The American Defence Secretary has launched a furious attack on Russia accusing it of Cold War brinkmanship in its threats to position nuclear weapons on its European border
By Bruno Waterfield in Brussels and Henry Samuel in Paris
November 14, 2008 "The Telegraph" -- - Robert Gates claimed the Kremlin was trying to intimidate President-elect Barack Obama into dropping American plans for a new missile defence system based in eastern Europe.
The row overshadowed a European Union summit designed to improve relations with Russia.
Mr Gates, who is tipped to keep his job in Mr Obama's new cabinet, said: "Within hours of the conclusion of the American election, Russian President Medvedev responded by threatening to place missiles in Kaliningrad – hardly the welcome a new American administration deserves.
"Such provocative remarks are unnecessary and misguided. Rather than engaging in the kind of rhetoric associated with a bygone era, the US would prefer that Russia works with us to combat mutual security threats."
Mr Gates, speaking in Estonia, hinted strongly that threat to place the short-range Russian missiles, in territory neighbouring the EU countries of Poland and Lithuania, was intimidation.
"Quite frankly I'm not sure what the missiles in Kaliningrad would be for," he said Gates. "After all, the only real emerging threat to Russia's periphery is Iran, and I don't think the Iskander missile has the range to get there from Kaliningrad."
Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian President, made the threat just a day after President-elect Obama triumphed in the US presidential elections last week.
Speaking in France ahead of the EU summit yesterday, the Russian President promised Moscow would reconsider the deployment.
But he said it would happen only if the new Washington administration climbed down on plans to place 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic.
"We are ready to abandon this decision to deploy the missiles in Kaliningrad if the new American administration, after analysing the real usefulness of a system to respond to 'rogue states', decides to abandon its anti-missile system," he said.
Vladimir Chizhov, Russian Ambassador to the EU, confirmed that the latest threat by Moscow was an attempt to make Mr Obama reconsider the anti-missile system.
"I do not want to prejudge any decision that President Obama will take but it is best for him to know what Russia will do if he goes ahead," he said.
President Medvedev will use the EU summit, hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the city of Nice, to push his idea for a Russian security umbrella designed to replace Nato.
"We are ready to reflect on a system of global security with the US, the countries of the EU and the Russian Federation," he said.
US President George W. Bush's missile defence plan has Nato-wide backing, and the active participation of Poland and the Czech Republic, with the aim of protecting the West against missile strikes from so-called "rogue states", notably Iran.