Medvedev warns of buildup if no missile shield deal

SKOLKOVO, Russia Wed May 18, 2011 2:24pm EDT

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SKOLKOVO, Russia (Reuters) - President Dmitry Medvedev warned on Wednesday that Russia would be forced to bulk up its nuclear weapons arsenal if no deal is reached with the United States for cooperation on a European missile shield.

Russia and NATO agreed last November to seek cooperation in creating a missile defense system in Europe to counter threats from countries like Iran, but no deal has been reached and Russia has accused the West of pushing ahead with its own plans.

"I hope the questions that I put to my colleague and friend President (Barack) Obama will be answered and we can work out a model for cooperation in anti-missile defense," Medvedev said at a wide-ranging news conference.

"If we don't work this out, then we will have take steps to counter it, which we would not like. Then we are talking about forcing the development of our nuclear strike potential," he said.

"This would be a very bad scenario, a scenario that would throw us back to the Cold War era."

Ties between Moscow and Washington have warmed after hitting a post Cold War low after Russia's war with pro-western Georgia, in part due to Obama's decision to scrap of the previous U.S. administration's plans to base missile-defense interceptors in Poland and a powerful radar in the Czech Republic.

Russia and the United States have since committed to new limits on their offensive nuclear arsenals in the New START pact, in force for a 10-year period. But Medvedev reiterated Russia's warning that it could withdraw from the pact if the United States develops a missile shield it views as a threat.

Medvedev and Obama are expected to discuss the issue next week on the sidelines of a G8 summit.

(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Writing by Thomas Grove; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel)

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