G.N. Lepeshkin: The first time I visited America was in 1994. That was my second trip abroad. We came at the invitation of the State Department. I was with a group of directors of Kazakhstan defense firms. All of us were involved with defense issues. This entailed state secrets, of course. Everybody had secrets. And we had been instructed on how to behave under these circumstances. After landing in America, we were surprised. The purpose of our visit was to set up business contacts with businessmen in the United States. Out of all of us, we were eight directors, and four projects were to be financed by the United States. My project was one of those four, but that's a subject for a separate discussion, I wanted to talk about the competence of the agencies that received us.
Slava Paperno: All eight were from Kazakhstan?
Lepeshkin: Yes, yes, that's right, from Kazakhstan. They were experts, plant directors, who were making, you know, torpedoes, making firearms, making anti-aircraft missile systems. In other words, an entire... well, the most advanced industrial executives in Kazakhstan at the time. When we were invited to the first conversation with businessmen, we were issued a manual prepared by the Americans that was titled, "Defense Enterprises in Kazakhstan." And since we had been instructed not to say too much,.. this manual contained all the information about our enterprises, current as of, maybe, a week previous. We arrived in August, at the beginning of the month, and the manual was issued on July 31 or July 30. And about 99 or 98 percent, it varied from firm to firm, but 90 percent was all very accurate.
Paperno: Who gave you the manual?
Lepeshkin: Well, it was prepared by the Americans, I don't know who it was. It was given to us by a representative of the [State] Department. That came as a big surprise to us. We described our enterprises and our planned conversion projects. And the businessmen, of course, were trying to choose whether they liked us or not. Whether our way of working, our project, was a good fit for them or not. And later an intergovernmental agreement was signed. I had very good impressions from that trip. Yes, my first impression was a good one, I liked my first trip to the United States. I learned a lot, everything was new to me. We had excursions arranged for us, we were shown a lot and provided a lot of information. And I was happy with that trip.
Paperno: Were you nervous when you first met with American officials?
Lepeshkin: Well, I wouldn't say nervous, but I was wary. In our country, after all, we were brought up along the lines that you mustn't say too much, you must always be aware of what you're doing. In short, the first meeting was pretty hard. But then everything started to loosen up. We just always felt this nice, friendly attitude toward us and desire to help.