Europe

Johnson savaged for making UK ‘global security firm’ while British Army face cutbacks

Russia: NATO gaining more countries 'bad for Putin' says Jones

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The Prime Minister said on Wednesday that British soldiers would be sent to defend Sweden and Finland in the event of a Russian invasion as part of mutual defence pacts with the Nordic nations. The defence agreements were reached to strengthen opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin and deter him from launching fresh assaults on Russia’s other neighbours.

While Mr Johnson’s agreements with the Nordic nations were welcomed by the British government and its allies, some observers have criticised Mr Johnson’s offer of sending military assistance to the Nordic nations while the UK’s armed forces have faced cutbacks recently.

Author Paul Embery tweeted: “I’m not convinced it is wise for the UK to be strutting around the world like some sort of global security company, particularly when our own armed forces have been ravaged by cutbacks over recent years.”

Mr Johnson was asked by the Commons Liaison Committee in March whether he might reconsider planned cuts to defence in the current “era of insecurity”.

Speaking on behalf of Tobias Ellwood, Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat highlighted cuts to the RAF’s F-35, Typhoon and Hercules fleets, the Army’s tank and fighting vehicle numbers, and a reduction in Army troops by 10,000 to 72,500 by 2025.

He asked if the government planned to look again at the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy published last March amid the new “looming threats”.

Mr Johnson said the review, which laid out plans for defence cuts and transformations, was “pretty much spot on in the priorities it set out for the country”.

Mr Johnson suggested that troops could be sent to the two countries even if they did not join NATO, giving his public support for expanding the military alliance to combat the Russian threat.

As part of the agreement reached with Sweden and Finland, the Prime Minister also offered to deploy more British air, land and sea forces in the region to defend against Russian aggression.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said: “We have been forced to discuss how best to fortify our shared defences against the empty conceit of a 21st-century tyrant.”

When asked whether there would be “boots on the ground” during a possible conflict with Russia, he said: “Yes, we will come to each other’s assistance, including with military assistance.”

The defence pacts signed by Mr Johnson during visits to both countries on Wednesday were taken as a warning sign to Moscow not to attempt to invade Finland or Sweden before they are expected to join NATO in the near future.

Although both nations have sent weapons and aid to Ukraine they are not currently NATO members and are therefore not covered by the alliance’s Article Five, which states that an attack on any member country is an attack on all.

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin and President Sauli Niinistö vowed to join NATO without delay on Thursday, May 12.

They said NATO membership would strengthen both “Finland’s security” and the “entire defence alliance”.

Finland, which shared an 810-mile border with Russia, will formally announce its decision on Sunday after it has been considered by parliament and other senior political figures.

Sweden is also expected to make its decision on NATO membership on Sunday.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he expected the process of giving the two countries membership to happen “quite quickly”.

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