Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Wanted: 250 arms control inspectors. Pentagon corps will check INF compliance - and escort Soviets in the US

``Arms control inspector'' is the job title. Requirements include knowledge of missile hardware, ability to speak Russian, and willingness to sit and stare at a factory gate in Votkinsk, USSR, for long periods of time. Warm clothes are a must. The temperature in Votkinsk has been known to reach 65 degrees below.

The employer who has been looking for such workers is a brand-new Pentagon unit, the On-Site Inspection Agency (OSIA). This enforcement corps, about 250 people strong, will check Soviet compliance with the treaty banning medium-range nuclear missiles.

About these ads

When the Senate ratifies the medium-range pact sometime this spring, OSIA will be ready to go to work, Pentagon officials say. And the agency is eyeing an even bigger job: verification of a strategic arms pact, if one can be reached.

``We're preparing'' for strategic weapons inspections, says a Pentagon official familiar with OSIA progress.

This preparation entails trying to identify sufficient numbers of skilled linguists, among other things. One of the agency's toughest challenges, in its few months of existence, has been finding people with military intelligence or missile backgrounds who speak Russian well enough to converse with native speakers.

The agency now has enough to sprinkle them in inspection teams for the INF Treaty. But a long-range weapon pact, which President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev could conceivably sign at the May Moscow summit, would strain OSIA's resources. US officials are looking for ways to broaden government Russian-language training.

``We don't have the number or quality of Russian speakers we would like,'' admits a Pentagon official.

Preparation for the tough job of INF inspection begins in earnest April 6. On that day, OSIA teams will begin running mock inspections of NATO facilities throughout Western Europe, for practice.

Then, sometime this spring or early summer, the Senate will almost certainly approve the INF Treaty.

About these ads

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 17 to 2 to approve the treaty yesterday. As yet, it is unclear when a full Senate vote will take place. Senate majority leader Robert Byrd (D) of West Virginia complained Tuesday that it is not clear whether the pact bans futuristic medium-range weapons, such as lasers.

Thirty days after ratification, OSIA's work will start in earnest. Inspectors will have two months to visit 126 missile production, storage, and deployment facilities in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to verify the Soviet inventory of medium-range weapons. The workload will be heavy enough to require almost daily flights of US inspectors into Moscow and Irkutsk, the points of entry allowed under the treaty.

After the initial inspections, full-scale destruction of missiles will begin at a small number of weapon boneyards. The Soviets have so many medium-range weapons to crush, burn, launch, or shred (1,752, as opposed to 859 in the US) that ``they will have to eliminate on a virtual around-the-clock basis for the next three years,'' says the Defense Department official familiar with OSIA.

After elimination is complete, OSIA will have three main duties:

Short-notice inspections. US inspectors will be able to fly into the USSR and demand to peruse any of about 75 listed missile facilities. Over the next 13 years both sides can conduct 185 such snap visits.

Escort duty. OSIA teams will be trained to escort Soviet inspectors who come to US facilities. Current thinking is that there will be about 18 US escorts per Soviet inspection team.

Watching Votkinsk. The US has the right to establish a permanent monitoring presence around the perimeter of the Votkinsk Machine Building Plant in central Russia, which was the site of SS-20 manufacture. (The USSR will be able to set up a similar presence at a US missile plant in Magna, Utah.)

OSIA inspectors will keep a careful eye on the main portal of Votkinsk, as well as its one existing side entrance. With scales, cameras, measuring sticks, and other equipment they will ensure that no further SS-20s roll out of the plant.

Votkinsk's other claim to renown is that it is the birthplace of the composer Tchaikovsky. It will not exactly be a garden spot for US inspectors to be stationed. The Soviets will build new housing for the US at a site near the factory, and they have showed US visitors several nearby lakes suitable for recreation. But inspectors will not be allowed to wander more than 50 miles away, and teeth-chattering cold is common in winter.

Female OSIA inspectors will not be sent to Votkinsk. A third of the agency's inspectors, however, are women, Pentagon officials note.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.