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U. S. Embassy Hiring Russians

For the first time, the American Embassy is hiring Russian citizens to work as security guards and protect the compound, burying some of the last vestiges from the Cold War, a State Department spokesman in Washington said Monday.


At the same time, an embassy employee said the mission is beefing up security by increasing manned patrols on the compound and erecting metal detectors at the front gate.


The U. S. Embassy officially put a seven-year Soviet-imposed embargo to rest when it hired 25 Russian employees last April. Since then, an additional 25 Russians have been hired and dispersed to different departments, including personnel, maintenance and consular affairs.


A spokesman for the embassy said hiring of local nationals for such positions is now an ongoing process, with more and more Russians filling nondiplomatic posts.


The official in Washington, however, said that the embassy had never previously hired Russians for security duty.


The new Russian era makes it possible for all foreign embassies to hire whom they want, as opposed to past restrictions requiring foreign institutions to pick from a pool of workers approved by the Soviet government.


The impact of the easing of the Cold War on the embassy's local relations was also reflected earlier this month when U. S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said the Clinton administration is considering using the new embassy building, which was bugged during construction, for unclassified activities.


Aside from the United States, other NATO countries continued to hire Russians at their embassies in Moscow during the Cold War.


The Soviet hiring ban of October 1986 was one of a series of hostile actions between the two superpowers.


The feud began in 1985 when American officials found electronic listening devices throughout the new embassy chancery, making it unusable. The United States fired back by forbidding the Soviets to move into their compound in Washington, D. C.


In 1986, tensions mounted with the United States expelling several Soviet diplomats. The Soviet government then pulled its workers from the U. S. Embassy in Moscow and imposed an indefinite hiring ban, which lasted until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.


In the short term, the boycott meant diplomats had to perform menial labor.


"Diplomats were left cleaning their own toilets and taking out garbage", said a former embassy employee.


The ban meant more than an inconvenience for the diplomatic corps. In the long term it cost American taxpayers hundreds of thousands.


Each of the current 136 contract employees were paid salaries far higher than their Russian counterparts, received apartments and one trip home a year. They had to have expensive top-secret security checks.


"Americans cost too much", said Ted Ury, resident manager of Pacific Architects and Engineers Inc. , which was hired by the American Embassy to fill its vacancies.


New Russian employees will only receive salaries - in rubles and dollars.


Though U. S. Embassy deputy chief of mission James Collins recently assured contract employees that they would not lose their jobs, he said that some people may be shifted into new positions. Collins added that some contract posts may be phased out.


"It will cut out the opportunity for people like myself to come over and have interesting jobs", said a former contract employee. "But the majority of jobs could be done as well by Russians.


Not all embassy staff are enthusiastic about the new hires. Ury said embassy personnel have been "spoiled to a certain extent" by having only Americans perform all chores.


"Russians don't have the same work ethic", Ury said. "On the maintenance side, it takes four to six people to do the job of one American. There are some good ones, but mostly not".

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