Putin compares U.S. missile shield to Cuban crisis

Other News Materials 28 October 2007 10:56

(Reuters) Russian President Vladimir Putin drew a parallel on Friday between U.S. plans for a missile shield in Europe and the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, widely regarded as the closest the world came to nuclear war.

But the Kremlin leader said his personal friendship with U.S. President George W. Bush had helped to prevent the latest U.S. initiative from turning into a new global disaster.

"I would remind you how relations were developing in an analogous situation in the middle of the 1960s," he told a news conference after the Russia-EU summit in the Portugal.

"Analogous actions by the Soviet Union when it deployed rockets on Cuba provoked the Cuban missile crisis," said Putin. "For us, technologically, the situation is very similar. On our borders such threats to our country are being created."

A decision by the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to send nuclear missiles to communist ally Cuba put the world on the brink of nuclear war in 1962. After days of dramatic negotiations, Khrushchev agreed to pull out the missiles.

Russia has been outraged by the U.S. decision to deploy a radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland to avert potential missile strikes from countries like Iran. It sees the plan as an outright threat to its security.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack strongly rejected Putin's comparison between the U.S. missile shield proposal and the Cuban crisis.

"There are some very clear historical differences between our plans to deploy a defensive missile system designed to protect against launch of missiles from rogue states such as Iran, and the offensive nuclear capability of the missiles that were being installed in Cuba back in the 1960s," McCormack said.