23. Letter From the President’s Special Assistant on Science and Technology (Kistiakowsky) to Secretary of State Herter0

Dear Mr. Secretary: I enclose a statement1 that expresses the views of the President’s Science Advisory Committee and its Science and Foreign Affairs Panel on the problems resulting from the restrictions placed on Russian scientists visiting the U.S.

The major points of this statement are:

the restrictions appear to our scientific and academic community as forcing them into a position in which their traditional freedoms are curtailed; in time there may be a reluctance to participate in exchange programs;
U.S. national objectives are not being adequately served because the restrictions do not project the correct image of America to Russian visitors;
“reciprocity” in scientific exchanges cannot be measured by quantitative case-by-case evaluation, but requires scientific judgment of many examples;
the closed area policy limits the effectiveness of scientific visits to the U.S. and hampers U.S. science in its international scientific activities;
the success of a scientific exchange from the point of view of U.S. scientists depends on whether the American in the USSR is able to do the research and meet other scientists of interest to him. A university negotiating an exchange should be in a position to insist on satisfactory conditions for the American in the USSR or to withdraw from the exchange. Restrictions on the visiting Russian are essentially irrevelant once the basic conditions of the exchange are satisfactory.

Four proposals are made:

that procedures be established to judge the “equivalence” of U.S.-USSR scientific exchanges on an overall basis and with the help of scientifically-competent people;
that closed-area restrictions on scientists be lifted for a limited period of time as an experiment to induce similar Russian action;
that if the temporary suspension fails, American scientists who are hosts to Russian visitors have greater leeway to use their own judgment in arranging visits;
that major attention be given to advising universities as to how to negotiate for satisfactory conditions for their representative in the USSR, rather than to setting restrictions on Russian scientists after arrival in the U.S.

I concur in this statement of the situation and am forwarding this to you in hope that the Department of State will be able to act on these proposals. I would make one further personal observation that I believe present national policy would allow more liberal rules governing scientific exchanges with the USSR than those now in effect. I realize the difficult position of the State Department staff in attempting to make the overall scientific judgments required, but I believe there are ways, such as those suggested above, for solving that problem.

Members of the President’s Science Advisory Committee and I are of course available for further discussions on this subject.2

Yours sincerely,

G. B. Kistiakowsky
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 511.613/11–2459. Confidential.
  2. Not printed.
  3. In a December 4 letter to Kistiakowsky, Herter replied that the issues raised in his letter would be carefully examined and that he would be given the Department of State’s comments as soon as practicable. (Department of State, Central Files, 511.613/11–2459) No further correspondence from the Department of State to Kistiakowsky on this subject has been found.