Russia's foreign minister on Wednesday urged the United States to hold broader consultations with Moscow on its plan to deploy missile defense elements in Europe and warned that Moscow would defend its interests on former Soviet territories.
While Sergey Lavrov reaffirmed Moscow's criticism of the U.S. intention to deploy a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic and missile interceptors in Poland, his statement sounded less defiant compared to earlier comments by Russian officials.
"We are underlining the need to jointly resolve the issue," Lavrov said, adding that Russian military experts would like to meet with their U.S. counterparts to discuss Moscow's concerns about the U.S. missile defense plans. "We expect that our proposals will be heard."
President Vladimir Putin said last month that he doesn't believe U.S. claims that missile defense sites in Europe were intended to counter a potential missile threat from Iran and pledged to take countermeasures. He also bluntly assailed U.S. foreign policy, accusing Washington of unrestrained use of force worldwide.
Lavrov said that the U.S. plans to deploy missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic reflected "an old approach when our American colleagues decided something and then implemented their decisions proceeding from the assumption that others will have to accept something that has already happened."
"That's an old approach used during the Cold War times, when the Soviet threat was used as a way to achieve unity," Lavrov said. "We are facing the same threats now, and the Soviet Union no longer exists."
He added that Russian military experts want to have a "professional talk" with the United States to present their views on ways of neutralizing potential missile threats "in more efficient ways that wouldn't pose a threat to Russia."
Lavrov also accused unspecified forces of trying to circumvent Russia in the post-Soviet nations - an apparent hint at the United States.
"Some are trying to push Russia into some kind of sticky rivalry, if not an open confrontation," Lavrov said. "We aren't going to yield to provocations. Our policy is transparent and we see no reason for any suspicions about our intentions in the region."
Russian officials in the past have accused Washington of trying to expand its clout in Russia's ex-Soviet neighbors and accused the United States of supporting massive protests that helped bring Western-leaning government to power in Georgia and Ukraine, reports AP.
Lavrov acknowledged that the Commonwealth of Independent States, a Russia-dominated grouping of ex-Soviet nations, has failed to achieve its ambitious goals but added that Moscow would continue efforts to boost economic and other ties with its neighbors.