Fri Jul 3, 2009 3:08pm EDT
By Gleb Bryanski
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday rejected U.S. President Barack Obama's charge that he was mired in Cold War thinking, setting the scene for a stormy first meeting at a Moscow summit next week.
In a pre-trip interview, the U.S. leader told the Associated Press that Putin needed to "understand that the Cold War approach to U.S.-Russian relationship is outdated" and that Putin had "one foot in the old ways of doing business."
Putin -- who once described the collapse of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geo-political catastrophe of the century" -- hit back, saying Russians were standing firmly on both feet.
"We are standing firmly on both feet and always look to the future. That is the peculiarity of Russia. That has always allowed Russia to move forward and get stronger. That will continue," Putin was shown saying with a smile on state television.
Putin remains the dominant force in the Russian power structure after stepping down as Kremlin chief in 2008. His meeting with Obama next week is likely to set the tone for relations between the world's two biggest nuclear powers.
Putin also called on the United States to move relations forward by shelving plans for a missile defense shield in Europe and called for Washington to change its approach to expanding the NATO military alliance.
"If we see (that) our American partners refrain from deploying new missile complexes, anti-missile defense systems, or for example review their approach to widening military-political blocs, or generally refrain from bloc-like thinking, this would be a big movement forward," Putin said.
In keeping with protocol, Obama will spend more time with Putin's hand-picked successor as president, Dmitry Medvedev.
In his interview comments, the U.S. leader was more complimentary about Medvedev. He said he thought the Russian president understood the need for cooperation.
Putin, a former KGB spy, developed a good personal rapport with Obama's predecessor George W. Bush. This endured despite Russia-U.S. relations hitting their post-Cold War lows. He will meet Obama for the first time for 1 1/2 hours on Tuesday.
When asked about Obama's comments, a spokesman for Putin said the prime minister would use the summit to relieve the president of his mistaken impressions.
"I see that he does not possess full information. After visiting Moscow, President Obama will know the realities better," said Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
"Judging by these statements it is very good that the meeting with Prime Minister Putin is on President Obama's agenda. I am sure that after the meeting with Putin, President Obama will change his point of view," Peskov added.
Putin complained that the United States had kept in place trade restrictions, some of them dating back to the Cold War years, such as the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, which tied trade relations with the Soviet Union to the rights of religious minorities to emigrate.
He said that if it was repealed it would help move relations forward.
"We are ready for effective cooperation, we really expect a lot of the new administration," Putin said on an agricultural inspection in Russia's southern Krasnodar region.
(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Richard Balmforth)