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A Hint of the Cold War

DW staff / AFP (ncyFebruary 10, 2007

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-frontal attack on the United States on Saturday, saying it had made the world a more dangerous place and left successive conflicts unresolved.

Putin rebuffed all criticism of RussiaImage: AP

Addressing an audience of senior officials and politicians including many from the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Putin said the United States had "overstepped" its borders with disastrous results.

The Russian leader, who spearheaded opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies, accused Washington of operating by "separate norms."

"The United States has overstepped its borders in all spheres -- economic, political and humanitarian and has imposed itself on other states," he told delegates at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy.

"One-sided illegitimate action hasn't solved a single problem and has become a generator of many human tragedies, a source of tension," Putin said. "Local and regional wars didn't get fewer. The number of people who died didn't get less but increased significantly."

Sicherheitskonferenz in München - Merkel und Gates
US Defense Minister Gates will likely respond to Putin when he speaks at MunichImage: AP

The United States, he said, had gone "from one conflict to another without achieving a fully-fledged solution to any of them."

Putin also took aim at US plans to site a missile defense system close to Russia's border in NATO countries the Czech Republic and Poland, adding that any further enlargement of the alliance would be inappropriate.

"Why is it necessary to put military infrastructure on our border? It's hardly connected to today's global threats. What is the threat? Terrorism and fighting it," Putin said.

Analysts say that Russia's relations with the United States have deteriorated significantly under Putin, who has tried to restore Russia's prestige since the economic collapse that followed the Soviet Union's 1991 collapse.

Criticism from US delegates, Human Rights Watch

His speech got a frosty reception from US delegates in a question and answer session that followed his speech at this traditionally pro-Western forum.

US Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harmen charged that Russian experts had helped Iran develop an indigenous missile capability in the 1990s.

Putin denied that claim, saying Russia was "less involved than anyone" in such technology transfers.

He also rebuffed criticism of his country's human rights record by the head of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth.

Kenneth Roth
Roth is the first human rights activist to be invited to the Munich security conferenceImage: AP

Roth said the world was seeing an "increasingly uni-polar government in Russia, where competing centres of influence are being forced to toe the party line."

Putin responded that Russia was taking steps to stop foreign governments clandestinely using Russian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to influence Russian policy.

On the subject of numerous killings of Russian journalists during his presidency, Putin turned the question back to the United States, saying that it was in Iraq that most journalists were killed doing their job.

Putin's comments were likely to be countered by subsequent speakers at the Munich conference, whose traditional theme is the future of NATO. Not least among these is to be US Defense Secretary Robert

Gates, who was due to make his first major speech since taking office.