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Russia compares U.S. missile plans to Cuban crisis

Russia's President says U.S. plans for an anti-missile system in Europe are creating a situation similar to the Cuban missile crisis. He was speaking at a summit with European leaders in Portugal where Russia and the EU did find agreement on energy issues

At Mafra Monastery, the venue for the summit, the Portuguese Prime Minister, Jose Socrates, EU Commission President Barroso and President Putin looked almost like the three tenors. The question was would they be able to sing from the same song sheet.  Joined by Javier Solana, Secretary-General of the EU, they covered some controversial international policy issues, including the Iranian nuclear programme, Kosovo, relations with Georgia and Moldova and Russia’s relations with the U.S.

U.S. missiles issue

The U.S. is planning to deploy a part of its missile defense system in Europe. Russia believes the move will upset the strategic balance in Europe and its own security.

After all the proposals offered by both sides, a compromise still has not yet been reached.

“Similar actions by the Soviet Union in 1960s when it deployed missiles in Cuba caused the Cuban missile crisis. For us the situation is very similar – we withdrew our bases from Cuba but similar threats are being created near our borders now,” Vladimir Putin stressed.

The United States has responded to Vladimir Putin's statement. Speaking in Washington, the U.S. State Department Spokesman, Sean McCormack, repeated that the shield would not threaten Russia.

“It is important to underline the fact that this is a defensive measure. It is not an offensive system and, as we have said many many times, though it bares repeating, this is not a system that could defend against the Russian missile capability in Central Europe. Quite simply, the ten interceptors that we're talking about would be very quickly overwhelmed by Russian forces,” Mr McCormack said.

EU-Russia ties

As for the exchanges between Russia and the EU, Russian energy imports are at times a point of division. Ironically it was something that united both sides during the Cold War. Tougher guarantees are what Europe wants in order to avoid the energy spats that occurred following the disputes over gas prices with Ukraine and Belarus.

Meanwhile, both sides are still satisfied with the pace of business development, even if political relations have slowed.

Regarding the EU-Russia partnership treaty, the old version will be extended for another year. According to Vladimir Putin, it’s up to Europe to get the negotiations on a new one going.

Human rights in Russia are a traditional topic at these meetings, surprisingly this time brought up by Russia. The Russian side offered to set up an EU-Russian institute for democracy and freedom that will, among other things, promote cooperation between NGOs and monitor elections.

Putin and the third term

During the news conference, the question was raised as to whether this would be the final summit for Putin as President of Russia. In response he confirmed that he wouldn't be staying in office for a third term.

In general, the summit was hailed a success. The world’s biggest country and the world’s biggest trading bloc have as many things in common as differences. For the past decade both sides have changed beyond recognition. At this meeting they showed they are ready to leave their differences behind in favour of mutual benefits. If that’s possible might be become clearer next June when the summit takes place in the Siberian city of Khanty-Mansyisk.