Russian PM warns West over missile defence: Report

Vladimir Putin warns the United States not to meddle with Russian elections.

Moscow: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told CNN television that Russia would deploy nuclear weapons and "strike forces" if it were shut out of a Western missile shield, adding punch to a warning from President Dmitry Medvedev.

In an interview with Larry King taped on Tuesday, Putin said the WikiLeaks scandal was "no catastrophe" and warned the United States not to meddle with Russian elections.

He also warned of the "colossal danger of an escalation" in tensions on the Korean Peninsula and urged Iran to open its nuclear facilities to UN scrutiny.

Putin said missile threats against Europe must be tackled jointly -- a reference to an agreement reached at a November 20 Russia-NATO summit to cooperate on missile defence. Plans are sketchy and Russia has warned it wants an equal role.

If Russia`s proposals are rejected and Western missile defence installations create "additional threats" near its borders, "Russia will have to ensure its own security," he said.

Russia would "put in place new strike forces ... against the new threats which will have been created along our borders," he said, according to a translation in an excerpt on CNN`s website. "New missile, nuclear technologies will be put in place."

Putin said Russia was not threatening the West. But the remarks underscored the Kremlin`s insistence on maintaining a significant role in a missile defence system and suggested improving ties could sour again if agreement is not reached.

In his state of the nation address on Tuesday, Medvedev warned that a new arms race would erupt if US and NATO offers of cooperation on missile defence failed to produce a concrete agreement within a decade.

"That`s not our choice, we don`t want that to happen. This is no threat on our part,” Putin said. "We`ve been simply saying that this is what all of us expect to happen if we don`t agree on a joint effort there."

US plans for a missile shield have been a major irritant in its ties with Moscow since the Cold War. Now both Russia and the West are casting missile defence cooperation as a crucial ingredient in recipes to bring the former foes closer.

As part of a campaign to "reset" strained relations with Moscow, President Barack Obama last year scrapped Bush-era plans for radar and interceptor missiles in eastern Europe that Russia said would be a major threat to its security.

"We are thankful to him for the fact that he has softened the rhetoric in US-Russia relations," Putin said.

Bureau Report