US says missile shield in Europe not directed at Russia

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The United States said Wednesday that its plans to build a missile shield in ex-communist Europe are not directed at Russia, after Moscow warned of a new Cold War over the project.

"We have been consistent and clear for many years now that our missile defense cooperation in no way is directed at Russia," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

"And in fact we want to cooperate on missile defense with Russia and we have been quite clear on that," Toner added.

In Skolkovo, Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday warned of a new Cold War era if Russia and the West failed to agree on missile defense, in the first major news conference of his presidency.

Russia is increasingly worried about US plans to build missile defense facilities in eastern Europe and is also offended that NATO appears to have shunned its proposals for a joint missile shield.

Medvedev told reporters that the US decision to push ahead with construction of the missile defense system despite Russia's objections will force Moscow "to take retaliatory measures -- something that we would very much rather not do."

"We would then be talking about developing the offensive potential of our nuclear capabilities. This would be a very bad scenario."

The Russian leader also reiterated an earlier threat to pull out of the new START disarmament agreement that entered into force this year if the missile shield is deployed and operated without the Kremlin's input.

Moscow has been fighting NATO plans to deploy a system the West sees as a means of protection from nations such as Iran, but that Russia believes could potentially be deployed against its own defenses.

© 2011 AFP

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