At the close of a forum Friday afternoon at Clayton Junior High School, students gave three Soviet Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty inspectors a "treasure chest" of gifts.
Along with a yearbook and a directory of students' phone numbers, the students gave the Soviets a copy of the Declaration of Independence, slap bracelets, baseball cards and a tape of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.The Soviet inspectors in turn gave the students a book of Russian folk tales, model kits of a helicopter and plane, and "disarmament dollars" and souvenirs made from scraps of Soviet missiles destroyed since the INF treaty was signed, three years ago today.
"Dear friends, we thank you very much for these gifts," said Alekseev Bladislav, holding the festively wrapped box aloft.
The exchange capped an all-school assembly that marked the end of an intensive week of study, in part sponsored by the Utah Soviet Awareness program, said Clayton Vice Principal Amy Wadsworth.
Students lined up to ask questions of Bladislav, Jatsenko Balery and Sirkova Irina, members of the team of 27 Soviets monitoring shipments from Hercules Aerospace.
Some of the questions were easy: How old must a Soviet be to drive a car? Is there skiing in Russia? Do Soviet students dress alike? What does a television cost?
Others, however, were more difficult. Why are Soviet gymnastics teams so consistently superlative? Will the Soviet republics remain united? Do Soviets look to the United States as an example of freedom? And why does the USSR "all of a sudden" want peace with the United States?
Through Irina, who acted as interpreter, Bladislav and Balery gave the students quick lessons in the history of U.S.-Soviet relations, focusing on the origins of the Cold War in the aftermath of World War II - no easy task, especially in front of about 400 restless youngsters.
After the assembly, a student said he thought some of the questions were deliberate attempts to anger the inspectors.
But the Soviets, ever diplomatic, said it's all a part of the learning process that has come with their posts.
"We would like them to think not so much of political problems," said Jatsenko, smiling. "Let them solve children's problems."
Normally, the three inspectors take turns monitoring the Hercules plant around the clock, inspecting shipments large enough to contain motors for INF missiles.
The Soviet inspectors also meet with citizens groups, schools, churches and others as part of their social calendar, said Mary Wilson, public affairs officer for the Magna-based On-Site Inspection Agency.
Americans in the Soviet Union have similar responsibilities. Inspectors from both countries have watched and verified that the countries destroy about three-quarters of their INF missiles. The treaty requires that all such missiles be destroyed by the middle of next year.
Inspectors in both countries must abide by the "host" country's rules regarding where they may go. Here in Utah, the 200 or so Soviets who have rotated through as inspectors have been allowed to go to public functions such as hockey games and to go shopping, but have not been allowed to visit Americans in private homes.
That has not changed, even in these post-Cold War days, Wilson said.