Finland leader to go public with desire to join NATO after Boris Johnson meeting
Finnish president Sauli Niinisto was prompted to join by a rise in public support for NATO membership following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Finland’s leader is expected to publicly say for the first time that his country wants to join NATO, after the Nordic country and Sweden signed security pacts with the UK.
The BBC said the anticipated announcement – the first step towards joining the military alliance – from Finnish president Sauli Niinisto was prompted by a significant rise in public support for NATO membership following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
It comes after Boris Johnson on Wednesday signed deals which could see British troops sent to the two northern European nations in the event of a Russian incursion from “21st century tyrant” Vladimir Putin.
The Prime Minister said the parallel agreements would help defend each country should it come under threat as he met with leaders in both nations over a whirlwind 24 hours on Wednesday.
Mr Johnson said the UK would come to Finland’s assistance, including with military support, in the event of an attack on the country.
Asked during a press conference in Helsinki alongside Mr Niinisto if there would be “British boots on the ground” on Finnish territory during a “possible conflict with Russia”, he said: “I think the solemn declaration is itself clear.
“And what it says is that in the event of a disaster, or in the event of an attack on either of us, then yes, we will come to each other’s assistance, including with military assistance.
“But the nature of that assistance will of course depend upon the request of the other party.
“But it’s also intended to be the foundation of an intensification of our security and our defence relationship in other ways as well.”
Meeting with Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson earlier in the day, Mr Johnson said the UK “will not hesitate” to act in the event of an attack on the country.
The British Prime Minister said it was “a sad irony” that the security assurance declaration was signed days after marking VE Day, but was more important than ever under the “grim circumstances” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
Speaking alongside his Swedish counterpart at her Harpsund country retreat on Wednesday, he added: “The many carcasses of Russian tanks that now litter the fields and streets of Ukraine, thanks to Swedish-developed and British-built NLaws (anti-tank weapons), certainly speak to how effective that co-operation can be.
“Most importantly, this is an agreement that enshrines the values that both Sweden and the UK hold dear, and which we will not hesitate to defend.”
Mr Johnson, deploying some of his strongest language yet to condemn the Russian president, told a press conference: “This week, many of us have been paying tribute to the brave men and women who secured victory and peace in Europe 77 years ago.
“So it’s a sad irony that we’ve been forced to discuss how best to fortify our shared defences against the empty conceit of a 21st century tyrant.”
Ms Andersson said she was “very happy” to sign the bilateral agreement while Mr Niinisto said the declaration would “deepen the cooperation we already have”.
Both European countries have been considering the prospect of Nato membership in the face of Mr Putin’s ongoing military aggression.
Speaking after signing the pact, Mr Niinisto said he did not view joining the military alliance as a “zero sum game”.
“Joining Nato would not be against anybody,” the Finnish president said.