The renewal of the Lacey-Zaroubin exchange agreement accentuates the difficulties and dangers of cultural exchanges as well as its immense potential. For despite clauses providing increased interchange of teachers and cooperation on medical research, conflict between Russian and American proposals suggests a fundamental divergence of aims.
Americans appear to regard cultural exchange as a vehicle to penetrate Russia's most neurotic fear of foreign institutions; the Soviets seem to forsee economic cooperation which will hasten the economic advance of Communism--and this difference of viewpoint was clear in the proposals: the United States sought exchange of teachers, students, and ordinary tourists, while the Soviet Union proposed increased emphasis on technology and trade.
The promise of cultural exchange will, clearly, never really be fulfilled in the limited programs of the present agreement, but the hope must be that they are a first step. Only about fifty people have been exchanged in youth groups, and the closely supervised Soviet tourists have numbered less than five hundred. Groups of this size have little chance of making a serious impression on either nation.
Soviet proposals make it clear that the United States will not get full cooperation until it abandons its attemps to defeat Communism and accepts the challenge of competition. Unless Americans abandon their conceit that refusing to trade with Communists will prove the superiority of capitalism, the Soviets will suspect, quite rightly, that cultural exchange is only a hollow gesture toward co-existence.
Nevertheless, exchange is one of the few alternatives to a far more vicious competition. The defects of the new agreement and the conflicts which underly them should not be allowed to obscure its great promise. Those who came in contact with the Rusisans who visited Harvard this spring or who have visited Russia under the Lacey-Zaroubin agreement cannot question that it has a real value. The opportunity may be small, but it is not to be missed.