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Exchanges as Strategic Policy
Of the eight fascinating articles in
the December
Journal
pertaining to
the breakup of the Soviet Union, I
found the most instructive one to be
Yale Richmond’s “Cultural Diplomacy
in the ColdWar.” In it, Richmond con-
cludes that the 30 preceding years of
U.S.-Soviet academic and cultural ex-
changes proved vital in bringing an end
to the Soviet Union.
Particularly noteworthy is his quote
from Oleg Kalugin, former KGB offi-
cer and head of Soviet counterintelli-
gence, who said that “Exchanges …
played a tremendous role in the erosion
of the Soviet system.” As Richmond
points out, Kalugin was among the first
group of Soviet academic exchangees
to the United States, arriving in 1958.
Having served in Soviet-era Mos-
cow, Kyiv and Warsaw, and in post-So-
viet Minsk and Chisinau, I had ample
opportunity to observe the effects of
such exchanges. Richmond is com-
pletely correct in his conclusions, but I
would go one step further: academic
and cultural exchanges demonstrated
the superiority of strategic policies over
tactical ones.
A classic example of a tactical ap-
proach backfiring was the one ad-
vanced by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who
persuaded President Jimmy Carter to
punish the Soviet Union after its De-
cember 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.
Among other measures, the Carter ad-
ministration reduced the official U.S.
presence in the USSR, recalling the
advance party that had been on the
ground in Kyiv for two years preparing
to open a consulate general there. If
Washington had really wanted to pun-
ish the Soviets, we would have
ex-
panded
our diplomatic presence,
especially outside Moscow and Lenin-
grad.
Another mindless tactic from the
same period was the U.S. boycott of the
1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.
This led to retaliation by the Soviets
and their East European clients (except
Romania), who refused to attend the
1984 Los Angeles Summer Games.
These U.S.-initiated, reciprocal actions
cut off vital people-to-people contacts,
significantly harming the broader and
more important strategic policy of fos-
tering academic and cultural ex-
changes.
Sadly, as Jack Harrod — a retired
USIA Senior Foreign Service Informa-
tion Officer, Soviet and East European
expert, and friend — puts it: “USIA
was at times at least capable of thinking
and acting strategically, whereas State
always acts only tactically.”
Fast-forwarding to current events,
we find State continuing its tactical par-
adigm in the post-Soviet region, this
time with President Alexander Lukash-
enko’s Belarus. With 17 years of costly
tactical policies and programs under its
belt and nothing to show for it, one
might think that State would, at last,
consider strategic approaches of the
kind that Yale Richmond so eloquently
describes in the Soviet context. If for
no other reason, severe and continuing
budgetary strictures demand the best
possible use of scarce resources.
David Swartz
Ambassador to Belarus,
1992-1994
FSO, retired
Nappanee, Ind.
The Interagency Process
I read Susan Johnson’s January Pres-
ident’s View column (“Marine Corps
Culture and Institutional Success: Les-
sons for the FS?”) with great interest. I
would like to be included in any dis-
cussions that AFSA might organize to
strengthen the voice of the Foreign
Service in national security affairs.
Since retiring at the end of 2009, I
have served as a subject matter expert
in courses relating to reconstruction,
stabilization, conflict prevention and
response at the National Foreign Af-
fairs Training Center. I have also
served as an adviser to the U.S. Marine
Corps University Command and Staff
L
ETTERS
M A R C H 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
5
AFSA President
Susan Johnson’s
President’s Views
column appears in
the Annual Report
this month.