Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, embraced the fiery rhetoric of the Cold War Wednesday as he threatened to target and if necessary destroy America’s European missile defence shield once it is built.

In what may be the most serious blow to U.S.-Russia relations since President Barack Obama came to power, Mr Medvedev raised the prospect of Russia launching missile attacks on European Union member states such as Poland, Romania and Spain as well as Turkey, a Nato member.

”I have given the armed forces the task of drawing up plans to destroy the information and command and control systems of the [U.S./Nato] anti-missile shield,” Mr Medvedev said.