Schweitzer, Glenn E.. "2. Perestroika and Expansion of Scientific Cooperation." Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2004.
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Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation
reversed its policy intended to improve the health of the population by limiting consumption of alcohol and authorized increased production.
Even the best Soviet industries lost their competitive edge as imports of modern technologies rose while the value of the ruble tumbled. To further exacerbate the situation, the nuclear reactor tragedy at Chernobyl, the earthquake devastation of poorly constructed buildings in Armenia, several gas pipeline explosions, and increasing shortfalls in agricultural production shook the confidence of the population in Soviet technology, which had for decades been a symbol of the strength of the Soviet system. The repairs needed to remedy these and other catastrophic failures of technology, stemming largely from shoddy Soviet practices, drained scarce resources (Garrett, 1988; Schweitzer, 1989; Graham, 1993).
Gorbachev repeatedly called on intellectuals, and particularly scientists and economists from the ASUSSR, to help find practical solutions to these and other problems impeding economic growth. The new government advisers urged adoption of Western management approaches. And they recommended the immediate purchase of tens of thousands of computers in an effort to energize the entire society. They also called for reorientation of some of the technologies that had supported the large military effort to the challenging task of upgrading industrial production practices in the civilian sector.
In the foreign policy arena, Soviet academics became significant participants in government entourages at disarmament talks in Geneva and at other important intergovernmental gatherings. They did speak out against the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars), but they also offered all nations practical approaches to reducing the nuclear threat through arms reduction and through steps to prevent nuclear proliferation (Sagdeev, 1994).
A truly heavy burden to provide the conceptual basis for a revitalized nation had been placed on the doorsteps of leading Soviet scientists. Some of these scientists were also the Soviet interlocutors for the NAS-ASUSSR interacademy program.
Many of Gorbachev’s advisers urged closer cooperation with U.S. institutions, both to help reduce international security tensions and to take advantage of Western experience in competing in international technology markets. In 1987 and again in 1990 several of his academic advisers accompanied him to summit meetings in Washington, and special sessions were arranged for them at the NAS. The agendas for these meetings, which were very rich, included highly informative discussions of economic reform, the legal framework for perestroika, international cooperation in space