Perry to Visit Nuclear Weapons Sites in Ukraine
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) _ The United States today provided Ukraine with an additional incentive to eliminate nuclear weapons, signing an agreement providing the former Soviet Republic with $50 million to destroy silos for its missiles.
The money is in addition to the $135 million the Clinton administration decided earlier this year to give Ukraine to remove its nuclear weapons. The new money is for eliminating the silos for 46 SS-24 missiles. Each SS-24 can carry 10 nuclear warheads.
As Perry signed the agreement, Ukraine moved two shipments totaling 120 warheads to Russia. Once there, the warheads are to be deactivated and dismantled.
″The first two trainloads of warheads have already departed Ukraine and gone to Russia for dismantlement,″ Perry said following a meeting with Ukraine Deputy Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense could not immediately confirm that a second trainload of warheads had already departed Ukraine.
Eager to prevent any delay in the shipment of nuclear weapons to Russia for dismantling, Perry planned an extraordinary visit Tuesday to two Ukrainian nuclear testing and launch facilities.
″This will be an unprecedented trip for the secretary of defense of the United States to go to these two very important sites,″ Perry said upon arrival late Sunday night from Kazakhstan, where he visited the once-top secret Baikonur space center.
In January, Ukraine, the United States and Russia signed a document committing to, but not guaranteeing, the elimination of nuclear weapons from Ukraine.
Perry hopes to accomplish that Tuesday at Ukraine’s Tervomaysk base, where the warheads are being loaded onto trains to shipment to Russia.
The defense secretary told reporters he wanted to observe the operation to get at least a ″lukewarm feeling″ of confidence that Ukraine is indeed eliminating the weapons.
In a last-minute addition to the agenda, Perry on Tuesday will visit another missile facility at Dnipropetrovsk, where missiles and space launch vehicles are manufactured.
With the sun glinting on fresh snow in this ancient capital, high-stepping soldiers of the Ukrainian army greeted Perry on his arrival today outside the czarist-era Defense Ministry building.
Then Perry met for more than a hour with his counterpart, Defense Minister Vitaly Radetsky. After signing the grant agreement, Radetsky said the U.S. aid comes at a critical time.
″We’ve just begun to build up our independent state and our armed forces,″ Radetsky said. ″It’s no secret that the process is extremely complicated.″ Given Ukraine’s goal of eliminating its nuclear weapons, he added, ″it is of great importance that the development of our armed forces is secured.″
Radetsky did not comment directly on the disposition of the second shipment of warheads but noted that with U.S. and Russian assistance, ″Ukraine has found a way to break down the nuclear deadlock.″
Ukraine will have 1,684 nuclear warheads after the removal and shipment of the 120 from the SS-24s, according to both a White House official and an independent review by the Washington-based Arms Control Association.
Other initiatives ready for action by Perry and his Ukrainian counterpart include:
- $10 million in U.S. aid to help Ukraine account for its enriched nuclear weapons material and to establish an export-control program to keep elements of weapons of mass destruction from being sold to other countries.
- $40 million in aid for a business partnership plan to allow U.S. companies to team up with Ukrainian weapons makers on civilian projects and to purchase housing for retired military officers.
- Establishing an economic stability and reform commission with U.S. and Ukrainian representatives.
Perry visited Moscow earlier and will wind up his week-long trip in Belarus on Wednesday. Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, the three republics other than Russia that retain parts of the former Soviet nuclear arsenal, have all agreed in principle to turn their warheads over to Russia.