The Scandinavian members of NATO gave their full support on Wednesday to the prospect of the final two members of the group joining the fold on the sidelines of a mini-summit between the five countries and India.
"This is your decision and your decision alone. But be assured: If you decide to join, you have the full support from Denmark," said Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, in comments that generally reflected the attitudes at the event.
Denmark, Iceland and Norway have long been members of the defence alliance, but Finland and Sweden have been holdouts, prizing their neutrality, which they maintained all through the Cold War. Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, as well as routine violations of airspace by Russian forces, have tipped the balance, with large majorities in both countries now backing NATO membership.
"We would do everything to secure a rapid and smooth process," assured Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store, noting that "nobody should push these countries or deny them any right."
Both Finland and Sweden routinely coordinate with NATO and participate in some exercises. Russia has been vocal in its opposition to the countries formally joining.
It's not clear how quickly the two will join. They have been told to expect a positive reaction if they apply.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said at the meeting that she expects developments to move rapidly on her end.
"I think Finland will make the decisions quite soon. We are talking about weeks, not months. We are really in a key moment here."
Decision by mid-May
Sweden's governing Social Democrats said later on Wednesday that they might agree on whether to support NATO membership by mid-May.
The leading members of Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson's party plan to meet for a special session on May 15 to consider the NATO question, alongside other issues.
The party's stance on the question could then be determined, Secretary General Tobias Baudin told TT news agency. Nothing has yet been decided, he said, adding that difficult and complicated questions would have to be addressed.
Andersson's Social Democrats are under significant pressure, as several parties have come out in favour of NATO membership, given the altered security situation in Europe. Sweden is also due to hold a general election in September.
Before Moscow's war began, Sweden's Social Democrats had opposed joining NATO and emphasized the benefits of neutrality.
Meanwhile a Russian military aircraft is suspected of having entered Finnish airspace over the towns of Kesälahti and Parikkala, the Finnish Defence Ministry said.
The border guard is investigating what happened, the ministry said. The aircraft was a Mi-17 military helicopter, which is said to have flown 4 to 4.5 kilometres into Finnish airspace, broadcaster Yle reported.
A Russian military aircraft briefly violated Swedish and Danish airspace a few days ago.