US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Russia and the West are not locked in a new Cold War, despite the crisis in Georgia and Moscow's threats over a US missile deal with Poland.
Rice is adamant that the disputes with Russia won't start a new Cold War
"I don't think this is a new Cold War," Rice told reporters shortly after she signed a deal in Warsaw on deploying part of a US missile shield on Polish territory in the face of deep Russian anger.
"It is a difficult time but I think we shouldn't overstate the depth of the difficulties," Rice said on Wednesday, Aug. 20.
She noted that during the Cold War, which lasted from the end of World War II until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there were vast ideological differences between East and West.
"The Cold War is over," she said.
Washington plans to deploy 10 interceptor missiles in Poland plus a radar facility in the neighbouring Czech Republic between 2011 and 2013 as part of a system to ward off what it says is the risk of attack by "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea.
Russia has rejected the US arguments for the shield -- which was endorsed by all 26 NATO member states earlier this year -- dubbing it a security threat designed to undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent.
Some Russian politicians and generals have said Poland must be prepared for a preventive attack on the site in the future.
Kaczynski says US missile shield will strengthen Poland
"Poland made this decision as a sovereign state,'' Polish President Lech Kaczynski said in a speech to the nation broadcast late Tuesday, as reported by Bloomberg news. "Nobody has the right to tell Poland what to do -- those times have passed.''
US-Russia relations at low-point
The signing of the missile deal comes with relations between Moscow and the US -- as well as with America's NATO allies -- at their lowest ebb in years over Russia's conflict with pro-Western Georgia.
As the conflict in Georgia continues to simmer, Rice warned Russia that it is playing "a very dangerous game" by resuming Cold War-era strategic bomber patrols close to the Alaskan coast.
Russian TU-95's have flown patrols near Alaska
"Russia is a state that is, unfortunately, using the one tool that it has always used whenever it wishes to deliver a message, and that's its military power," Rice said en route to an emergency meeting of NATO foreign ministers Wednesday. "That's not the way to deal in the 21st century.”
She said Russia's renewed aviation activity was "a very dangerous game and perhaps one that I suggest the Russians want to reconsider. This is not one that is cost-free."
Russia trying to undermine Saakashvili: Rice
Rice added that the Alaska patrols and the invasion of Georgia contradicted Russia's stated desire for political and economic integration into the international community.
She charged that Russia's offensive deep into Georgia was aimed at "undermining" the pro-US government of President Mikhail Saakashvili and crippling the impoverished nation by damaging and destroying vital economic infrastructure.
"That is an objective that will be denied because Georgian democracy stands and it will stand with the help of its allies around the world," Rice said. "Georgian infrastructure will be rebuilt. Georgia's economy will be reinforced."
Rice said that NATO foreign ministers would consider measures to reinforce US and European support for Georgia's territorial integrity.
But she said the United States would not push to accelerate approval by the 26 foreign ministers of plans for the admission to NATO of Georgia and the former Soviet republic of Ukraine.