Friday, October 26, 2007

Putin warns of new missile crisis


Russian President Vladimir Putin says US plans for a missile shield could precipitate a situation similar to the Cuban missile crisis of the 1960s.

Mr Putin was speaking after a summit with EU leaders in Portugal aimed at deepening ties despite disagreements over human rights and foreign policy.

Russia has long opposed US plans to build missile bases in European states once in the Soviet sphere of influence.

The Cuba crisis saw the Soviet Union and US go to the brink of nuclear war.

The 1962 impasse was triggered when US spy planes discovered Soviet missile bases in Cuba, within striking distance of the American mainland.

Moscow's decision to deploy these weapons in Cuba was at the time seen as a response to the build-up of powerful US missiles in Europe.

Tensions were only defused when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to dismantle the bases in return for guarantees that Washington would not attack communist Cuba.

'Similar situation'

Asked in Lisbon about US plans for missile bases in eastern Europe, President Putin said the threat to Russia's borders was akin to that faced by the US during the Cuban crisis.

"I would remind you how relations were developing in an analogous situation in the middle of the 1960s," he said.

"Analogous actions by the Soviet Union when it deployed rockets on Cuba provoked the Cuban missile crisis," he said.

"For us, technologically, the situation is very similar."

He added that current tensions had not reached the pitch attained during the Cuban crisis.

"Thank God, we do not have any Cuban missile crisis now and this is above all because of the fundamental way relations between Russia and the United States and Europe have changed," he said.

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