MOSCOW, Russia - Accusations by Vladimir Putin that the United States is funding poll monitors to spark protests in Russia mark a return to the rhetoric of the Cold War, exactly 20 years after the fall of the USSR.
In one of his most bitter tirades against Washington in years, Putin accused US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of providing the "signal" for the unusually large protests contesting the validity of Sunday's elections.
His comments came amid fears of a looming crash in the "reset" that has warmed ties between Russia and the United States over the last few years, with another dispute also simmering over missile defence.
"These are words for domestic use, but at some point the patience of the Americans will be exhausted, and these attacks will cloud our relations," said Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy head of the US-Canada institute.
"He is forming a platform inside the country out of loyal people for whom the West was, is, and will be an enemy," he said.
By apparent coincidence, Putin's comments came on the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Belovezh accords when the leaders Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine decided on December 8, 1991 that the USSR no longer existed as a state.
No speeches or magazine spreads marked the day as Russia seemed to come full circle in two decades back to the Cold War era, when dissidents were routinely labelled spies and the United States was the nation's arch enemy.
But speaking a roomful of sometimes sycophantic supporters from his All Russian Popular Front (ONF) - a social , Putin seemed to imply that Washington was troubled by Moscow's continued power.