Aspin, Russian discuss plan for Ukrainian arms Ukraine wants to keep missiles

June 06, 1993|By New York Times News Service

GARMISCH, Germany -- Stepping up the U.S. campaign to persuade the Ukrainians to give up their nuclear weapons, Defense Secretary Les Aspin came here yesterday to discuss with Russia a new plan to dismantle Ukraine's nuclear missiles and place their warheads under international supervision.

Mr. Aspin met with the Russian defense minister, Gen. Pavel S. Grachev.

The plan is intended to resolve a Russian-Ukrainian dispute on how to deal with the warheads that would be removed from Ukraine's missiles if Ukraine gave up its nuclear arms.

Under the plan, the warheads would at first be put under the control of international inspectors, then sent to Russia for dismantling.

Mr. Aspin's meeting with General Grachev is the first session between the two defense chiefs. In addition to their discussion of the Ukraine issue, Mr. Aspin is expected to take up the question of joint U.S.-Russian military exercises, as well as issues of nuclear testing and the setting of targets for nuclear weapons.

With Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine telling members of his Parliament that their country should retain some of the 176 nuclear-tipped missiles left on its soil by the former Soviet Union, the Ukrainian issue has become a central concern for the Clinton administration.

Though other Ukrainian leaders disagree with Mr. Kuchma, Gen. John M. Shalikashvili of the United States, NATO's commander, said it was "frightening" that a Ukrainian leader of Mr. Kuchma's standing had called for retaining any nuclear weapons.

After completing talks with General Grachev this morning, Mr. Aspin is to fly to Kiev to meet with the Ukrainian defense minister, Konstanin Morozov.

U.S. officials say the nuclear debate in Kiev is fueled by deep-seated concerns of Ukrainians that their independence might be short-lived and their country absorbed in a new version of the Russian empire.

The breakup of the Soviet Union left three countries besides Russia with nuclear weapons on their soil.

Belarus has agreed to give up its nuclear weapons by the end of next year, and Kazakhstan has ratified the 1991 strategic arms reduction treaty known as START-1 but so far has not agreed to renounce nuclear arms.

Ukraine has taken neither step.

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