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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Senators Tackle Cold War Mindset

Visiting U.S. senators said Wednesday that they had to get Russia past its Cold War thinking before it would accept U.S. plans to build a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Worries about the shield are "a relic of Cold War thinking," Senator Trent Lott told reporters during a meeting with members of the Federation Council. "I thought we were over that."

Lott, a Republican, reiterated the U.S. administration's position that the shield was about defensive capability, not offensive strikes, and posed no threat to Russia.

But Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Federation Council's International Affairs Committee, said many of his countrymen were nervous about U.S. military activity in Europe. "We consider any American missile and any American radar in Europe to be a remnant of the Cold War because many of us do have that Cold War-style mentality," he said.

U.S. Senator Ben Nelson explained that the shield was aimed mainly at threats from Iran.

The planned deployment of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic was inadequate to prevent a large-scale missile attack from Russia, said Nelson, a Democrat.

A total of five senators are in Moscow this week.

The Kremlin has said the shield would threaten the military balance in Europe by weakening Russia's ability to retaliate against an offensive strike. On Tuesday, the military tested a new multiwarhead intercontinental ballistic missile that it said could penetrate any shield. Putin said the same day that the U.S. plans would turn Europe into a "powder keg."

Nelson put the shield dispute at the top of a long list of problems between Russia and the United States. A disagreement over Kosovo's independence came second, he said.

Following a meeting with the senators, Economic Development and Trade German Gref said they had been supportive of Russia's ascension to the World Trade Organization and realized the need to scrap the Cold War-era Jackson-Vanik amendment to normalize trade ties as soon as possible.

"There is an understanding of the necessity of Russia urgently joining the WTO," Gref said, Interfax reported.