Detente's Determined Defenders
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The academy subsequently halted all bilateral symposiums in science policy, physics, and experimental psychology for the next six months, or until there is some change in Dr. Sakharov's situation. But it will not interfere with individual American scientists who want to travel to the Soviet Union on their own.Skip to next paragraph
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Ties between religionists in the two countries may be somewhat less affected by intergovernment tensions. Soviet authorities seem to recognize the domestic benefits of allowing members of the Russian Orthodox and Baptist churches to attend international conferences their denominations have held in the West. A delegation of Soviet Baptists, for example, attended a large conference in Brighton, England, last summer.
In addition, a network of unofficial contacts has emerged between churchmen in the West and those Christians and Jews who have had to go underground in the East bloc to practice their religion. These are likely to go on through thick and thin.
Whether detente-related exchanges are restored may also be influenced by heightened concern over criticisms that exchanges benefit Russians more than Americans, especially scientific ones. The charge is partly confirmed by the fact that most Russians sent to the United States are natural scientists, whereas most Americans going the other direction are social scientists.
Nevertheless, planners generally agree that the exchanges are a two-way street. And they are concerned less with unbalanced gains than with the need to keep communication channels open to help minimize disastrous misunderstandings.
"I think in this regard we have gotten as much as the Soviets," says Tobi Gati of the United Nations Association of the USA, which sponsors exchanges between leading American and Soviet citizens.
"I don't deny that there's propaganda peddled by the Soviets," Mrs. Gati says. "But they have very definite views of the world, and we do ourselves a disservice if we don't understand those views."
The NAS, for its part, concedes that the Soviet scientists have indeed gleaned more scientifically from the exchanges. But the academy has strongly supported exchanges as the only way to keep abreast of Soviet science and its cultural effects. Its officials say that Soviet scientists coming to the US are placed in carefully restricted university settings, without access to industrial , military, or government research. And they claim there have been definite scientific benefits for the US in physics, biology, and medicine.
Planners also stress that nongovernmental exchanges provide key platforms by which Soviet policies can be challenged. Often criticisms exchanged privately between colleagues are more effective than formal dialogue between diplomats.
Only time will tell what ultimately survives of nongovernmental US-Soviet contacts. Bilateral exchanges most certainly will not resume soon. But in a few years it may be possible to re-establish many of the ties put in place in the past decade, says Dr. Robison.
"It's crucial that as we signal our anger and disappointment to the Soviets over what they've done, we not do this so comprehensively that we permanently lose the channels of communication we've labored to put in place," he says. "When you think . . . that our two countries control almost all the world's nuclear weapons, and that between this collection of 500 million people there are only a few hundred able to move back and forth, then those channels of communication are extraordinarily important."