Reagan budget cuts may stretch as far as a baroque palace in Austria

The Reagan administration's promised budget cuts may reach even to this baroque palace. It is home to the International Institute for Applied systems Analysis, the 20th century think tank that is the only substantial focus of East-West cooperation to survive the post-Afghanistan breakdown of detente.

At the moment the IIASA appears to have avoided the Reagan budget-cutting ax, but only on a technicality and possibly for not more than a year.

A US withdrawal of funds -- and thus of membership -- could be fatal to the multinational scientific activity that has been one of the bright spots in international cooperation since 1972.

Top scientist from the United States, the Soviet Union, and a dozen other Western and East-bloc states work in the parkland peace of this former Habsburg palace, which neutral austria restored and leases to the institute for a symbolic schilling a year.

Superpower tensions pass them by. Not even the Soviet entry into Afghanistan 18 months ago was allowed to disturb the foundation for East-West study of the world's pressing needs. The IIASSA has remained immune from the strains that beset other peaceful contact between Western and communist countries -- until this spring.

At that point, 100 scientists from 20 countries had just completed a three-year analysis of what to do about energy for a world 50 years hence with twice its present population. Their findings were being published when IIASA ran into unexpected troubles.

One was the financial shock implicit in Reagan budgets cuts.

The other was the resignation, amid allegations of espionage, of Arkady Belozerov, a Soviet plasma physicist and secretary to the institute for the past few years.

In early April a London magazine report -- subsequently covered extensively by the Austrian press -- alleged that Dr. Belozerov had also engaged in information gathering on oil- production technology for the Soviets, allegedly with the aid of a Norwegian "double agent" employed part-time by IIASA.

Whether the doctor had been "spying" was not established. The Austrian police "knew nothing" and the Austrian Interior Ministry issued a similar statement, suggesting, moreover, that IIASA might be a "target" for people who no longer favored detente.

Furthermore, the institute itself had only just published its up-to-date report on the latest oil technology in deep water such as the North Sea, which, of course, was open to all its members.

Dr. Belezerov, however, after roundly denying the accusation, offered his resignation in order -- he said in his letter -- to avoid damaging the open "IIASA spirit existing among staff members from many countries." The institute had no alternative under its rules but to accept his resignation. Dr. Belozerov returned home in due course and, after an initial flurry of excitement, the IIASA returned to normal.

But the concern over its budgetary future remains.

The US and the Soviet Union shoulder about two-thirds of the costs between them, almost $3 million each per year.

The US contribution is met by National Science Foundation (NSF) allocations for international activities. The Reagan budget proposed cutting these from $15 million to $10 million for the coming fiscal year.

IIASA's charter, however, requires 12 month's notice of a national member's intention to withdraw -- in this case, the US National Academy of Sciences -- so the funds to cover 1982 have had to be restored to the current NSF international quota.

The academy will have to give IIASA notice by the end of 1981 if it is not assured of funds to meet its subscription for 1983.

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