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RUSSIANS FIND ALL IN ORDER AT HAFB, THEN GO SHOPPING

SHARE RUSSIANS FIND ALL IN ORDER AT HAFB, THEN GO SHOPPING

By all accounts, a Russian inspection team's visit to Hill's missile storage and maintenance facilities last week went smoothly.

"They came, they saw, they counted, and everything we said we had here was here," said Boyd Peterson, chief of Hill's Arms Control Office.The 10 inspectors spent Thursday through Saturday going into Hill's storage bunkers and maintenance facilities, counting and measuring booster rocket motors for Peacekeeper and Minuteman missiles according to the terms of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

This was a "base-line" visit in which the Russians verify whether the United States in fact has the same number of missiles it says it has. During the next 15 years, the duration of the treaty, the Russians may return to Hill a maximum of twice a year for supplemental verification visits.

Hill officials are expecting the Russians to return to Utah before June 29, the base-line visit deadline, to inspect missile rocket booster motors at the Oasis Test Complex west of the Great Salt Lake.

"We're only half done," Peterson said. "I was hoping they would do all of it while they were here."

The Russians arrived Thursday morning and finished their inspection visit Saturday evening. They slept in second-floor apartments in a building on base, while their American escorts slept on the floor below.

As is evidenced by the sleeping arrangements, the visit was very tightly structured. According to the START treaty, the Russians may see only so much of U.S. missile sites and no more. They were escorted everywhere - the American on-site inspection team didn't let them out of sight.

"They know the treaty and what rights they have under it," Peterson said. "They don't even try (to see something outside the bounds of the agreement) because if they ever got caught doing something like that, it would be an international incident."

Saturday night, after the formal inspection was over, the Russians went on a whirlwind shopping spree to Kmart, Wal-Mart and ShopKo, where they practically broke the bank. Their purchases, according to Peterson, included children's toys, clothing, cosmetics, steak knives, an answering machine, a stereo, an electric alarm clock and that all-American necessity, Pepto-Bismol.

Too many American Whoppers, perhaps?

Nevertheless, during the inspection itself, the visitors were the very model of decorum.

"They were very professional," Peterson said. "They never broke out of character. They even elected not to speak any English," even though at least one of them knew the language, preferring instead to speak wholly through interpreters.

The Russians' meticulous missile examination failed to turn up any discrepancies between the U.S. reported numbers and what they saw.

"There were no problems at all with the inspections," Peterson said.

After many months of waiting for the former Soviet Union to sort itself out for START verification activities to begin, Peterson was relieved that things are finally under way.

The Americans expected the inspection team to comprise representatives of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, as well as Russia, but no one from the first three republics showed. Why only Russians?

"Basically, it comes down to economics," said Maj. Joe Richard of the U.S. On-Site Inspection Agency. "At least, we're assuming that's the reason."