( NZ Herald ) - If the United States goes ahead with plans to put a missile defence shield in Europe, it could lead to a new Cold War with Russia, former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze warned.
In Frankfurt to promote the German version of his memoirs, Shevardnadze, a key figure under ex-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and credited with him in helping end the Cold War, told Reuters that the situation was "more grave than many on the outside realised".
"If the Americans do in fact station their weapons in (Eastern) Europe, then the Russians will react and that will be the basis for the beginning of a new Cold War," he said on the sidelines of the world's largest book fair.
This, he said, could prove even more dangerous than before since other nations and non-state actors were claiming a greater role on the global stage and not leaving it simply to two superpowers as before.
He called for restraint.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday refused the request of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to freeze Washington's plans for the missile shield in a meeting that failed to resolve an increasing gulf in Russian-US relations.
The United States plans to place 10 interceptors in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic under the project.
Earlier, President Vladimir Putin raised the stakes with Washington by warning that Moscow might pull out of a Cold War-era treaty barring Russia and the United States from deploying medium-range nuclear missiles.
Shevardnadze went on to become president of his native Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. He was ousted from power in the "Rose Revolution" of 2003 and the pro-Western Mikhail Saakashvili subsequently replaced him.
In his memoirs, Shevardnadze, 79, declared terrorism to be the main challenge of the 21st century but urged the use of soft power to confront it.
Using one of the watchwords of the Gorbachev era, he wrote: "Glasnost is nothing more than confronting history, (having) dialogue with the other, questioning and illuminating what's been suppressed and to courageously standing up for a sustainable peace."