U.S.–Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs

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The U.S. - Russia Joint Commission on POWs/MIAs (USRJC) was established in 1992 by the presidents of the United States and the Russian Federation, George H. W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin. The USRJC was established to determine the fates of the United States's and the Soviet Union's unaccounted-for service personnel from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War (as defined by the USRJC's directive to be specific "reconnaissance missions"), Afghanistan and the Vietnam War, Laos and Cambodia.

Information exchanged between the two parties is then investigated by a spectrum of governmental entities. In the U.S., the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) is the lead agency responsible for personnel accounting and personnel recovery. Numerous sub-agencies and offices are then tasked with further analysis and investigation, both in the US and abroad. The Russian side has established a similar hierarchy of agencies for reporting and vetting information. As of June 2007, the Russian side has yet to formalize certain elements and access within its own Prisoner of War - Missing in Action or Killed in Action but Body Not Recovered program (Interagency Commission for Prisoners of War, Internees, and Missing in Action).

The USRJC is broken down into four Working Groups which correlate to the four main areas of investigation. There is the World War II Working Group, the Korean War Working Group, the Cold War Working Group and finally, the Vietnam War Working Group, which deals with aspects of the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue. Additionally, the Cold War Working Group is tasked with research into the Soviet-Era GULAG system, forced labor camps, political and psychiatric hospitals, and Soviet detention facilities, in an effort to resolve the continued reporting of US service personnel who were taken to the former Soviet Union.

The Commission, holds a formal Plenary to discuss a spectrum of issues that involve Prisoners of War and Missing in Action such as; archival access and research, visitation to former Soviet detention facilities and camps, reported gravesites, loss incident reports, shoot-downs, archival reports, Soviet Bloc nation intelligence and reports, information passed on to the Commission and to establish the direction the USRJC and its Working Groups will take. Although the Commission is expected to hold annual Plenaries, it could be up to two years before a formal session is held. Both sides, the US and Russia, have replaced their chairmen within the year. In the interim, Working Group sessions are held to discuss information, intelligence, related issues and to make or address specific inquiries.

The chairmen are Presidential appointees. In 2007, the corresponding chairmen are: For the US, General Robert H. "Doc" Foglesong, U.S. Air Force (Retired), Mississippi State University President. For the Russian Federation, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov, Russian Army (Retired). Additional members, or Commissioners, of the USRJC represent various governmental agencies that work with the Commission on POW-MIA affairs. Some Commission Members are civilians, some are active duty military personnel.

Commission Members and field personnel travel to or are stationed in numerous Warsaw Pact countries. They continue to interview former military personnel, civilians, former Internees, contract for archival access, research, search military museums, and expand the investigative program in an effort to account for Missing service personnel. The US has a permanent DPMO office at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

At various points in any given year, one nation may host the others researchers, archivists or investigators. In Spring 2004, Russian Archivists were hosted by DPMO. They spent several days at the National Archives and Records Administration in Maryland, discussing technical areas, archival research, how best to use the Russian archives, declassification of documents, and a discussion on preservation of historic materials and documents. Representatives of both official government and private collections of documents and records will attend to share, teach and learn.

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