Russia has upped the ante in its standoff with the United States over missile defence in Europe warning of a “mad arms race” if Washington goes ahead with its plans.

Russia’s Chief of the General Staff Army General Nikolai Makarov said U.S. assurances that the proposed missile defence system in Europe does not threaten Russia “ring hollow” and Moscow would be forced to take countermeasures as early as 2015.

“In five or six years, a mad arms race could start. And the process could last indefinitely,” Army General Makarov told foreign military diplomats at a conference on the European missile defence in Moscow on Friday.

The statement followed Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s repeated warning that the world could be thrown back to the Cold War if NATO fails to cooperate with Russia on missile defence.

“If we fail to agree, Europe will slide back to the early 1980s,” Mr. Medvedev said at a judicial forum in St. Petersburg on Friday. “I don’t want to live in such a Europe.”

To avoid this scenario, Russia “must be a participant in building the missile defence system through all its stages, right from drawing up its architecture,” the General Staff chief said. “So far we have only heard the word ‘no’.”

Lieutenant General Andrei Tretyak, chief of operations at the Russian General Staff, said a new Russian Army analysis found that the U.S. shield, when fully deployed during the third and fourth stages of President Barack Obama’s “phased adaptive approach”, would “directly threaten the Russian nuclear potential.”

By 2012, when the U.S. would field more than 300 interceptor missiles in Europe it would “acquire a credible capability to destroy Russian land- and submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles,” L-General Tretyak said, adding that this would upset the nuclear balance between the two countries.

Deputy chief of Russia’s general staff Colonel General Valery Gerasimov said that Russia was “deeply concerned” that after Poland and Romania, elements of U.S. missile defense will be deployed “in the Czech Republic, Turkey, Bulgaria and some other NATO members.”

Moscow has stepped up its rhetoric against the U.S. missile plans for Europe in the run-up to a G8 summit next week in France, on the sidelines of which the U.S. and Russian Presidents will hold bilateral talks that will cover the missile defence problem.

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