US and Russian officials are meeting in Geneva on Monday for critical talks on escalating tensions over Ukraine.
Concerns are rising in the United States and Europe about the Russian military build-up near its border with Ukraine.
Russia is pressing for an agreement to ensure that Ukraine is not allowed to join the military alliance of NATO.
However, the US says it will not commit to “any strict commitment” during the talks, and that only security issues will be discussed.
Russia’s independent political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin says President Putin cannot accept either Ukraine or Georgia joining NATO.
“He may have come to an agreement with the Baltic states as a lost cause, part of NATO and so on, but decided to stick to the end in Ukraine.”
“The only way to secure his strong political authority over Ukraine is to create tension on the border,” he added.
Troops are still on high alert
Meanwhile, in eastern Ukraine, troops remain on high alert amid fears of a Russian invasion.
Last week, the EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, visited the Donbass region.
This was the first visit there by an EU foreign policy chief since the conflict erupted in 2014.
Washington and Moscow excluded Brussels from diplomatic talks aimed at calming the situation on the Ukrainian-Russian border.
Borrell did not hide his indignation last Wednesday during his visit to the region.
“In this dialogue, two parties are not alone. It is not limited to the United States and Russia. If you want to talk about security in Europe, the Europeans should be part of the table,” he said.
This sentiment was echoed by the EU ambassador to the UK, Joao Valle de Almeida, who issued a warning to Russia.
“The European Union and its member states have a very common position of strength,” he said.
“The United States together, our NATO allies together and we are saying very clearly – and these are very clear words – that there will be dire consequences and huge costs if Russia invades Ukraine with military action.”
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken tried to allay concerns when he told ABC’s This Week on Sunday: “We’ve been very clear with Russia — over and over again — that we’re not going to do or commit to anything about Europe without Europe. So, anything that goes into Europe’s security interests will be in full coordination with them, with the Europeans at the table.”
However, the European Union is not the only party that has been excluded from the ongoing talks in Geneva, nor has Ukraine been invited.
While the United States made it clear that it would not intervene militarily if Russia invaded, the Ukrainians were eager to pretend in Kiev that they would stand together and resist any kind of attack.