London, May 7: Former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev has warned that the United States could push the world into a new Cold War. Delivering one of his most scathing attacks on Washington, Gorbachev told The Daily Telegraph that a US military build-up was under way to contain a resurgent Russia.
From Nato's expansion plans in the former Soviet Union to Washington's proposals for a bigger defence budget and a missile shield in central Europe, the US was deliberately quashing hopes for permanent peace with Russia, Gorbachev claimed. "We had 10 years after the Cold War to build a new world order and yet we squandered them. The United States cannot tolerate anyone acting independently. Every US president has to have a war," the paper quoted him, as saying.
Gorbachev hinted that his successor as President, Vladimir Putin, could still direct Russia's foreign policy, leaving President Medvedev - seen by some as more liberal than his mentor - to concentrate on internal matters.
Gorbachev claimed that it was only Washington that was responsible for the worst crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War of the 1960s and 70s.
"Russia does not have enemies and Putin is not going to start a war against the United States or any other country for that matter. Yet, we see the United States approving a military budget and the defence secretary pledging to strengthen conventional forces because of the possibility of a war with China or Russia. I sometimes have a feeling that the United States is going to wage war against the entire world," he added.
Last year, Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, told a congressional committee that America needed to boost military spending to counter myriad threats including the "uncertain paths of China and Russia".
Those comments caused uproar in Russia, with pro-Kremlin newspapers claiming they heralded the start of a new Cold War.
Tensions have already been heightened by a US proposal to build a missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic to counter a nuclear strike by Iran.
Mr Gorbachev, however, claimed the plans were an aggressive act against Russia.
Relations have further deteriorated after Nato promised eventual membership to Georgia and Ukraine, a move interpreted by Gorbachev as an attempt to extend America's sphere of influence into Russia's backyard.