MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia accused the United States on Wednesday of using Cold War methods to persuade Europe to host an anti-missile shield that Moscow says is a threat to its national security.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Washington had failed to respect its European partners because it had devised the scheme unilaterally and then tried to impose it on them.
“This is an old approach,” Lavrov told the State Duma (parliament) in televised remarks.
“This is how they acted in past times, during the Cold War, when they scared everyone with the Soviet threat and persuaded everybody to group together in a disciplined bloc.”
Responding for the United States, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried said he did not understand Lavrov’s comments and Washington wanted the maximum possible cooperation with Moscow on its defense shield plans.
“Slogans in this case are not terribly useful. We are not trying to scare anyone,” Fried told reporters in Warsaw.
Washington plans to install warning radars and missile batteries in Poland and the Czech Republic as part of a scheme it is designing to counter future long-range rocket attacks by hostile states such as Iran or North Korea.
Moscow has strongly attacked the plan, saying Iran does not have long-range missiles and charging that the shield threatens Russia’s security. It has pledged to develop counter-measures.
President Vladimir Putin says the shield exemplifies a unilateralist approach by the United States to global security, a policy he says has made the world a more dangerous place.
Amid worsening relations with the United States and attempts to project its own power beyond its borders, Moscow has called instead for greater multilateral cooperation to deal with emerging global threats.
Lavrov said Russian military experts wanted to discuss the shield with the Americans to persuade them that “so far hypothetical threats can be neutralized using other methods that would not pose a tangible threat to the Russian Federation”.
Referring to the opposition in some European countries to deployment of the shield, Lavrov added: “Judging by the voices currently being heard in the European Union, our proposals will be listened to.”
Fried, trying to dampen European opposition to the project on a two-day trip to Poland, said the shield would protect the continent, could be integrated in various ways into NATO and would also benefit from full cooperation with Russia.
“Russia is not threatened by this system and it knows it,” he said. “We have said repeatedly and explicitly that the missile defense system we have now is not designed against Russia, nor is it capable of use against Russia.”
He said Washington would welcome Moscow’s cooperation on what he said was a common threat from Iran.
“I don’t believe in placing artificial barriers on our cooperation with Russia. But it is the Russians and only the Russians who can decide how much cooperation they want.”
Russian officials have expressed disquiet over reports that Washington also wants ex-Soviet Georgia to host part of the planned shield. Both Washington and Tbilisi have said no such request has been made.
Additional reporting by Chris Johnson in Warsaw