In its competition with the Soviet Union, the United States continues to function as a dinosaur. While the country willingly expends nearly $250 billion for defense, our annual production of Ph.D.s with advanced training for analyzing Soviet foreign policy rarely exceeds seven or eight, and the number of Soviet specialists writing books and articles in this field probably totals fewer than 30.
The situation inside the government is alarmingly similar. As Robert Legvold of the Council on Foreign Relations has noted, if the president were to call together all officials who are experts on Soviet policy toward an important region, or even toward a key country such as the Federal Republic of Germany, they could meet around a card table. Rarely is there any part of the world where Soviet involvement is the continuing concern of more than one or two individuals. All too often it is the concern of none.
Some steps are being taken to remedy this situation. A bill before Congress would provide a minimal but secure financial base for research and training in Soviet studies through income from a $50 million trust fund. It is sponsored by Sens. Richard Lugar and Joseph Biden, and Reps. Paul Simon and Lee Hamilton.
Maj. Gen. William Odom, assistant chief of staff for Army intelligence, has been instrumental in increasing Defense Department support for non-classified research and in seeking broader based federal funding of Soviet studies.
Private foundations are also becoming increasingly concerned about the failure of faculties at most universities to conduct research in the complex and important field of Soviet foreign policy. The urgency of the problem was driven home to me during a recently completed national competition sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation for two $1 million grants for advanced training and research on Soviet international relations. The recipients are Columbia University's Harriman Institute for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union, and a joint program to be administered by the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford.
But the congressional proposal, foundation grants and the generosity of a few concerned citizens--notably, W. Averell Harriman--are only modest first steps toward rebuilding a base of expertise that has been lost in recent years. The quality of advanced training and research must also change.
Ironically, just as new dimensions to Soviet-American competition have underscored our need to understand and anticipate Soviet political, diplomatic and military behavior, we find that most Russian and East European area study programs have been left to linguists and historians. Universities are not developing experts with interdisciplinary training in economics, politics and other social sciences. Those aspects of Russian area studies that are germane to understanding contemporary Soviet international relations have been most seriously retarded by a sharp decline in funding and faculty appointments for Soviet experts.
Moreover, it is the rare Soviet scholar today who is willing or able to render his or her research findings intelligible to a concerned public. The reward system of an academic environment in which access to tenure, granted by specialists who prescribe increasingly esoteric research and writing, discourages wide-ranging research on important topics and simplicity of expression.
Efforts to advance Soviet foreign policy studies in the United States must be substantial, salient and sustained. New financial and intellectual resources must be attracted to allow for experimentation with different approaches to training and research. Soviet studies are too important to be left to Soviet experts alone, and ways must be found to educate those in other fields, such as social change in developing countries, international trade, or nuclear weapons technology on the domestic and foreign considerations that affect Soviet behavior toward these issues. At the same time, some of those who choose to specialize on Soviet affairs must be encouraged to explore the wider international implications of their work. Room also should be found for foreign scholars to train and do research at leading U.S. centers so that their national perspectives on the Soviet Union can be better appreciated and we can begin to develop a broader understanding of Soviet strengths and weaknesses.
Clear signs are emerging of a new interest in Soviet foreign policy on campuses across the country. Student enrollment in international relations courses, especially those that focus on the Soviet Union, is rising. Furthermore, some Russian center directors and a few university presidents have begun to approve new curricula and to reserve faculty positions for linking Soviet studies with arms control and other international programs. These developments should produce new employment opportunities, although primarily for those with more than traditional area studies training.
Persistent U.S.-Soviet global tensions, while both sides have recourse to nuclear weapons, require that the nation be equipped with more than a basic appreciation of Russian language and culture. The activities of leading Russian and international studies centers must be geared to three basic objectives:
1. Developing an elite corps of men and women with potential to emulate such outstanding scholar-diplomats of the postwar period as Llewelyn Thompson, Charles Bohlen, and George Kennan, who could play a critical role in helping the United States avoid miscalculations in bilateral dealings with the Soviet Union;
2.5 Acquiring a better national understanding of how the U.S.- Soviet rivalry engages the interests of third countries that have the capacity to exacerbate or reduce the risk of East-West tensions; and
3.5 Using an enhanced knowledge of the Soviet Union's international behavior to build a bipartisan consensus in the United States for policies aimed at reducing nuclear weapons and, more important, the risk of conflicts that could precipitate their use.