Russia is demanding that the United States agree to "legal guarantees" not to expand NATO and not to deploy intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Europe. Absent that, Vladimir Putin implies that war may follow.

Putin is now demanding "agreements that exclude any further NATO moves to the east and the deployment of weapons threatening Russia in close proximity to its territory." Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov echoed this call in a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Sweden on Thursday. He explained that if such an agreement is not reached, Russia will take "retaliatory measures to correct the military-strategic balance."

But let's be clear, Russia's demands are at once highly aggressive and utterly ridiculous. They reflect Putin's assessment that Biden is weak and malleable. In that vein, these demands are designed to seize the initiative in anticipation of a video summit between the two leaders. Kommersant reported that the meeting may take place next Tuesday.

Still, the absurdity of what Russia is demanding bears close attention.

When Putin speaks of the "deployment of weapons threatening Russia," he is referring to the possible deployment of U.S. intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Europe. What Putin leaves out is that such a U.S. deployment is only on the table because of Russia's own actions. It is Russia, not NATO, that first breached the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with the deployment of its 9M729 cruise missile system. Had Russia not done this, the U.S. would not be considering its own deployment.

The other Russian argument, a demand that NATO not expand, is even sillier. Even by Lavrov's soaring standards, this gall is impressive. He says that "[Russia's] NATO partners declare that no one has the right to dictate to any country wishing to join NATO whether it can do so or not. We respond by quoting the provisions of international law stating that each state has the right to choose ways to ensure its legitimate security interests."

Translation: Russia gets a veto over the democratic sovereignty of its neighbors. Example: If Ukraine doesn't do what we want, we'll destroy it.

Fact: There are no "provisions of international law" that allow Russia to determine its "legitimate security interests" at the expense of other nations' sovereignty.

The U.S. should reject Russia's arguments without qualification. There is no prospect of nations such as Georgia or Ukraine joining NATO in the near future. But if, one day, the circumstances for those accessions are reached, it should be up to NATO and to those nations, not to Russia, to decide whether to proceed with accession.

Moreover, the Russian argument is not simply that Ukraine and Georgia not ever be allowed to join NATO. As evinced by his military threats to Sweden and Finland, his energy extortion targeting Moldova, and his failed 2016 coup attempt in Montenegro (designed to sabotage that nation's accession to NATO the next year), Putin believes no democracy proximate to Russia has the right to join NATO. At the same time, Putin believes he has sole ownership over the Arctic.

The hypocrisy is laughable. But this issue cuts to the heart of a key principle of the post-Second World War international order. Namely, the right of democracies to create their own destiny and make their own alliances free of external coercion. That's supposedly a key purpose behind Biden's upcoming democracy summit. In turn, if Biden was courageous, he would simply tell Putin that escalation will never go in his favor. Instead, Biden prefers Germany's appeasement strategy.

It's clear that Putin is loving it. We shouldn't be optimistic about what might follow the summit.