MUNICH • Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said yesterday that strains between Russia and the West have plunged the world into a "new Cold War".
With tensions high over the lingering Ukraine conflict and Russia's backing of the Syrian regime, Mr Medvedev said: "All that's left is an unfriendly policy of Nato against Russia."
"We can say it even more clearly: We have slid into a new period of Cold War," he said, speaking at the Munich Security Conference. "Almost every day, we are accused of making new horrible threats either against Nato, against Europe or against the US or other countries."
Mr Medvedev criticised the expansion of Nato and European Union influence deep into formerly Soviet-ruled eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War.
"European politicians thought that creating a so-called belt of friends at Europe's side, on the outskirts of the EU, could be a guarantee of security, and what's the result?" he said. "Not a belt of friends, but a belt of exclusion."
He added that creating trust was hard, but there had to be a start. "Our positions differ, but they do not differ as much as 40 years ago, when a wall was standing in Europe."
He urged better East-West dialogue, citing the "shining example" of the historic meeting of Pope Francis and Russian Patriarch Kirill in Cuba.
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had earlier addressed the forum on the subject of tensions with Russia, vowing a firm stance, while also offering dialogue.
"We have seen a more assertive Russia, a Russia which is destabilising the European security order," he said. "Nato does not seek confrontation and we don't want a new Cold War. At the same time our response has to be firm."
Nato was now "undertaking the biggest reinforcement to our collective defence in decades, to send a powerful signal to deter any aggression or intimidation. Not to wage war, but to prevent war".
Mr Stoltenberg charged that Russia's rhetoric, posture and exercises of its nuclear forces are aimed at intimidating its neighbours and undermining trust and stability in Europe.
"For Nato, the circumstances in which any use of nuclear weapons might have to be contemplated are extremely remote," he stressed.
He cautioned that no one should think nuclear weapons can be used as part of conventional conflict, and urged a more constructive and cooperative relationship with Russia.
"I strongly believe that the answer lies with both more defence and more dialogue," he said.