UK PM Johnson visits Finland and Sweden ahead of NATO decision

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By Euronews  with AFP
Boris Johnson exits the plane upon arriving at Stockholm's airport on 11 May 2022
Boris Johnson exits the plane upon arriving at Stockholm's airport on 11 May 2022   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Frank Augstein

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will visit Finland and Sweden on Wednesday as they prepare to announce their stance on possible NATO membership applications in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Downing Street said.

The subject of the trip is "not just Ukraine, but the security of Europe more broadly", said a spokesman for Johnson, who has been one of the most active European leaders in the Western response to the Moscow invasion, launched on 24 February.

"We support democratic capabilities to decide on things like NATO membership," the spokesman continued. "We understand the positions of Sweden and Finland and that is why the prime minister is going to discuss these broader security issues."

Both countries are considering joining the security alliance in order to benefit from its collective defence protection: NATO considers an attack on one member as an attack on all members. 

In Finland, where 76% of the population now favours NATO membership, according to a Monday poll by public broadcaster Yle, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö is due to make public his "personal" position on the issue on Thursday. 

Prime Minister Sanna Marin's Social Democratic Party is expected to make its position public by Saturday at the latest.

In Sweden -- which is more hesitant than Finland -- the ruling Social Democratic Party, whose green light would ensure a clear majority in parliament for membership, has said it will make its decision known as early as this Sunday, some ten days earlier than originally planned.

The Kremlin has warned of “military and political repercussions” if the Swedes and Finns decide to join NATO.

Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president who is deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, said last month it would force Moscow to strengthen its military presence in the Baltic region.

Moscow has reportedly already repositioned some of its arsenal, including nuclear missiles, along its border with Finland and in the enclave of Kaliningrad -- sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania -- in response to the increased Finnish and Swedish interest in joining NATO.