Putin 298 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned in an interview published Sunday that US plans to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe would force Moscow to find missile targets of its own in Europe.
The threat, in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera and other foreign media, marked one of Putin's most strident statements to date against the US plans and came just days before the Russian leader is to join other leaders at a Group of Eight summit in Germany.
In the interview, Putin was asked whether the US plans to build a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe would compel Moscow to direct its own missiles against cities or US military targets in Europe, as during the Cold War.
"Naturally, yes," Putin said, according to Corriere. "If the American nuclear potential grows in European territory, we have to give ourselves new targets in Europe. It is up to our military to define these targets, in addition to defining the choice between ballistic and cruise missiles. But this is just a technical aspect."
Previously, some Russian military officials have said Moscow could aim Russian weapons at Europe-based missile systems.
The United States made a formal request in January to place a radar base in a military area southwest of Prague, Czech Republic, and 10 interceptor missiles in neighboring Poland as part of plans for a missile defense shield that Washington says would protect against a potential threat from Iran.
The US plans have brought a strong reaction from Russia, which accuses the United States of threatening Russian territory and of trying to start a new arms race.
Putin was interviewed Friday at his dacha by journalists from each of the G-8 countries, Corriere said.
The three-day summit, Wednesday to Friday at the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm, will bring together leaders of the United States, Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, and Japan.