31. 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

In view of recent developments on the SALT talks,2 I would like to supplement my letter of March 24, 1977,3 particularly since you have asked me to expand on the concept.

I believe that it is important that President Carter at an early date make a public statement referring to “the spirit of Helsinki” and stressing the willingness of the United States to cooperate in programs which will bring the peoples of countries closer together. This statement must be “more than words” and should call for an affirmative program with suggestions for translating the Basket III proposals4 into action.

Let me be specific.

An Increase in Sister City Exchange Visits

I am attaching a schedule (Enclosure One) describing the current Sister City relationships that now exist with the USSR, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia.5 You will note that there are only a limited number [Page 85] of US cities involved and that there are many opportunities for expansion particularly in those communities which have substantial population from the Eastern European area.

To expand this program, I would suggest that the President turn to the League of Cities and the Conference of Mayors, urging them to check out opportunities for inaugurating the Sister City arrangement. I have little doubt that they would respond with enthusiasm.

In the past arrangements for these visits were normally made by the private group involved who paid their own expenses. On occasion, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (CU) has provided limited funds to encourage newly created efforts. In my opinion an expansion of this program should be carried out essentially through private organizations. If government plays a large role, the program loses its basic appeal. Accordingly, CU should have only a limited role to perform. It may be necessary to provide some funds for organizational arrangements, but this would be a small amount compared to the total effort.

I have recommended that a credit of $100 be given to each foreign visitor from the Eastern European area coming to the United States. The mechanisms for distributing these funds would not be complicated and can be arranged so that the funds could be used for hotel, restaurant and other tourist purposes. Most likely the Soviets would reject such assistance, but if offered it can be an inducement for Eastern European groups and would make the program much more attractive. However, if the $100 credit is eliminated, the expanded program can still be carried out.

Increase in the Fulbright-Hays Program

An educational exchange program on a governmental level has been in effect for some time with the USSR, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia. I am attaching as Enclosure Two a description of the current Fulbright program with these countries.6 At the present time, the Department of State is negotiating similar agreements with Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria.

Although these governmental arrangements can be expanded, the most promising area for expansion will be direct private exchanges between US universities and those in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

To expand this program, I would suggest that the Department of State turn to organizations such as the Association of American [Page 86] Universities, the International Institute of Education, and similar groups which have had considerable experience in handling academic exchanges. They know the rectors of universities in Eastern Europe, the ministers of education, and others whose participation would be required to translate this idea into a reality.

Let me point out that in the past it has been difficult to recruit qualified Americans with the required language capability, and that we have not be able to respond to the invitations for exchanges from important academic institutions in the Eastern European area. However, I believe that this problem can be overcome if we really make the effort.

Opening of Book Stores

The United States Information Agency operates libraries and book stores throughout the world. If permission should be granted by the USSR and Eastern European countries for similar operations, USIA is prepared to handle it. The same people who regularly provide books and services for our USIA libraries abroad can undertake this assignment.

All of the proposals described above can be put into effect without authorizing legislation, and without creating new agencies of the government.

I have tried to give you a brief outline of the steps that will be required to get the program started. Of course, there will be many details that will require careful attention before the arrangements can be concluded. However, it is important to note that none of these ideas are untried—essentially I am recommending an expansion of existing programs.

The responsibility for putting these ideas into effect would be the CU Bureau at the Department of State for the Sister City programs and the Fulbright-Hays exchanges; and the responsibility for the book stores would be in the USIA.

The important feature of this proposal would be the accent on people-to-people relationships which President Carter has previously announced in discussing the Friendship Force exchange.7 This program is directly related to that effort and would be consistent with “the spirit of Helsinki.”

Let me know if I can help.


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. Under an April 2 covering memorandum to Brzezinski, Henze sent Brzezinski a copy of Marks’s letter, stating: “It would be good if everyone came up with ideas as fast and energetically as Leonard Marks does. He has written you a somewhat more refined version of the proposals he originally made in his letter of 24 March 1977 [see Document 26]. While these proposals are not sensational, I think there is a case for our making them when good opportunities arise over the next few weeks and months. At any rate I would like to be sure that State and USIA are thinking constructively along these lines. One way of finding out is to send them Leonard’s letter and see how they respond.” Henze also recommended that Brzezinski sign an attached letter to Marks, thanking him for the proposal. (Ibid.) Brzezinski responded to Marks’s proposals in an April 6 letter, asserting: “These are worthwhile objectives and, while I am not optimistic that the Soviets and some of the East European countries will respond favorably to them immediately, I see advantages in advancing them ‛in the spirit of Helsinki’ when good opportunities present themselves over the next months.” Brzezinski also indicated that he planned to send Marks’ letter to both the Department of State and USIA, “asking for their ideas on implementing your suggestions.” (Ibid.) For Reinhardt’s response to the letter, see Document 34.
  2. Reference is presumably to Soviet rejection of the U.S. SALT proposals raised during Vance’s March 27–30 meetings with Brezhnev and Gromyko. For the memoranda of conversation of these meetings, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Documents 1723.
  3. See Document 26.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 13.
  5. Attached but not printed is the undated enclosure entitled “Current (and Active) Sister City Relationships.”
  6. Attached but not printed is the undated enclosure entitled “Fulbright Programs With USSR and Eastern Europe.”
  7. See Document 7.