed on Turkey in the defence industry” after the army’s Syria operation in 2019.

In another phone call with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Erdogan said turning a blind eye to “terror” organisations posing a threat to a Nato ally was “incompatible with the spirit of friendship and alliance.”

Erdogan also said it was Turkey’s most natural right to expect respect and support for its “legitimate and determined struggle against a clear threat to its national security and people”, the presidency said.

Swedish and Finnish leaders on Thursday were welcomed by US President Joe Biden, who strongly backed their bid to join Nato.

Biden said “Finland and Sweden make Nato stronger”, and offered the “full, total, complete backing of the United States of America.”


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