UK to help Finland and Sweden in case of Russian attack, says Defense Minister Wallace

A Finnish Border Guard member on duty in Finnish Lapland near the Russian border in 2021. Photo by Finnish Border Guard

If Russia attacked Sweden or Finland for NATO membership, the UK would stand up for Stockholm, the UK defense secretary said today.

“We have a 10-nation security agreement” with all the Nordic countries and the Netherlands, Ben Wallace said during a Washington Postt online forum. He added that the arrangement was “an acknowledgment that things were getting worse” in relations with Moscow after Russia captured Crimea in 2014 and supported separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Relations have not improved since, as the Lithuanian, Estonian and Latvian presidents said in March. As well as calling for a greater forward presence of NATO land and air forces, they welcomed Swedish and Finnish partnerships as members of the alliance to secure the Baltic.

As to whether that arrangement included providing Sweden and Finland with the UK’s ‘nuclear umbrella’, Wallace said London’s policy was ‘strategic ambiguity’ when it comes to the use of such weapons. .

Wallace said threats of retaliation against the two neutral Nordic nations had “the opposite effect” that Russian President Vladimir Putin had intended. “He never understood [that Sweden’s and Finland’s parliamentary movements to join NATO] is of its own making” with the invasion of Ukraine.

Wallace said “we shouldn’t be surprised” by the Kremlin’s latest threats of retaliation, including the use of nuclear weapons, against its neighbors.

Since the “escalation to de-escalation” use of tactical nuclear weapons is part of Russian military doctrine, “we must always take the threat seriously.” Wallace cited the Kremlin’s use of nerve agents in attacks on perceived enemies living in the UK shows the lengths Moscow will go to to achieve its ends. The fact is that “NATO surpasses it [in military capability and capacity]. I don’t think he wants to “use weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine.

Wallace said Putin “was true to form” under his presidency, particularly since the “color revolutions” of the 2000s that toppled regimes that were always pro-Moscow in former Soviet republics. Putin followed an ‘escalating trajectory’, threatening NATO’s Baltic members and countries he associated ‘former Russian people’ if they did not return to Russia’s orbit when he was re-elected in 2018. Putin would have continued the aggressive moves he first used in 2008 against Georgia “if we hadn’t done anything,” Wallace explained.

Kremlin leaders “all had a mistaken assumption” that NATO was “brain dead” and that the alliance was militarily weak, he added.

Arguing that Putin was “focused on his legacy,” Wallace said the Kremlin leader expected Russian forces entering any of those countries to be welcome. “Ukraine was a buffer for him”, with its fierce resistance and the military and economic support of other European nations.

Although Wallace did not respond directly to a question about kyiv attacking military targets in Russia, he said: ‘Ukraine is perfectly within its right to defend itself’ as the war becomes a war of attrition . To help kyiv in this phase, he added that the United Kingdom and the United States were sending advanced artillery and air defense systems to blunt the new Russian offensives in the east and south.

“The next step is to train ‘Ukrainians in their proper use and ‘to make sure there is no collateral damage,'” Wallace said. He said he did not view the new aid as an escalation in fighting, as the Kremlin appears to be doing by attacking civilian targets. More sophisticated air defenses are meant to make it “more difficult to fly” to these targets.

As to whether Ukraine should receive Russian-built fighter jets and helicopters from NATO members, Wallace said London has none in its arsenal. “It is a good example of calibration” in providing short-range air defenses and unmanned systems in Kyiv. “It doesn’t mean a fixed-wing aircraft,” he said.

Looking at the stalled invasion in the first phase of the war and the Ukrainians holding tight to the east now, Wallace said of Russia’s top military leadership, “I think a lot of guys are going to be sacked.” He added, “there is no upward candor” in Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister since 2012, or General Valery Gersimov, a senior Kremlin officer, explaining military realities to Putin. Wallace said it was the mark of a “fear-driven regime”.

The result, he said, is that “the poor old soldier is turned into cannon fodder”, and there will be a price paid by senior officers, as has always been the case in the Russian armed forces and Soviets.

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