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Russian Warships May Keep Americans Working

March 12, 1994

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The waning of the Cold War sounded a death knell for a naval shipyard here, and sent its workers in search of new jobs. Now, dismantling the relics of an old enemy, the Russian military, could revive the the yard and save its workers’ jobs.

Under a plan devised by a congressman, a Russian diplomat and a Senate staffer, the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard - scheduled to close in 1995 - could stay open for another decade, breaking down Russian ships and tanks into scrap metal.

″This is the ultimate payback for the American workers,″ said U.S. Rep. Weldon, R-Pa.

″They built the best Navy in the world. Now these fellas can reap the success of winning the Cold War,″ Weldon said Friday.

The shipyard is one of 34 bases that a federal commission decided in 1991 to close in an effort to save $1.5 billion.

The new plan would allow 7,000 workers to keep their jobs and could create up to 3,000 new ones.

It also would allow Russia to turn its outmoded military equipment into marketable scrap metal, which can be sold for much-needed hard currency.

Officials said the dismantling plan came together during a visit to Washington, D.C., by Boris Ivanoff, Russia’s first secretary for arms control and disarmament.

Ivanoff met with Gary Sojka, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee staff, who told him the U.S. objected to Russia selling war materials to Third World Nations.

Ivanoff told him the country needed to scrap more than 50 warships and 400 tanks to raise money to build its economy.

Earlier, Weldon had proposed breaking up U.S. warships at the Navy Yard as a way to keep it open. Sojka remembered the proposal and contacted Weldon.

The details of the plan still need to be resolved. In one version, a U.S. company would buy the ships from the Russians and then try to earn a profit by converting them to scrap.

A contingency plan would be needed in case the price of scrap metal dropped. And the cost of removing environmentally hazardous materials would have to be negotiated.

Subsidies already earmarked for Russia could be used to buy the 50 warships and 400 tanks, Weldon said. He plans to visit Russia with a small delegation within the next few months to close the deal and says the first ship could be ready for dismantling by July.

″Using the subsidies this way is very productive. It keeps Americans working and it gets rid of the Soviet military,″ he said.

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