Huntsville Times (Huntsville, AL)
Posted on May 13, 2000
By Shelly Haskins, Times Business Editor
The first time Vladimir P. Lushin saw the United States, it was through a periscope.
On Friday, Lushin Ц a former Russian submarine captain who is now a member of his country's Duma, or parliament Ц said the view is much better from dry land.
Lushin and fellow Russian legislator Vladimir P. Volkov are in Huntsville this weekend, hosted by U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville. The visit is part of an exchange program sponsored by the Library of Congress to teach Russian and American lawmakers more about each other's countries.
Though both countries have made mistakes in the effort to establish better relations, "The more I live on this planet, the more plain it become to me that Russia and the United States have become friends," Lushin said through an interpreter.
One area where the U.S. and Russia already are working together is in space, where both are helping build the International Space Station. That was the reason for the visit to Huntsville, where Lushin, Volkov and two advisers toured Marshall Space Flight Center, Redstone Arsenal and the technology company Time Domain Corp. on Friday.
Volkov said space is a wonderfully neutral place for the two former Cold War arch-enemies to regain each other's trust.
"Today, in the space center, it became even more obvious and more clear that we are on the same boat, the same ship, the space ship called planet Earth," Volkov said.
Though Cold War memories linger on both sides, Volkov said, Russia celebrated a holiday three days ago that should serve as a reminder that the two nations have not always been enemies. On May 9, the Russians celebrated the 55th anniversary of the victory over Germany in World War II.
During the visit to Redstone Arsenal, the Russian delegation, watched the test firing of a TOW (Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided) missile, and visited the arsenal's systems simulation and software engineering directorates.
Their main objective was to see how the U.S. military works in tandem with private defense contractors to develop and test weapons.
Lushin said he was impressed with the partnership between industry and the government, and the high-quality technology the marriage produces. He said Russia would like to develop a similar system, but that will have to wait until efforts to privatize industry in Russia move past the infancy stage.
Russia would even like to begin developing weapons with the United States at some point, Lushin said, though he conceded that there is still somewhat of a trust gap to be overcome.
"To be frank, I've always known that Americans are good-natured and open people and very hospitable people," Lushin said. " I can tell that we don't have to look at the United States through a periscope anymore.
"I've been to this wonderful country and I've seen it with my own eyes."
Reprinted with permission from the Huntsville Times. This permission does not imply endorsement of any kind.
[Reprinted with Permission]