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The Russians did not want to join NATO, says the US.

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The statement by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken contradicts what Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier.

Russia “He decided” did not want to join NATO in the 1990s, although “people talked about” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told TV host Stephen Colbert on his show Thursday. Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have maintained that their nation’s attempt to join the bloc was obstructed by the West.

Blinken appeared on The Late Show to discuss US Russia policy and why Washington believes Putin was working against his own stated goals by attacking Ukraine.

“I wanted to prevent NATO from getting bigger with Ukraine. Now it’s actually with Finland and Sweden.” the US official said, referring to membership applications the two Nordic nations submitted to NATO this week.

Colbert cited Pope Francis’ view that NATO expansion in Europe was partially to blame for the crisis in Ukraine, but the secretary said that was not the case.

“NATO is a defensive alliance”, assured. “He has no aggressive intention against Russia. It has never attacked Russia; will not attack Russia. It does not intend to attack Russia.”

Then the host suggested what he called a “crazy idea” that Russia should also be allowed to join NATO. To that, Blinken said “In the 1990s, that was something people talked about.”

“Well, the Russians decided that that’s not what they wanted to do.” he added, as the audience laughed.

The same claim that Russia had a chance to become a NATO member but refused to do so has been made by several US officials, including President Bill Clinton, who wrote an op-ed criticizing Russia last month that mentioned the subject but disputed it. Putin accounts of the exchanges with him.

In February, Putin recalled how during Clinton’s visit to Moscow in 2000 he asked his guest how the United States would react if Russia asked to join the alliance. “The reaction to my question was very restrained,” he said

“Yes, NATO expanded despite Russia’s objections, but the expansion was about more than just America’s relationship with Russia.” the former US leader wrote in his response. He added that, “[the US] it left the door open for Russia’s eventual membership in NATO.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on Clinton’s article in more definitive terms.

“I know for a fact that the American side has repeatedly spoken about the impossibility of such a membership. De facto, it was said that the doors, on the contrary, are closed, because it is fundamentally impossible”, he said.

Russia has repeatedly called out NATO, saying its expansion toward the Russian border posed a critical threat to Russian national security. During the heightened tensions before the attack on Ukraine, Moscow made a last-ditch attempt to obtain legally binding guarantees that Ukraine would not join the bloc, but was told none would be given.

The US stated that the open door policy was fundamental to NATO, even though its founding document does not include such a provision and instead allows any member to block new members from joining. By the way, this policy has gained new relevance after Turkey threatened to veto the applications from Finland and Sweden.

Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February after Ukraine failed to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The protocols negotiated by Germany and France were designed to give breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

Since then, the Kremlin has demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. kyiv insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it planned to retake the two republics by force.

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