Detente's Determined Defenders
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Some exchanges that depend on government money have already been affected. The Carter administration has halted high-level scientific exchanges scheduled under the technology agreements of detente. Cultural exchanges have also been put on a back burner, if not in a deep freeze.Skip to next paragraph
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The State Department, for example, decided "not to facilitate" a showing at the National Gallery of Art this summer of a collection from Leningrad's famed Hermitage Museum. The show will not go on.
Soviet authorities have also been restricting exchanges. For example, they recently denied a visa to Marshall Goldman, a Harvard economist, to travel to Moscow for a United Nations Association scholars' exchange. And they have canceled contracts for artists like the famed Glinka Chorus and Krasnoyarsk dancers, conductor Yuri Temirkanov, and violinists Igor Oistrakh and Vladimir Spivakov, all of whom were scheduled to perform in the United States this year.
"More than just a financial loss, it's a tremendous loss in human and artistic terms," New York impresario Sam Niefeld laments. "American audiences have loved the Russian artists. And the influence of Soviet art on Western music is enormous. We have to hold up a mirror to Soviet art to learn more about ourselves, not to mention the musical revelations that come when someone like Vladimir Spivakov plays with our own artists."
Nevertheless, those involved in nongovernmental exchange programs stress that whole networks of communication and exchange remain very much alive.
Over the last 10 years IREX has arranged exchange programs for some 3,000 American and Soviet natural scientists and social scientists. About 100 Soviets are now in the US and 100 Americans in the USSR on IREX joint research projects in many fields.
Anthropologists from both countries, for example, are doing joint research into American and Soviet communities known for the extremely long life spans of their inhabitants. Areas involved include Kansas and Kentucky in the US and the north Caucasus region of Soviet Georgia.
American-Soviet exchanges first emerged in the mid-1950s. But only after the Vietnam war did exchanges blossom, according to Dr. Olin Robison, a Soviet affairs specialist and president of Middlebury College. Through the '50s Americans had been extremely suspicious that the Soviets were not only expansionistic, but also irrational and likely to press the button of nuclear war.
But Vietnam changed all that, he says. "During those years our attention was turned away from cold war, and it gradually dawned on Americans that the Russians were not irrational in the push-button sense. That didn't mean they were trustworthy. But it did mean that it was possible for us to have decreased anxiety about nuclear war, and a sense that some positive relations might be built."
This change in mood and perceptions made it possible for detente to take root under the leadership of Soviet party chief Leonid Brezhnev and former US President Richard Nixon. SALT I, signed in 1972, was one of the early fruits of this detente process, and helped prepare the groundwork for SALT II, which could be a victim of the current sharp downturn in US-Soviet relationships.
Planners of nongovernmental exchanges have aimed from the outset to keep them free from politics. IREX, for example, bases its exchanges on a strict understanding that they are valuable for their own sake, irrespective of political relations.