Defence Secretary Ben Wallace with Finland's President, Sauli Niinistö (Picture: MOD).
Russia

UK reaffirms support to European allies amid Russian military build-up

UK Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace has met with Nordic partners during a three-day visit.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace with Finland's President, Sauli Niinistö (Picture: MOD).

Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace has met with ministers in Sweden, Finland and Norway to discuss Russia’s continued aggression and military build-up on Ukraine’s border.

As well as reaffirming the UK’s determination to support its European allies and uphold international stability, ministers also discussed increasing competition in the Arctic.

During the visit, Ben Wallace said the UK and "our Nordic partners are united in our approach to upholding European security".

"My discussions this week have been directly about deepening bilateral relations, shared security and the consequences of Russian aggression towards Ukraine". 

He added that: "a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be a strategic mistake, violating the most basic freedoms and sovereignty.

"Britain and the Nordic countries have a long and shared history.

"Our European neighbours and allies remain vital partners as we work together to defend our common values, counter shared threats and build resilience in our neighbourhood - the UK will always stand with them."

Over the three-day visit, the Defence Secretary met with his counterpart Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist in Sweden, before travelling to Finland where he met with President Sauli Niinistö, Foreign Minister Haavisto and Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen.

Finally, the Defence Secretary met with his Norwegian counterpart Odd Roger Enoksen.

Sweden, Finland and Norway are all members of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) – 10 nations working together to deliver forces at high readiness, across a range of roles, complementing NATO and European security.

Earlier in December Mr Wallace said he would carry an "Arctic strategy" in 2022 to work out where troops should be deployed, the Times reported, and warned of "growing threats and competition" in the region.

The warming of the planet has prompted fears that countries, such as Russia, could seek to take advantage of the Arctic's rich natural resources as climate change makes the area increasingly accessible.

Russia has also been expanding its icebreaker fleet and is thought to have reopened a number of previously closed Soviet-era military bases across the polar region.