Putin warns of 'missile crisis'

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that the situation surrounding proposed US missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe has similarities to the Cuban missile crisis of the 1960s.

"Analogous actions by the Soviet Union, when it deployed missiles in Cuba, prompted the 'Caribbean crisis,"' Putin said at a news conference at the conclusion of an EU-Russian summit in Portugal, using Russian terminology for the Cuban missile crisis.

"For us the situation is technologically very similar. We have withdrawn the remains of our bases from Vietnam, from Cuba, and have liquidated everything there, while at our borders, such threats against our country are being created," he said.

At the same time, Putin suggested the tension was much lower that during the Cuban missile crisis because Russian-US relations have moved on since the Cold War, and said he feels the United States is listening to Moscow's concerns about its missile plans.

He said his relationship with US President George W. Bush helps iron out problems in ties, calling Bush his "personal friend."

"On a positive note, I note that concerns about threats to our security are being heard by the Americans," Putin said. "Our American partners are thinking about how to neutralize these threats that are being created. Our work continues."

Putin and EU leaders, meanwhile, put a positive spin on the summit, which many observers had low expectations for, given deepening disputes between Moscow and the 27-nation bloc over issues such as energy, human rights and the Balkans.

Speaking before reporters, Putin, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and other EU officials repeatedly characterized the talks as "open, frank and productive."

However, the two sides failed to sign a new cooperation agreement to replace an expiring one, and two minor deals — on drug trafficking and steel exports — were the among the few concrete results announced in the end.