The United States is prepared to provide military support to Sweden and Finland when needed, while these countries await NATO’s response to their membership applications, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
On Sunday, both Finland and Sweden formally announced their intention to join NATO, despite several warnings from Russia. Moscow, which sees NATO’s expansion as a direct threat to its own security, has previously promised to take appropriate action in response.
In a BBC interview, recorded on Friday and broadcast on Sunday, Kirby said Russia’s warnings were “obviously worrying”.
“But it is not up to Russia to decide whether Finland and Sweden become NATO allies, it is up to the people of Finland and the people of Sweden,” said the US military spokesman.
When asked if the United States would send troops to defend Finland and Sweden if they were attacked, Kirby first said that he would not want to speculate in a hypothetical scenario, but still gave a detailed answer.
He stressed that both Finland and Sweden “have very modern military” which American forces “are comfortable working with.” Close relations between Washington and the two northern European countries would, in Kirby’s view, enable Washington to provide military assistance to Helsinki and Stockholm.
“Should they need additional capacity or support during the period of their application to NATO and their accession to NATO … we will be able to provide additional support if needed,” he said.
Sweden and Finland, which share a long border with Russia, decided to reconsider their long-standing policy of freedom of alliance after a major change in public opinion following the start of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. According to recent surveys, a majority in both countries now support NATO membership.