One More Missile Gone; Perry Watches Disarmament In Action
PERVOMAYSK MISSILE BASE, Ukraine (AP) _ With the U.S. and Ukrainian defense chiefs looking on, soldiers laid to rest on Saturday one more ghost of the Cold War doomsday threat.
``We are seeing history in the making,″ Defense Secretary William Perry said, a 60-foot-tall SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missile at his back.
Ukrainian soldiers lifted the giant, gray SS-19 _ its warhead already removed _ out of its underground silo with a Ukrainian missile erector. Standing nearby were an American pulley device and power tools used to yank out the silo’s electronics and to prepare the missile for its journey to the junk yard.
``Our children and our grandchildren will live in a safer world because of what we are doing here,″ Perry said.
Later at a lunch of traditional Ukrainian food and drink, Perry toasted his hosts and saluted Pervomaysk as ``a symbol of disarmament and of hope in the world.″
For their part, the Ukrainians seemed pleased to have the United States’ cooperation, and even used the event to emphasize how expensive disarmament can be.
``The elimination of nuclear weapons is being carried out at a good pace, but I cannot say it’s a process with no problems,″ Col. Gen. Vladymir Mikhtiuk, commander of the 43rd Rocket Army, told Perry during the missile-raising. Mikhtiuk said it consumed ``great technical and material resources.″ It was a gentle way of saying it’s straining Ukraine’s tight budget.
The townfolk also seemed to enjoy the occasion. At a military club some miles from the missile site, a crowd of perhaps 100 people stood outside in the cold waiting for a chance to spot probably the only U.S. defense secretary they would ever encounter. When Perry emerged they pressed near; some young people spoke to him.
Ukraine inherited its nuclear force in the breakup of the Soviet Union, and it has been pressing the Clinton administration to provide more aid for its disarmament. By the end of 1996, Ukraine is scheduled to have sent all 1,240 of its inherited nuclear warheads to Russia. Several hundred already are gone.
During the missile-raising ceremony in a snow-covered farm field, Perry signed an agreement to provide an additional $20 million to help Ukraine eliminate its SS-19 and newer SS-24 nuclear missiles and destroy their silos. The money will buy cranes, excavators and other equipment, services and training.
The extra money brings to $205 million the total amount of U.S. assistance under a December 1993 agreement by the Pentagon to help Ukraine in its disarmament.
Part of the U.S. money, which was authorized by Congress, is being used to help Ukraine cope with the social consequences of its disarmament. Perry made a point of seeing how some of that money is being used.
He visited a dilapidated former Soviet defense factory that has been converted from making naval ship components to producing prefabricated housing.
With $10 million in Pentagon assistance, the U.S. company Bill Harbert International Construction is employing Ukrainians to build 261 prefabricated houses for Pervomaysk missile base officers who are losing their jobs because of disarmament.
The idea is to develop the housing project to the point where it could become a profitable Ukrainian venture with sales throughout the country and beyond.
Perry attended a dedication ceremony at a parcel of land in the town of Pervomaysk where the Harbert houses are being erected. He said the U.S. assistance for the project was a sign of the Clinton administration’s determination to help Ukraine not only disarm but also cope with the consequences.
Perry later flew to Moscow where he will hold three days of talks on a range of issues, including preparations for President Clinton’s visit in May and U.S. displeasure at Russia’s planned sale of nuclear reactors to Iran. After that, Perry plans to visit the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.