The United States insisted Wednesday that plans to stage missile defences in Europe does not pose a threat to Russia, after Russian President
Dmitry Medvedev threatened to quit a key nuclear arms reduction agreement.
"We've been consistent and clear for many years now that our missile defense cooperation in no way is directed at Russia," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. "And, in fact, we want to cooperate on missile defense with Russia, and we've been quite clear on that."
The US and NATO nations in Europe have been working on plans to assemble missile defences in central and eastern Europe to counter Iran's growing ballistic missile capability. President Barack Obama has dropped controversial plans by his predecessor, George W Bush, to build a long-range missile defence in favour of a shorter-range system.
That however, has not eased Russian concerns. Medvedev, speaking at a televised news conference in Moscow, said that deployment would directly threaten Russia's nuclear strategic deterrence.
Medvedev said the deployment of a missile shield in Eastern Europe would give Russia the right to abandon commitments in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
"In START there is a specific paragraph that if someone develops anti-missile defences, that would reduce mutual strategic weapons parity and the agreement can be abrogated or even annulled," he said.
US officials have insisted the treaty does not limit its right to install missile defences in Europe. Obama and Medvedev last year signed the accord, which calls on both sides to cut their arsenals of deployed nuclear warheads by one-third.