Putin looking for guarantees NATO won't expand westward

Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinThe hidden blessing of China's and Russia's hostility Former president returns to Ukraine ahead of court hearing McCaul says US withdrawal from Afghanistan has emboldened Russia on Ukraine MORE said on Wednesday that he is seeking guarantees that NATO would not expand near his country's borders amid concerns that Russia might invade Ukraine. 

Specifically, Putin said at a Kremlin ceremony that his country wanted “reliable and long-term security guarantees,” according to The Associated Press.

“In a dialogue with the United States and its allies, we will insist on working out specific agreements that would exclude any further NATO moves eastward and the deployment of weapons systems that threaten us in close vicinity to Russian territory,” Putin said, noting that Moscow wanted more than just verbal assurances but “legal guarantees,” the AP reported.

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While Western authorities and Ukraine have raised concerns about Russian military buildup along its border, Russian diplomats say they worry about Ukraine's own buildup of troops in the eastern part of the country. 

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenUS calls on North Korea to halt 'unlawful and destabilizing' missile launches Wendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Pacific tsunami threat recedes, volcano ash hinders response MORE has said there would be significant sanctions on Moscow should Putin order an attack, like it did in 2014 before annexing the Crimean Peninsula. 

At a news conference on Wednesday following a meeting of NATO’s foreign ministers in Latvia, Blinken warned that Russia has “stepped up planning for potential military action in Ukraine, including positioning tens of thousands of additional combat forces near the Ukrainian border.”

“We don’t know whether President Putin has made the decision to invade,” he added. “We do know that he is putting in place the capacity to do so on short order should he so decide.”

Blinken said the U.S. would respond “resolutely” should Moscow attack, “including with a range of high-impact economic measures that we have refrained from using in the past.”

“We are prepared to impose severe costs for further Russian aggression in Ukraine,” he added ahead of his Thursday meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.