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U.S.–Soviet Scientific Cooperation in the Age of Confrontation

Soviet society is no longer insulated from the influence and attraction of the outside world or impervious to the need for external contacts.

Henry Kissinger, 1976

In 1955, with East-West political relations temporarily on the mend, the heads of state and then the foreign ministers of the Soviet Union, France, England, and the United States met in Geneva, where they discussed a program for increased contacts with the Soviet Union. The Soviets rejected the Western emphasis on multilateral approaches, but suggested that some of the proposals might be transformed into bilateral programs, and particularly cultural exchanges of individuals and groups. To this end, and after lengthy negotiations, the U.S. and Soviet governments signed an agreement in January 1958 that provided for a range of bilateral activities, and particularly reciprocal visits in the fields of education, culture, and information. The agreement included, at the Soviets’ initiative, a provision for an interacademy exchange program to be worked out by the academies in the two countries. (The intergovernmental agreement was entitled “Agreement between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on Exchanges in the Cultural, Technical, and Educational Fields.”)

Then in 1959, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (ASUSSR) agreed to establish a formal program of scientific cooperation that would emphasize exchange visits by leading scientists. This agreement dramatically expanded the scope of the earlier scien-



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Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation 1 U.S.–Soviet Scientific Cooperation in the Age of Confrontation Soviet society is no longer insulated from the influence and attraction of the outside world or impervious to the need for external contacts. Henry Kissinger, 1976 In 1955, with East-West political relations temporarily on the mend, the heads of state and then the foreign ministers of the Soviet Union, France, England, and the United States met in Geneva, where they discussed a program for increased contacts with the Soviet Union. The Soviets rejected the Western emphasis on multilateral approaches, but suggested that some of the proposals might be transformed into bilateral programs, and particularly cultural exchanges of individuals and groups. To this end, and after lengthy negotiations, the U.S. and Soviet governments signed an agreement in January 1958 that provided for a range of bilateral activities, and particularly reciprocal visits in the fields of education, culture, and information. The agreement included, at the Soviets’ initiative, a provision for an interacademy exchange program to be worked out by the academies in the two countries. (The intergovernmental agreement was entitled “Agreement between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on Exchanges in the Cultural, Technical, and Educational Fields.”) Then in 1959, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (ASUSSR) agreed to establish a formal program of scientific cooperation that would emphasize exchange visits by leading scientists. This agreement dramatically expanded the scope of the earlier scien-

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Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation tific contacts that are briefly touched on in Appendix A. (Appendix B sets forth the text of the first interacademy agreement that was signed in 1959. For contrast, Appendix C provides the more diverse text for the interacademy agreement signed in 2003.) From 1961 to 1979, 10 additional two-year agreements were signed to continue the program of scientific cooperation until 1981. In that year, as discussed later in this chapter, adjustments were made in the program because of the internal exile in Russia of nuclear physicist and dissident Andrey Sahkarov, but the program continued nevertheless uninterrupted.1 Soon, the Bolshoi and Kirov ballet companies became familiar attractions in the United States. Leading American musicians, writers, and sports figures began touring the Soviet Union. American students enrolled at Moscow State University, while Soviet professors gave lectures on U.S. campuses. And portable exhibitions portraying life in each of the countries were erected in some of their distant cities. Meanwhile, less ambitious technology-oriented exchanges were a priority of the Soviet government, but the U.S. government frequently with-held approval of these exchanges as bargaining chips to gain Soviet acquiescence to cultural and informational activities, which were the U.S. priorities. At the same time, the U.S. government hoped that the exposure of Soviet scientists and engineers, along with specialists from other fields, to U.S. achievements would contribute to the slow evolution of the Soviet Union in the direction of American society. Short-term exchange visits of up to several weeks by individual scientists characterized the earliest years of interacademy cooperation. In general, the participants from both sides were highly qualified researchers. In the late 1960s, longer-term visits of up to one year became commonplace. The annual level of exchanges reached 167 person-months in each direction in the mid-1970s, but then declined to 50 person-months in the early 1980s because of budget cuts at the National Science Foundation, the financial sponsor.2 Also in the 1960s, the two academies began to organize bilateral workshops on frontier topics in mathematics, physics, earth sciences, life sciences, and other disciplines. These workshops were highly visible events, and they served as signals to the scientific communi- 1   For a discussion of the early days of U.S.-Soviet cooperation see Byrnes (1976:76) and NAS (1977). A more recent review of exchange programs is presented in Richmond (2003). 2   For a detailed discussion of the early interacademy exchanges, see Schweitzer (1992).

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Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation ties in the two countries that bilateral cooperation between political adversaries was acceptable. By 1981, 23 interacademy scientific workshops had been held. Many American university-based scientists had hoped that the interacademy channel would be a nongovernmental channel relatively free of government interference. However, the governments were and will remain important participants in interacademy activities: academy institutes in Russia are government institutions; the NAS and many of the participating American scientists receive funding from the U.S. government departments and agencies that help support exchanges; and both governments monitor, and if necessary control, exchanges through the visa process. Constraints on the academy-to-academy channel persist today, but the political and administrative distances between government and academy activities in both countries in this arena are far greater now than they were two and three decades ago. A specific example of the coupling of government and academy interests occurred in the early 1970s when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger successfully promoted a decade of expanded bilateral intergovernmental scientific and technological cooperation as one of the centerpieces of U.S. efforts to improve relations between the two countries. This cooperation was brought to life in 11 formal intergovernmental agreements in science and technology. For a few years, these agreements had the desired political effect of translating the concept of détente into highly visible activities (Ailes and Pardee, 1984; Schweitzer, 1989:140–141). The governments selected the NAS and ASUSSR to lead the physics program, and a series of meetings and consultations involving leading physicists from both countries ensued over a period of more than 10 years. A good example of an important government initiative was the evolution of the intergovernmental Agreement on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy and its annexes. This agreement resulted from discussions between U.S. president Richard Nixon and Soviet president Leonid Brezhnev, and was then embedded in the Kissinger initiative. It led to hundreds of exchanges of scientific importance. Meanwhile, the core interacademy program of individual exchanges remained independent of these larger initiatives and continued. Indeed, the interest among scientists in the two academies expanded to additional fields, including science policy, the social sciences, and engineering. Over the years, adjustments in the character and scope of interacademy cooperation have been driven by a variety of factors. They have included:

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Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation early U.S. efforts to foster greater reliance on direct scientific contacts endorsed by the academies rather than on contacts brokered by the academies Soviet pressures to shift from an initial preoccupation with research in fundamental science to greater emphasis on industrial activities the emergence of related exchange programs, which resulted in redundant channels for cooperation concerns about exchange programs becoming mechanisms for a brain drain to the United States significant changes in intergovernmental political relationships that inevitably affected scientific activities. Throughout the history of cooperation via academy and other channels, the linkage between the science and technology capabilities and the national security concerns of both countries has been strikingly evident. Because Russia is perceived as a declining international powerhouse, however, the interest of some funding organizations in the U.S.-Russia relationship has decreased correspondingly. Prior to the 1990s most adjustments in the formal program structure were relatively minor and were easily made by the academies on an amicable basis, with the exception of the partial interruption of activities resulting from the Soviet treatment of scientist Andrey Sakharov. Thus, for several decades the interacademy relationship served as an important rudder of stability in the sometimes volatile relationship between the two countries. Also during this period when secrecy cloaked many scientific activities in the Soviet Union, the program provided an important channel through which American scientists could gain access to Soviet colleagues, facilities, and databases and through which Soviet scientists could make personal contacts with Americans whose names they had frequently seen on Western publications. In December 1977 a review panel established by the NAS (often referred to as the Kaysen panel in recognition of its chair, Carl Kaysen of Princeton University) released its report on U.S.-Soviet interacademy exchanges and scientific relations (NAS, 1977). The panel set forth a detailed listing of the objectives of scientific exchanges, which are shown in Box 1-1. It then concluded that the 18-year-old interacademy program had been worthwhile and continued to be important, even in the era of much larger intergovernmental science and technology exchanges. After weighing the responses to surveys of more than 100 American participants in the

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Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation BOX 1-1 Objectives of U.S.-Soviet Scientific Exchanges Building world science training young scientists communicating existing knowledge through lectures, meetings, symposia, and summer schools generating new knowledge through both short-term and long-term collaborative research developing a global strategy for scientific research in which each country would be able to optimize its research Building U.S. science all of the points under “building world science” (above) with special emphasis on access to knowledge, materials, and techniques not otherwise available and to progress in fields in which the Soviet Union has superior or outstanding positions Keeping abreast of Soviet science maintaining a continual awareness of Soviet scientific capabilities and Soviet resource allocations to science as a whole and within various fields Fostering the international scientific community developing personal contacts encouraging scientists and scholars working under repressive or otherwise difficult conditions encouraging full Soviet participation in international science (e.g., conferences, international scientific bodies, adherence to international standard of scientific intercourse) gaining new cultural perspectives through both an increased knowledge of other cultures and the added insight such knowledge provides about one’s own Fostering the solution of global problems health, food, disarmament, energy, environment

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Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation Political objectives: using scientific and technological interchange as a way of reducing political tensions maintaining communications as such: links between scientists as leadership groups in the United States and the Soviet Union contributing to détente helping to maintain science as an essentially humane and liberal endeavor Economic objectives promoting commercial exchange of technology and other trade related to scientific research Source: Adapted from NAS (1977:22–24). interacademy program, the panel pointed out that while there had been substantial scientific benefits to the United States, even more valuable had been the less tangible benefits such as contributions to expanding the international scientific community and allowing U.S. scientists to keep abreast of new developments in Soviet science. The panel noted that American scientists had probably taught Soviet colleagues more than they had received in return, but it expected the balance to shift toward greater equality. As for U.S. government concerns about the transfer of sensitive technology, the panel did not find this issue particularly troublesome in view of the program’s focus on basic research rather than on technological applications. Finally, the panel recognized the program’s importance in providing a channel through which both the NAS and individual American scientists could express their concerns about human rights abuses in the Soviet Union. TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER AND NATIONAL SECURITY In response to increased interest, particularly by the Soviet government, in acquiring insights through exchanges revolving around the application of technologies to industrial problems, the interacademy program slowly expanded from basic research to encompass technological research and engineering innovations. Yet at the same time the U.S. government became

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Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation more aggressive in thwarting repeated Soviet attempts to pilfer technological secrets that could bolster their military efforts. Increasingly, restrictions on U.S. visas for Soviet exchange visitors curtailed visits to specific laboratories and restricted the topics Americans could discuss with them while in the United States. Sometimes, U.S. visas were simply denied, despite appeals from the proposed American hosts who argued with little success that because the U.S. work was already published and the Soviet research was largely unknown, they would clearly gain from an exchange. Meanwhile, the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to monitor the activities of Soviet visitors became more apparent to both NAS officials and the American hosts. At the same time, American visitors to the Soviet Union continued to report that Soviet security officials were interfering in the visitors’ activities.3 During the early 1980s, many voices in Washington argued that scientific cooperation with the Soviet Union made little sense when that country was using every means at its disposal to gain a technological edge in all aspects of military science and technology. These advocates of scientific isolation of the Soviet Union, who were housed primarily in the Department of Defense, caused considerable confusion both within Congress and throughout the government about the appropriateness of scientific cooperation (Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, 1985). Amid this controversy, the NAS established a special panel (often called the Corson panel in recognition of its chair, Dale Corson of Cornell University) to address the issue of scientific communication and national security, which was central to many government-sponsored and private exchanges. This panel issued its report in September 1982 with the following observations: There had been a substantial transfer of technology—much of it directly relevant to military systems—from the United States to the Soviet Union through diverse channels, but universities and open scientific communication had, in general, been the source of only an insignificant portion of the overall problem. Soviet efforts to acquire technology had increased in recent years, including efforts directed at universities and scientific research. 3   Russian efforts to misuse the exchange program to obtain militarily sensitive technological data are discussed in Schweitzer (1989:194).

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Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation On occasion, the Soviets had used the interacademy exchange program for inappropriate purposes, giving information-gathering assignments to participants, who had in turn undertaken activities beyond the scope of their agreed fields of study. Imposition of controls could slow the rate of scientific advance and thus reduce the rate of U.S. technological innovation. Controls would impose economic costs for U.S. high-technology firms, affecting both their prices and their market shares in international commerce, and would limit university research and teaching in important areas of technology. In summary, the panel concluded that, as a national policy, “security by accomplishment” had much to recommend it over a policy of “security by secrecy” (NRC, 1982). The protection of sensitive technologies—the hardware, software, and technical data that provide the basis for designing and using new hardware—continues to be of central importance in organizing cooperative programs with Russia and many other countries. Often, the issue is joined when foreign specialists apply for visas to visit the United States. An up-to-date perspective on this topic is presented in Chapter 3. INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AND ARMS CONTROL As U.S.-Soviet relations deteriorated with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the Soviet downing of a Korean passenger airliner in 1983, leading members of the NAS and ASUSSR became increasingly concerned about the danger of nuclear war. The two academies designated groups of specialists with extensive personal experience in international security affairs to hold an exploratory meeting in June 1981 about the desirability of undertaking discussions on significant aspects of international security and arms control. The specialists agreed on the importance of the proposed initiative and developed the initial framework for a series of closed interacademy meetings dealing with substantive scientific and technical issues. The first such meeting was held in January 1982. Since then, 30 meetings have been held by the parallel Committees on International Security and Arms Control (CISAC) established by the two academies. Clearly, these continuing dialogues on international security and arms control are an important aspect of the relationship between the Russian and U.S. academies. The high level of expertise of the participants, the steadfast

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Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation commitments of the academies to obtaining financial support for the dialogues, and the interest of the governments in the views expressed and the conclusions reached attest to the significance of the effort. Because these committees have considered a wide range of topics over the past 20 years, it simply is not possible to even highlight the dialogues in this short report, and so that task must be left to others. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that these dialogues have been a stable element of the interacademy program and exemplify how the academies’ unofficial channels of communication have complemented intergovernmental negotiations on important issues. DISSIDENTS, REFUSENIKS, AND THE EXILE OF ANDREY SAKHAROV During the 1970s and 1980s, human rights became an important dimension of the U.S.-Soviet relationship (U.S. Congress, Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, 1988). Most of the concern within the American scientific community was centered on the plight of Soviet scientists who had been imprisoned for political reasons (the dissidents) and on these and others who had been denied exit visas (the refuseniks). The vast majority of these scientists were Jewish, but some from other groups, including German and Armenian, also were affected. Some American activists urged American scientists to refuse to cooperate with Soviet colleagues until the problems of the dissidents and refuseniks were resolved satisfactorily, and these activists clearly had an impact on the willingness of at least a few American scientists to receive Soviet visitors under the interacademy exchange program. Moreover, at times, leaders of the NAS appealed to their ASUSSR counterparts for information on the status of specific scientists believed to be imprisoned, and these formal appeals became a significant element of interacademy relations. Of particular concern to the NAS was the Soviet government’s treatment of scientist Andrey Sakharov, who had been elected a foreign associate of the NAS in 1972. He was repeatedly harassed and detained by the security services for his outspoken criticism of government policies and his role in organizing meetings of other human rights activists with similar views. Then, in 1979, the Soviet government exiled him to an apartment in the city of Gorky on the Volga River. In response, in February 1980 the Council of the NAS suspended for six months bilateral symposia, seminars, workshops, and new initiatives involving the ASUSSR or other Soviet organiza-

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Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation tions. This moratorium was later extended and remained the policy until 1985. The decision immediately affected activities planned in physics, science policy, and experimental psychology, and it placed a general damper on developing new workshop proposals that were in the formative stages (NRC, 1980:1). At the same time, however, the Council agreed that decisions about individual scientific visits were matters properly left to the consciences of the participating individuals, and the interacademy program of individual exchanges continued unabated. The new initiative in the field of international security and arms control, considered to be of the highest importance, also was exempted from the moratorium. In the mid-1980s, the situation with the dissidents and refuseniks began to ease. Many were released from prison, and emigration to the United States, Israel, Germany, and other countries increased dramatically. During this period, the Council of the NAS realized that its channels of communication with the ASUSSR had atrophied to the point that any hope of encouraging effective intervention by the ASUSSR in human rights cases was unrealistic. After considerable internal debate on the merits of a good channel of communication, even with the continued exile of Andrey Sakharov, the Council decided in 1985 to reestablish a broad program of bilateral scientific cooperation (NRC, 1985a: 1). The ASUSSR gradually began to respond to appeals from the NAS for information about specific scientists of concern, but their responses were usually not encouraging. The leaders of the ASUSSR took the position that they would intervene only in cases involving scientists who had been academy employees, a group that represented less than 10 percent of the scientists on lists of dissidents and refuseniks prepared in Washington. Another frequent Soviet response was that many of the scientists being denied travel documents had access at an earlier time to state secrets and therefore could not be allowed to go abroad. This answer frustrated American colleagues because there was no Soviet policy on how long the scientists needed to wait before traveling after termination of such access. Meanwhile, ASUSSR officials privately commented to visiting Americans that they would like to see all the refuseniks leave because they were not contributing to Soviet science, and the Americans responded that the refuseniks wanted to leave precisely because they were denied opportunities to contribute to world science. By 1988 the situation had changed significantly. Thousands of refuseniks were being given permission to leave each year. At a dramatic press conference in Moscow featuring the president of the ASUSSR and the president

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Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation of the NAS, the Soviet president became the first Soviet official to acknowledge publicly that the Soviet record in human rights was not satisfactory and that many scientists had suffered from inappropriate treatment.4 This act probably represented the most significant direct impact of the NAS position on human rights. At about the same time, Andrey Sakharov returned to Moscow from exile in Gorky, and he met with the visiting officials of the NAS.5 Human rights remain an indelible aspect of U.S.-Russian relations, and cases of mistreatment of Russian scientists remain on the agenda of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and Institute of Medicine (IOM). Fortunately, only a handful of egregious cases emerged during the 1990s. Russian security services will continue to have the upper hand in cases involving alleged espionage, but the RAS will nevertheless be a significant channel for expressions of Western concerns about human rights violations. REVIEWING THE EARLY RECORD During the 1970s and early 1980s, more than 25 evaluations of U.S.-Soviet cooperative efforts in science and technology activities were carried out by the U.S. government (individual departments and agencies, White House offices, Congress), NAS, and other organizations in the United States. The conclusions of these evaluations were generally consistent, and several important observations can be summarized as follows: Bilateral communications faced many obstacles, including lack of reciprocal access to specialists and facilities, concerns about human rights abuses, logistical problems, language barriers, and the inertia of bureaucrats in both countries who were not committed to cooperation. The high quality of Soviet research in certain fields—such as theoretical physics and mathematics—made cooperation in those fields extremely worthwhile for the United States as well as for the broader international scientific community. 4   A photograph taken at the press conference, together with commentary on many developments related to human rights and other issues in Russia during the 1980s, are included in the memoirs of Guri Marchuk, the former president of the ASUSSR, who also served as vice premier for science and technology of the Soviet Union (see Marchuk, 1995). 5   For a discussion of human rights issues and their impact on scientific cooperation during this era, see Schweitzer (1989: Chap. 8).

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Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation The most successful projects were highly focused, with specific objectives, and in fields in which there was a general parity of expertise. Although there were many intangible cultural benefits from cooperation in science and technology, such benefits should not be the sole justification for cooperation. The stable and open channels of communication played a very valuable role in efforts to stay abreast of Soviet achievements and to identify Soviet scientists who could contribute to overall international scientific efforts. In general, the leakage of militarily sensitive technology, or knowhow, to the Soviet Union through bilateral scientific exchanges was minimal, largely because there had been little cooperation in areas of military significance. Security restrictions on scientific interchange were not only unwarranted in most areas, but also in some cases were detrimental to U.S. interests. The erratic funding of bilateral activities, reflecting the ebb and flow of the overall relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union, had a negative impact on the effectiveness of cooperation, and consistent funding insulated from political vagaries was crucial to the future success of bilateral programs.6 Related to these evaluations was a continuing effort within the U.S. government to identify areas of particular interest for cooperative programs. An example of one attempt to identify such areas appears in Table 1-1, which compares the technical strengths of the two countries in selected areas of science. As the adversarial nature of the U.S.-Soviet relationship began to change, the U.S. government redirected to other topics its handful of specialists who had been assigned the task of analyzing systematically civilian-oriented science and technology activities in the Soviet Union and then Russia. Soon, the U.S. government was relying heavily on academics who had participated in National Research Council (NRC) activities to attend workshops and meetings that provided authoritative insights into Russia’s technical capabilities in order to fill an analytical void within the U.S. government. Workshops organized by the Department of State at Meridien House in Washington have been of particular importance in addressing issues such as 6   This evaluation by the National Research Council staff was reported in NRC (1987d: 6–7).

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Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation TABLE 1-1 Relative Strength of Soviet Union in Specific Fields of Science Compared with the United States Field Comparable Weaker Mathematics X→   Atmospheric physics   X Oceanology Theoretical X   Experimental   X Materials science X   High-energy physics Theoretical X   Experimental   X→ Fluid dynamics X   Condensed matter physics Theoretical X   Experimental   X Astrophysics Theoretical X→   Experimental   X→ Molecular biology   ←X Laser physics Theoretical X   Experimental X   Computer science   X Note: An arrow indicates the probable direction of change in the future relative status where such an indication can be made with reasonable confidence. Some fields have not been divided into theoretical and experimental because of lack of data. The Soviets were found not to be grossly stronger than the United States in any of these fields. Source: OSTP (1985:18).

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Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation the evolution of a knowledge-based economy in Russia (workshop held in August 2001). In addition to providing scientific enrichment for both countries, U.S.-Russian scientific cooperation through many channels over several decades undoubtedly contributed to the eventual unraveling of the Soviet Union. The sharp contrast between the openness and rigorous peer review of research activities in the West and the inward-oriented research approaches in the Soviet Union made an impression on many Soviet officials and researchers, who began to question the compatibility of authoritarianism and scientific progress. Then in the 1980s, Soviet visitors to the West witnessed how personal computers were becoming standard equipment in offices and laboratories, while Russian schools could not even offer hands-on computer experiences for students. In the well-known Siberian science city of Akademgorodok, for example, the schools were able to find a few computers only because concerned parents employed at the Computer Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences diverted to the schools computers that would not be missed during inventories (NRC, 1988c: 3). In short, Soviet political and scientific leaders became painfully aware that their centralized planning system was not in tune with the more effective approaches to managing technologies that were fueling economic growth around the world.