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Scientists, Engineers, and Track-Two Diplomacy: A Half-Century of U.S.-Russian Interacademy Cooperation
the ocean are voluminous. Even a decade after the end of the cold war, scientific travelers in both directions regularly comment that they have improved their understanding of the opportunities and limitations in working together. Interacademy agreements and agreements of other nongovernmental organizations have provided opportunities for track-two diplomacy that provides venues for working together; but it is at the level of the individual scientists and engineers that this concept comes to life. They are in unique positions to address effectively the issues on the frontiers of science and technology that have tremendous political, economic, and security implications, and they can help to push the resolution of the issues in the direction of collaboration—not confrontation.
Meanwhile, for decades both governments have considered the track-two efforts of scientific organizations to be important channels for gathering information that is openly available for the asking, for communication between intellectuals, for gaining insights into what works and what does not work in Russia, and for setting the stage for governmental programs. In a few sensitive areas, the governments maintain a tight leash on scientific interactions, but most of the early fears of the governments that exchanges would be routinely distorted for intelligence or propaganda purposes have disappeared. In a similar change in attitudes, scientists and engineers continue to be aware of the political differences dividing the two countries, but they are increasingly focused on the scientific benefits to be gained from cooperation before applying for their visitor visas. It is precisely this focus on high-quality science and technology that will help to ensure that track-two techno-diplomacy continues to receive broad support as both countries increasingly address the same economic and scientific challenges that face all countries.
Peter the Great, the founder of the Russian Academy of Sciences, wisely predicted in 1724 that “science and education will determine Russia’s future.” Then several decades later, President Abraham Lincoln who signed the Act of Incorporation establishing the National Academy of Sciences, observed: “I know of nothing so pleasant to the mind as the discovery of anything that is at once new and valuable.” With common roots, shared purposes, and joint efforts, the Russian Academy of Sciences and U.S. National Academies have been and should continue to be a force for global peace and prosperity.3
For descriptions of the origins of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, see Statute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 1724–1999 (1999) and “Founding of the National Academy of Sciences” at www7.nationalacademies.org/archives/nasfounding.html.