OCT 26 2007



Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday the proposed U.S. missile defense shield in Eastern Europe has similarities to the Cuban missile crisis of the 1960s.

"Such a threat is being set up on our borders," Putin said at a news conference at the conclusion of a European Union-Russian summit meeting in Portugal.

At the same time, Putin suggested the tension was much lower that during the Cuban missile crisis because Russian-U.S. relations have moved on since the Cold War, and said he feels the United States is listening to Moscow's concerns about its missile plans.

Putin said his relationship with President Bush helps iron out problems in ties with the U.S., calling him a friend.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack disputed the comparison of the missile crisis with the missile defense system, saying, "I don't think they are historically analogous in any way, shape or form."

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

White House press secretary Dana Perino noted that Putin also said he believes there's a path where the United States and Russia can work to find a way to get a missile system that works for both countries.

"I think if anyone takes a look at his entire comments and looks at them objectively, there's no way you could walk away without thinking that he thinks that we can work together," she said, adding that Bush is convinced that Putin shares the belief that Iran should not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.

The U.S. plan would install a radar base in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland both former Soviet satellites that are now NATO members.


It is part of a wider missile shield involving defenses in California and Alaska which the United States says are to defend against any long-range missile attack from countries such as North Korea or Iran.

Russia strongly opposes the idea, saying Iran is decades away from developing missile technology that could threaten Europe or North America, and it says the U.S. bases will undermine Russia's own missile deterrent force.

Putin's political future
Turning to his future in Russian politics, Putin said he would not assume presidential powers if he became prime minister after finishing his term in the spring.

"If someone thinks that I intend to move, let's say, into the government of the Russian Federation and transfer the fundamental powers there, that's not the case," Putin said. "There will be no infringement on the powers of the president of the Russian Federation, at least while it depends on me."

The popular Putin is barred from seeking a third consecutive term in the March 2008 presidential election.


But he suggested earlier this month that he could become prime minister after his term ends in May, leading some to speculate that the substantial powers now invested in the presidency might be transferred to the prime minister.

After repeating his insistence that he does not intend to change the constitution in order to run for a third term, Putin said he had not yet decided where and in what capacity he would work as former president. He is expected to remain an influential figure in Russia.

Putin will lead the ticket of the dominant United Russia party in December parliamentary elections. An overwhelming victory for the party could turn the legislature into a new power base for Putin and give him a claim to continued authority based on his popularity.







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