Putin invokes language of the Cold War
By Adrian Blomfield, in Moscow
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, resorted to the terminology of the Cold War yesterday with a blunt warning that United States plans to build a missile shield in eastern Europe revived the threat of East-West "mutual destruction".
Radiating defiance at American accusations of over-reaction, the president said that Russia was preparing to take unspecified "counter-measures" to prevent the location of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic.
"The threat of causing mutual damage and even destruction increases many times," Mr Putin said after a tense meeting with Vaclav Klaus, the Czech president, in Moscow.
Mr Putin repeated his intention to freeze participation in a key disarmament treaty that has been the bastion of European security since the end of the Cold War.
"The systems will control Russian territory up to the Urals if we do not take counter measures – and we will do this," he said.
Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, even seemed to suggest that Nato was planning a war against Russia.
"We cannot be unconcerned by the fact that Nato military infrastructure is creeping up to our borders," he said at a Nato meeting in Oslo. "They are still looking for an enemy."
The strong language followed Mr Putin’s announcement on Thursday that Russia would freeze participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. It is unclear what the consequences could be. Some analysts fear that eastern European states could ask the United States to send troops to guarantee their protection.
Russia says it is angered by the failure of western states to ratify an updated treaty, agreed in Istanbul in 1999.
Nato says Russia may have signed the treaty, but violates key clauses forbidding the deployment of troops in signatory states by keeping a presence in breakaway enclaves of Georgia and Moldova.
The dispute has seen already fraught US-Russia relations plumb new depths. Washington says the shield is meant to deter an attack on Europe by rogue states such as Iran.
After repeated attempts to mollify Moscow, Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, lost her patience with Mr Putin on Thursday, describing his fears that 10 missiles could overwhelm Russia’s nuclear arsenal as "ludicrous".
• Chechen separatists shot down a Russian military helicopter, killing all 18 men on board. There has been an upsurge in fighting recently.