Swords to Soda: How US Hopes To Help Russia Move to Peace
ONCE, Moscow-based NPO Mashinostroyenia built nuclear missiles that were pointed at the US. Now, with the help of the US government, the Russian manufacturing firm may produce another sort of product to aimed at Russian markets: soda pop.Skip to next paragraph
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NPO Mashinostroyenia is one of the first participants in a controversial Clinton administration program intended to convert former Soviet weapons plants into civilian manufacturing. The ex-missile builder and Double Cola of Chattanooga, Tenn., are prospective partners in a joint venture to bottle and market cola. Seed money for the effort would come from the Pentagon.
''As far as consumer products are concerned, and soft drinks specifically, the market has tremendous opportunities,'' says Boris Farley, the international vice president of Double Cola, the No. 10 cola manufacturer in the United States.
The program is one facet of an initiative in which millions of US tax dollars are being spent to help Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan reduce the massive cold-war arsenals and military infrastructures they inherited from the former Soviet Union.
The US initiative also finances the destruction of former Soviet bombers, missiles, launching systems, and chemical weaponry; creates better security for weapons-grade nuclear materials; and spurs the construction of housing for former nuclear-missile officers. Washington has spent about $514 million for so-called Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) and the Pentagon envisions spending a total of $1.2 billion by 2000.
Defense Secretary William Perry hails the effort as ''defense by other means.'' His current week-long trip to parts of the former Soviet Union is partly designed to promote the initiative.
So far, the program has helped in the removal of more than 2,500 nuclear warheads from long-range missiles, the withdrawal of more than 780 missiles from their silos, and the destruction of more than 630 bombers and missile launchers.
But the administration is facing a fight on Capitol Hill over the $371 million it wants in fiscal 1996 for CTR. The initiative is funded under legislation sponsored by Sens. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana and Sam Nunn (D) of Georgia.
There is little opposition to new funds for destroying former Soviet nuclear weapons. But many Republicans object to funding the defense conversion and housing components.
The objections mainly involve Russia. Critics charge that with the US underwriting its housing and defense conversions, Russia can spend more for new weapons and the war in Chechnya.
''This is not a proper use of defense funds, and all the more at a time when Russian strategic modernization continues and the Russians are waging war on their own people,'' says Rep. Floyd Spence (R) of South Carolina, the chairman of the House National Security Committee.
Russia's chaotic markets
Citing Russia's chaotic transition to a market economy, critics also question whether US-aided joint ventures like that being negotiated between Double Cola and Mashinostroyenia can survive.