Posted by: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft
On November 30, I traveled to Kalynivka in Vinnytsia Oblast to observe a very important project that is safely eliminating SCUD missiles and demilitarizing related equipment. The U.S. is funding a project to assist in this effort, which is a concrete example of the very positive benefits that come from close U.S.-Ukrainian cooperation. The same program is helping to eliminate toxic mélange fuel (a highly toxic fuel used for missiles) at a base near Lviv.
When we arrived at the base, I received a warm welcome from Deputy Minister of Defense Omelyanchuk and base commander LTC Andriy Ostrenko. The green SCUD missiles were large, imposing, and quite ugly when seen up close. As I watched the team demonstrate disposal methods, I reflected on the recent history of arms control efforts in this part of the world, on which I’ve spent a good part of my career. After working hard to reduce and eliminate weapons like these, it’s heartening to see them being cut apart and turned into useful scrap metal. I was reminded of the biblical injunction to beat swords into plowshares.
Significant progress has been made since work began on the project in September, with approximately three missiles and four warhead vans destroyed every day, in addition to a launch vehicle approximately every other day. As of last week, nearly two-thirds of the work had been completed on the missile airframes and missile launchers, in addition to about half of the demilitarization work on truck units and missile carriers.
We left Kyiv early on a cold, snowy morning for the three-hour drive to Kalynivka. Vinnytsia Oblast reminded me of my home state of Wisconsin – the flat landscape of rich soil, light snow, and many stands of trees along the highway brought to mind the American Midwest in winter. After our visit to the base, our traveling party enjoyed a fine luncheon – in the sunshine – with Governor Mykola Dzhyha, who shared his local pride and told us that the oblast is known for its bountiful agriculture, including dairy products (cheese!), excellent apples, and good fishing – more similarities to Wisconsin! They sure know how to make a visitor feel at home in Vinnytsia – even when we’re there for serious work.