VILNIUS - The Nordic and Baltic countries and Poland said on Tuesday that they expect Sweden's membership of NATO to increase security in the Baltic Sea region.
The countries' leaders, who are in Vilnius for NATO's summit, also said that Ukraine should be given a pathway to join the Alliance.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said his country is joining NATO as a motivated partner.
"It is well known that Sweden, after 200 years of non-alignment, seeks common protection, but I also want all NATO allies to know that we also provide security and we're here for the long-term," he told reporters.
Sauli Niinisto, president of Finland, the Alliance's newest member, said he has "said many times that their membership is not complete without Sweden".
Sweden and its neighbor Finland applied for NATO membership in the wake of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year. Finland officially joined the Alliance in April this year.
However, Sweden's accession was blocked by Turkey, which accused Stockholm of not doing enough to crack down on Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers a threat to its national security.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on the eve of the summit that Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had agreed to send Sweden's NATO accession protocol to the Turkish parliament for ratification.
Hungary said after the announcement that its ratification of Sweden's NATO bid is now "only a technical question".
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told reporters in Vilnius that "few countries in NATO will be more touched" by Sweden's NATO membership than his country.
"For the first time in modern history, the entire Nordic region will be inside NATO and that has profound positive implications for the way we plan our security, our defense and how we will contribute positively to NATO," he said.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that Sweden's membership "means a lot for the security of our region, but (it is) also making NATO much stronger".
UKRAINE HAS TO BE IN NATO, BUT NO CONSENSUS ON WHEN
On Ukraine's NATO membership, the region's leaders agreed that the country should join the Alliance, but as Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins noted, there is no consensus on how soon this should happen.
"From my point of view, it's very clear that for peace and lasting stability in Europe, we need Ukraine to be part of NATO," Karins said. "Russia only understands strength, and we must be strong and that wall must be very clear and that wall would mean that Ukraine is within the NATO family."
"Regarding the next couple of days, I think it's important that we take some concrete steps to move into this direction," he added.
The Estonian prime minister told reporters that "NATO's membership is the only cheapest and actually working security guarantee there is, and if the war ends and the opportunity window opens, then Ukraine can also join NATO".
Polish President Andrzej Duda said that the Vilnius summit "should establish a straight and clear path for Ukraine to NATO, and that's all".
Both the Latvian and Estonian prime ministers stressed that the Russian threat is very real and that increasing defense spending is an important and relevant measure.
Karins noted that increasing defense spending is cheaper than the consequences of war, such as energy instability or inflation.
The Norwegian prime minister noted that countries must contribute to Ukraine's victory, but on its prospects for membership, he said that "an invitation should be phrased in a way that when the time is right and the allies agree, Ukraine can be allowed in".
The Swedish prime minister said, "I will stick to Jens Stoltenberg's wording form yesterday – as soon as possible".
"It gives the framework for the process ahead of us," Kristersson said.
At the Vilnius summit, allies are considering dropping the Membership Action Plan (MAP) requirement for Ukraine, setting up a NATO-Ukraine Council and agreeing on a multiannual program of assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
However, NATO's 31 members are still negotiating the final wording of the communiqué on how to give Ukraine a membership perspective.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a tweet on Tuesday that "certain wording is being discussed (in Vilnius) without Ukraine", which he said is a sign that NATO is not ready to invite Ukraine to join.