26. Letter From the Chair of the United States Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs (Marks) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1

Dear Zbig

Secretary Brezhnev’s recent statement2 in response to President Carter’s declaration on human rights3 may be a prelude to a decision by the USSR not to participate in the Belgrade conference.4 As you know from personal experience during the Vietnam negotiations, the representatives of the Soviet Union are skilled at discussing “the shape of the table.” In fact, Georgi Arbatov last December made such a reference in a personal conversation with me.

To foreclose this possibility a face-saving device is needed—some indication from President Carter that the door has not been slammed in the face of Eastern Europe and the USSR. In my opinion the solution may very well lie in an expanded program of people-to-people relationships.

Recently the President referred to experiences he had had during his term as Governor of Georgia with a Sister City program which had had remarkable success.5 Programs of this nature exist throughout the country and have generally met with considerable enthusiasm by those who participate in the United States and in foreign lands. Accordingly, I would urge the following as a substantive program and as a means of showing Brezhnev and others that we want to improve relationships between our respective countries rather than return to a cold war atmosphere:

1. An increase in the number of Sister City relationships between the United States, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union. This activity should be left to private initiative, but as an inducement I would urge [Page 65] that a credit of $100 be given to each foreign visitor from the Eastern European area coming to the United States to help defray the cost of their travel. Reciprocally, the USSR and the Eastern European countries should make a similar advance to Americans visiting those countries.

In typical advertising fashion, I would introduce this program for “a limited time only,” and publicize it as an effort to carry out the spirit of Helsinki.

In my opinion a program of this nature should be acceptable to the Eastern Europeans and to the USSR at this time without sacrificing their stand on human rights or our alleged interference in the internal affairs of their countries.

2. A dramatic increase in the number of professors and research scholars invited to the United States to study in American institutions under the Fulbright-Hays program.6

A reciprocal invitation from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe for Americans to study in their countries.

In this connection Rector Khokhlov of Moscow State University came to the United States last year to make arrangements for such an expanded program. To his dismay he found that our leading universities did not have the funds to undertake the exchange. Accordingly, I would recommend that financial assistance be extended for this program through the Department of State.

3. I would urge the President to make a plea that there be no jamming of the channel of communication, pointing out that Article 19 of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights7 specifically provides, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

4. In the same spirit, I would advocate a formal request for permission to open and operate book stores in the USSR and Eastern Europe where American text books, literature, and cultural material can be purchased. This will be characterized as an attempt to “propagandize,” but should nevertheless be proposed since Basket III of the Helsinki declaration specifically contemplates this type of exchange of information.8

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I hope that these ideas will receive your serious consideration. If they appeal to you, I would be eager to help carry them out.


Leonard H. Marks
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Agency File, Box 1, Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs: 3–12/77. No classification marking. An attached NSC Correspondence Profile indicates that Brzezinski “noted” the letter on March 24. (Ibid.)
  2. Presumable reference to Brezhnev’s comments regarding the Carter administration’s support for Soviet dissidents, which Brezhnev made during his address to a national trade union conference in Moscow on March 21. See Peter Osnos, “Brezhnev Attacks ‛Interference’,” The Washington Post, March 22, 1977, p. A1.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 21.
  4. See footnote 4, Document 25.
  5. See footnote 8, Document 7.
  6. See footnote 5, Document 7.
  7. Adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948.
  8. See footnote 2, Document 13.