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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 February 2007, 21:42 GMT
Putin's speech: Back to cold war?
By Rob Watson
BBC defence and security correspondent, Munich

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in Munich
Mr Putin said the US "has overstepped its borders"
The Munich security conference was born in the 1960s - the height of the Cold War. Forty years on, there has been talk of a new chill.

Given the tone and content of Russian President Vladimir Putin's address to the gathered defence ministers, parliamentarians and pundits, it is not, perhaps, hard to see why.

Warming quickly to his task after only the briefest of greetings, President Putin accused the US of establishing, or trying to establish, a "uni-polar" world.

"What is a uni-polar world? No matter how we beautify this term, it means one single centre of power, one single centre of force and one single master," he said.

'Formula for disaster'

President Putin continued in a similar vein for some time.

In today's multi-polar world, there is no place for needless confrontation
US Senator John McCain

"The United States has overstepped its borders in all spheres - economic, political and humanitarian, and has imposed itself on other states," he said.

It was a formula that, he said, had led to disaster: "Local and regional wars did not get fewer, the number of people who died did not get less but increased. We see no kind of restraint - a hyper-inflated use of force."

The US has gone "from one conflict to another without achieving a fully-fledged solution to any of them", Mr Putin said.

With the new US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and several US congressmen sitting in the audience, he called for the reconsideration of the whole existing architecture of global security.

'Disappointing' speech

But he did not win over his audience.

Several delegates did not like his rather brusque brushing off of questions about Russia's own commitment to democracy and his defence of Moscow's decision to sell an air-defence system to Iran.

Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer described President Putin's speech as "disappointing and not helpful". And there was similar reaction from the president of Estonia and others.

But it was left to US Republican senator and presidential hopeful John McCain to lead the retort.

Today's world, he said sternly, was not uni-polar, adding that it was an autocratic Russia that needed to change its behaviour.

"Moscow must understand that it cannot enjoy a genuine partnership with the West so long as its actions at home and abroad conflict so fundamentally with the core values of Euro-Atlantic democracies," he said.

"In today's multi-polar world, there is no place for needless confrontation, and I would hope that Russian leaders understand this truth," Senator McCain said.

Spotlight on Moscow

Afterwards in the corridors there were dark mutterings by some about a new Cold War.

Others were less gloomy, dismissing President Putin's performance as one of Russia's periodic bouts of letting off steam at its diminished world status.

But it has made an impression.

For the last few years, as one observer suggested, it was the former US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, who was the man everybody loved to hate at this conference.

President Putin's performance has single-handedly switched the spotlight from the US to Russia.

President Putin's comments about the US

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