Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused Washington Thursday of imposing its plans to deploy a missile defence shield on European countries, a day after he threatened to retaliate if the United States pressed ahead with the project.
Wednesday Medvedev said he would arm Russia with missiles capable of countering the U.S. shield, deploy additional weapons in the west and south and set up an early-warning radar system in its Baltic enclave to counteract the U.S. system, which is not expected to be fully in place until 2020.
The construction of the European missile defence shield has been largely imposed (on Europe) by the United States, he told regional reporters at a briefing in the northern town of Petrozavodsk, some 920 km (570 miles) north of Moscow.
He quoted unnamed European leaders who, he said, had complained to him that they had a minor role in the project.
My partners...have hinted to me from time to time: It is the Americans who decided that, they are promoting it, and our role as NATO member states is to provide territory, he said.
Medvedev's attempt to divide Washington and its NATO partners could irk European countries, especially Poland and Romania, former Soviet bloc states that had agreed, along with Spain, to house parts of the missile shield.
Russia's ex-satellites are traditionally sensitive to Moscow belittling their authority.
Russia maintains that the U.S. missile defence system aims to weaken its nuclear deterrent and wants legally binding guarantees that the system will not be directed against it. Washington says the shield will be deployed against countries like Iran and is not a threat to Russia.
Medvedev, who together with his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama called for a 'reset' in relations less than three years ago to improve Russia's ties with the West, has recently tended to echo Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's anti-western rhetoric.
His latest statements are widely seen as a way to please the domestic audience ahead of December 4 parliamentary polls and the March 2012 presidential vote, which are expected to steer Putin back to the Kremlin and secure Medvedev the post of prime minister by agreement between the two men.
(Reporting By Denis Dyomkin, writing by Alexei Anishchuk; editing by Tim Pearce)