13. Memorandum [text not declassified] to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Gray)0


  • Expanding Soviet-American Student Exchange


  • Memorandum on East-West Exchanges by Mr. Gordon Gray, dated 1 June 19591
[3-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] The United States Intelligence Board’s Committee on Exchanges has informed the Department of State that as a general rule, it believes any exchange of students on a long-term basis should redound to the benefit of the U.S. This finding is based on a judgment of the importance of exposing Soviet youth to our way of life and permitting American youth to exercise a broadening influence on Soviet youth. The Committee’s conclusion is very widely shared by other governmental and private experts on Soviet-American exchange.
[2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] Assuming that the primary goal of any proposal to the USSR is in fact to maximize the number [Page 34] of exchanges and not to propagandize an anticipated Soviet rejection, it is necessary that the proposal be presented in the manner best calculated to insure its acceptance. The Soviets from the outset have been very reluctant to send large numbers of their students to study in the West and less reluctant but still wary of receiving large numbers of Western students in the USSR. Since there are approximately 45,000 students from more than 75 countries already on over-crowded U.S. campuses, a proposal to increase that number suddenly by a very large number of students would present a most serious problem to American educators. It seems necessary and desirable, therefore, that the number of persons presently involved in the exchange be kept to a point where (a) it would not be unreasonable to expect the USSR might accept the proposal, (b) where U.S. educators could strongly endorse it, and (c) where Soviet rejection of the proposal could be used in U.S. propaganda to demonstrate continued Soviet opposition to genuine free exchange of ideas and persons. Faced with the identical problem, United Kingdom officials recently made a judgment that this number was 300 persons; the Soviets rejected a UK proposal on this basis and agreed to only twenty. It may be that an exchange of 200 persons each way would be the best proposal, but a final conclusion on numbers and manner of presentation would require thorough examination.
In order to introduce certain elements of the President’s ideas it might of course be stated in connection with any present proposals that we view them as only modest beginnings and look forward to the time when several thousand students from each country could carry on studies in the other.
In addition to the basic problem mentioned in the above paragraph, I wish to emphasize exchange of graduate students primarily, if not to the exclusion of undergraduates. Both governmental and private experts favor graduate student exchange with the USSR because of practical academic problems and the general level of maturity of U.S. undergraduates.
We are not here considering the security problem involved in a large student exchange with the Soviet Union because this burden falls primarily on other departments and agencies which have responsibility for internal security. We would of course continue as in the past, within the scope of our ability and responsibilities, to extend help to them by furnishing any information which might be available from foreign sources with respect to Soviet exchange students. However, it must be recognized that in most cases we would not have records on relatively young students coming from the Soviet Union. There is also the problem of effecting a most careful selection of the American students who are to go to the Soviet Union so that their deportment would be of a character to enhance our national reputation in the Soviet Union. Also in most [Page 35] cases it would be important, if not essential, to select students who had a working knowledge of the Russian language, and it is not always easy, in the present stage of Russian language training in this country, to find large numbers of students with such qualifications who are desirous of carrying on studies in the Soviet Union. Another problem is that of securing adequate financing for an expanded program in view of the limited government funds presently available. U.S. support for the present program comes almost equally from the Ford Foundation and the Department of State’s International Educational Exchange Service.

[less than 1 line of source text not declassified]

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Project Clean Up. Secret.
  2. See footnote 1, Document 11.