COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Russia's ambassador to Denmark has said Moscow could send nuclear missiles against ships from the Scandinavian NATO country if it joins the alliance's missile defense system.
Ambassador Mikhail Vanin's comments, published in newspaper Jyllands-Posten Saturday, prompted an angry response from Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard.
"I do not think Danes fully understand the consequences of what happens if Denmark joins the U.S.-led missile defense. If this happens, Danish warships become targets for Russian nuclear missiles," Vanin was quoted as saying by the daily.
Should Danes join "we risk considering each other as enemies," he added.
Lidegaard said the comments were "inacceptable" and that Vanin had "crossed the line" by saying that "everyone who joins" the shield "in the future will be a target for Russian ballistic missiles."
However, Lidegaard added that "it is important that the tone between us doesn't escalate."
There were no immediate plans for a meeting between Lidegaard and Vanin. The Russian embassy couldn't be reached for a comment.
East-West relations have worsened dramatically in the past year amid bitter tensions over Ukraine.
In August, Danes agreed to contribute to NATO's shield with at least one frigate with advanced radar capacity. Russia strongly opposes the missile defense system, with bases planned in Romania and Poland.
U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford wrote on Twitter Saturday that Vanin's comments "do not inspire confidence" or contribute to peace and stability.
"It never has and never had anything to do with Russia," Lidegaard said about the missile shield, saying the defense system was aimed at protecting against rogue states or terrorist organizations, among others.