Top Russian officials have blasted the United States defence and security policies even as Russia’s security chief was in Washington discussing ways to improve relations between the two countries.

“Lack of trust remains a holdover of the Cold War… the missile defence is an acute problem (and) the unilateral buildup of missile capabilities create serious obstacles for implementation of undivided European security,” Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said opening an international security conference in Moscow on Thursday.

The two-day conference, titled Military and Political Aspects of European Security, has brought together more than 200 senior defence officials from Russia, Europe, the U.S. and Canada, as well as military and political experts.

The conference opened a day after U.S. President Barack Obama “reaffirmed his desire to strengthen the bilateral relationship, including U.S.-Russian economic ties.” Mr Obama conveyed the message to Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev who delivered President Vladimir Putin’s reply to Mr Obama’s letter sent a month ago.

Moscow, however, sees a big mismatch between Washington’s words and deeds.

“The logic of [the West’s] unilateral steps still prevails, without taking into account the views and concerns of other countries,” Sergei Ivanov, chief of the Kremlin administration, said at the Moscow conference adding that the Western approach inevitably undermined even-handed security and mutual trust.

Russian Chief of Staff Valery General Gerasimov said Moscow would only agree to further cuts in its nuclear arsenals if it gets proof that the U.S. global missile defence does not pose a threat to Russia and if Washington agrees to a cap on non-nuclear high-precision weapons. If the U.S. pushes ahead with its global missile shield, Moscow may exit the new START treaty signed in 2010, General Gerasimov said.

“We make no secret that we have military-technical means to neutralise the possible negative impact of the U.S. global missile defence system on the Russian nuclear forces,” the Russian Chief of Staff said.

Summing up the West’s defence policies over the two decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said:

“Efforts to build up and modernise offensive capabilities, create and deploy new types of weapons and expand NATO have eroded the security structures in Europe… We are convinced that attempts to strengthen one’s own security by weakening the partner’s security can only lead to an unnecessary buildup of tension and unjustifiable squandering of political and material resources.”

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