Mikhail Vanin has said that joining NATO's missile defense system could make Denmark a target for a nuclear attack. The Danish government has condemned the "threatening" remarks.
In an opinion piece for the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten on Saturday, the Russian ambassador to Copenhagen said that the Scandinavian NATO country could be the target of nuclear missiles if it joins the alliance's missile defense system.
"I do not think that the Danes fully understand the consequences of what happens if Denmark joins the US-led missile defense," Ambassador Mikhail Vanin wrote in the daily.
"If this happens, Danish warships become targets for Russian nuclear missiles."
The statements sparked an angry reaction from Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard, who called Vanin's threats "unacceptable" and "completely out of proportion." He added that "Russia knows very well that NATO's missile shield is defensive and not targeted at them."
Mette Gjerskov, who chairs the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, told French news agency AFP that the Russian comments were "very threatening and not necessary."
The missile shield, launched in 2005 and set to be fully operational by 2025, has long been a bone of contention between Moscow and NATO, as the Kremlin considers it a threat to the continent's strategic balance. NATO argues that the network of radar and weaponry will offer protection to European member states against so-called "rogue states."
Last August, Denmark agreed to contribute at least one frigate with advanced radar capacity to NATO's missile shield, which already includes missile destroying warships in Spain, PATRIOT anti-missile systems in Turkey, and missile interceptors in Romania.
NATO's European missile defense system is headquartered in Germany. There are plans to build bases in Poland and Romania, much to Moscow's displeasure.
es/sb (AP, AFP, dpa)