MOSCOW — The Kremlin said Friday that President Vladimir Putin will seek binding guarantees precluding NATO’s expansion to Ukraine during a planned call with U.S. President Joe Biden, while a U.S. intelligence report and the Ukrainian defense minister warned of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine as soon as next month.

With tensions between Russia and the West escalating, Biden said his administration was “putting together what I believe to be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do” in positioning troops near Ukraine.

The NATO chief and numerous former U.S. diplomats and security officials say Russia’s demand that Biden rule out NATO membership for Ukraine, a former Soviet republic eager to ally with the West, is a nonstarter.

“There’s absolutely no way in the world that that Russian position will make any progress,” John Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said Friday. “It’s basically a rhetorical point for Moscow.” More likely, he said, were U.S. assurances that Western military assistance to Ukraine be for defensive purposes only.

Ukraine, the U.S. and other Western allies are increasingly concerned that a Russian troop buildup near the Ukrainian border could signal Moscow’s intention to invade. Officials say it remains unclear if Putin intends to go through with an invasion or appears to be threatening one in hopes of forcing concessions from Ukraine and its Western allies. The U.S. has threatened the Kremlin with the toughest sanctions yet if it launches an attack, while Russia has warned that any presence of NATO troops and weapons on Ukrainian soil would cross a “red line.” (AP)