Britain to boost military presence in Northern Europe

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said it planned to step up its military presence in Northern Europe, including deploying 20,000 troops to the region next year, to help protect critical infrastructure at a time of growing concern over Russian sabotage.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier on Friday met fellow leaders as part of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) defence cooperation summit on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea.

Britain said in a statement it would send 20,000 soldiers, sailors, marines and air men and women plus eight Royal Navy ships and a group of fast jets and military helicopters to help police and deter threats from Russia.

Britain said they would take part in large-scale, multi-country exercises, and carry out air policing and cold weather training

JEF, a defence cooperation group between the Nordic and Baltic states, the Netherlands and Britain, was meeting days after a pipeline and a data cable in the Gulf of Finland were damaged due to “outside activity”, stoking concerns about security in the wider Nordic region.

“This week, we have seen yet again that our security cannot be taken for granted. It is vital that we stand united against those with malign intent,” Sunak said in a statement.

(Reporting by William James, editing by Sarah Young)