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Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Konstantin Palace presidential residence in Strelna outside St. Petersburg on Dec. 29. Photo: Alexey Nikolsky/Ria Novosti/AFP via Getty Images

NATO on Friday rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin's demand that the military alliance halt admission of new members in a bid to prevent Ukraine from joining, AP reports.

Why it matters: With Russian troops amassed at the Ukrainian border, fear of another invasion has risen steadily in recent months. Friday's comments are a response to Putin's conditions for de-escalating the potentially devastating conflict.

  • Though the U.S. and other NATO allies have expanded their military presence and activities in the alliance's "eastern flank," the Ukrainian government has urgently lobbied for additional military assistance and preemptive sanctions from the U.S., Axios' Zachary Basu writes.
  • But because Ukraine is not a NATO member, the alliance's collective defense clause, which considers an attack on one ally an attack on them all, does not apply.

What they're saying: "We will not compromise on core principles, including the right for every nation to decide its own path, including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be a part of," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels after a virtual meeting of NATO foreign ministers, per AP.

  • "NATO never promised not to admit new members; it could not and would not," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in separate comments to reporters on Friday.
  • "They want to draw us into a debate about NATO rather than focus on the matter at hand, which is their aggression toward Ukraine. We won’t be diverted from that issue."
  • "We’re prepared to respond forcefully to further Russian aggression, but a diplomatic solution is still possible and preferable if Russia chooses," Blinken added.

What to watch: The issue will be part of the discussion during the NATO-Russia Council meeting next Wednesday — the first in over two years.

Go deeper

Biden boxed in on Ukraine

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration is pushing to get Congress, Europe and Ukraine on the same page as it tries to deter Russia from invading Ukraine — all while knowing that the decisive factor will ultimately be the whims of Vladimir Putin.

Why it matters: Officials from virtually all sides are warning that the risk of a large-scale, conventional war on the European continent is greater than at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Few agree on how to stop it.

Updated Jan 14, 2022 - World

U.S. confirms Russia arrested REvil ransomware hackers

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking in Moscow in June 2021. Photo: Alexei Nikolsky/TASS via Getty Images

Russia's security agency said Friday it arrested members of the Russia-based cyber gang REvil that was responsible for multiple massive ransomware attacks against U.S. companies last year.

The latest: A senior administration official confirmed on Friday afternoon that Russia informed the U.S. that it arrested the alleged hackers, including an individual responsible for the cyberattack that crippled the Colonial Pipeline.

China builds its own movie empire

Expand chart
Data: Gower Street citing Comscore; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

China blocked all four of Disney's Marvel movies from being released in its theaters last year, a grim sign for U.S. film giants being squeezed out of the world's fastest-growing box office.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is using domestic films as a key conduit for mass messaging aimed at achieving political goals, leaving little room for foreign views.

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