Russia denies intention to invade Ukraine as Putin, Biden set to talk

Tensions rise over Ukraine

Some of the deepest U.S.-Russian tensions in years have been created over how closely Ukraine can ally with the West, an issue that's at the centre of talks scheduled for Tuesday between President Vladimir Putin and President Joe Biden.

The dispute over Ukraine’s status and its growing alignment with U.S.-led NATO is seen as an unresolved issue from when the Cold War ended 30 years ago.

The Biden administration says an extensive Russian military buildup near Ukraine points to a potential invasion. Russia denies it has any intention of invading and blames Washington and Kyiv for the tensions.

Putin has his own demands: A binding assurance that Ukraine will not join NATO and that the Western alliance will not add forces in states near Russia.

“I want to make it crystal clear: Turning our neighbours into a bridgehead for confrontation with Russia, the deployment of NATO forces in the regions strategically important for our security, is categorically unacceptable,” Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said last week, echoing Putin.

That demand is a non-starter for Biden.

A key principle of the NATO alliance is that membership is open to any qualifying country. And no outsider has membership veto power. While there's little prospect that Ukraine would be invited into the alliance anytime soon, the U.S. and its allies won't rule it out.

“NATO member countries decide who is a member of NATO, not Russia. And that is how the process has always been and how it will proceed,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

Ahead of his Putin meeting, Biden was consulting with European allies France, Germany, Britain and Italy by phone Monday to co-ordinate messaging and potential economic sanctions against Russia in response to the Ukraine situation.

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