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Sowing Seeds of Peace in Fields of War

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 7, 1996 – The defense leaders of the world's top three nuclear powers recently sowed seeds of peace in a field of war. Soil that for decades was sown with nuclear death and destruction will soon yield a bounty of golden blooms.

U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry, Russian Defense Minister Gen. Pavel Grachev and Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Shmarov traveled to Pervomaysk, Ukraine, June 4, to mark the beginning of a nuclear-free age in the former Soviet state.

Ukraine officially became a nuclear-free nation June 1. Three trains carrying the last of its nuclear arsenal -- about 200 nuclear weapons -- left Ukraine for Russia, according to a senior U.S. defense official.

President Clinton called Ukraine's denuclearization a remarkable achievement. Ukraine had more than 4,000 strategic and tactical nuclear warheads in 1991, he said.

Equipped with small shovels, seedlings and watering cans, Perry, Grachev and Shmarov planted sunflowers at Silo 110, a site where until January, an ICBM silo lay beneath the fallow farmland.

Silo 110 was part of a Soviet rocket forces base that once housed 176 missiles armed with 1,920 strategic nuclear warheads. Disarming and removing the weapon systems has been a U.S., Russian and Ukrainian effort, according to DoD officials.

The Ukrainians removed about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons in 1991 and 1992, a DoD spokesman said. Dismantling Silo 110 is an example of the denuclearization effort started in January 1994, when the three nations signed a trilateral statement.

Ukraine agreed to relinquish the strategic nuclear weapons left in its territory following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and allow their return to Russia for dismantlement.

In return, Russia and the United States recognized Ukraine's sovereignty, independence and borders. The United States and Russia also agreed to provide Ukraine security assurances. They also agreed to give Ukraine fuel rods for the country's nuclear power reactors and money to finance the nuclear elimination, a senior DoD official said.

In March 1994, the three ministers first visited Silo 110 to verify warheads were removed. In a launch control facility 30 meters underground, a senior DoD official said, Perry saw a map hanging on the wall with little lights corresponding to the Soviet missile targets within the United States.

At the time, the official said, a few lights were out, indicating the early stages of the dismantling. "Now, all the lights would be out," he said. "That's 1,900 warheads destined for us that are now no longer threatening the United States."

In January 1995, the defense leaders returned to Pervomaysk to watch as workers pulled an SS-19 missile from the silo. This January, using three detonators, the defense chiefs blew up the silo. Since then, Ukrainian officials filled in the silo, pulled down the guard posts and security fences and returned the field to farmland.

Seeing the transformation from missile site to productive farmland firsthand was "enormously personally satisfying," Perry said. He said the attention he gave the Perovmaysk project reflects his view of Ukraine's role in European security.

"Ukraine can be described as a bridge between the East and the West," he said. "I cannot overestimate the importance of Ukraine as an independent nation to the security and stability of all Europe."

During this latest visit, Perry and Shmarov signed an agreement for $43 million, money Ukraine gets under the Nunn-Lugar Program to complete denuclearization projects. This brings to $400 million the U.S. contribution to Ukraine's denuclearization and defense conversion programs, a DoD official said.

Following the seed-planting ceremony, Perry toured a U.S.-funded housing project for the base's demobilized rocket officers. About 250 homes have been built, and 125 are now occupied. Many of the former officers work for a newly formed company named Julia -- a subcontractor to U.S.-owned Bechtel Corp. -- performing restoration work at the site. About 200 former officers sent a letter to Perry expressing their gratitude to the United States for its efforts on their behalf. They also gave him a large basket filled with vegetable seeds.

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