Cindy Kelly: I am Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation, in Washington, DC. It is June 27, 2018, and I have with me Glenn Schweitzer. My first question is to ask him to please say and spell his name.
Glenn Schweitzer: I am Glenn Schweitzer, G-l-e-n-n S-c-h-w-e-i-t-z-e-r.
Schweitzer: No errors.
Kelly: He is doing well. Glenn, you have had such an illustrious career working on nuclear arms control and on agreements, and on trying to promote peaceful uses of nuclear materials. Why don’t we just start with the beginning. Tell us how you got started and your first job.
Schweitzer: Well, my professional career began when I was accepted into the Foreign Service in 1956. When I reported to the State Department for duty, I was intimidated by all the credentials of these people who were around me. The only real credential I had was some fluency in the Russian language. But the other people there, mostly men, had master’s degrees, doctorate degrees, law degrees, all sorts of publications, and here I was with my minimal Russian language.
I was sworn into the Foreign Service and in a short time was sent over to Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Why Belgrade? Not clear, but perhaps Slavic languages are common. Russian, Serbian, are common languages. Perhaps someone liked my engineering background, because I was probably the only engineering graduate in the crowd, and they knew that Yugoslavia was making a big push to industrialize. But for whatever the reason I ended up in Belgrade in the political section. My first task there was to write a report on the Yugoslav reaction to the launching of Sputnik that happened just after I arrived. I went around town talking to a lot of people and became excited by this space age entering in. But then went back to my routine of writing about what was happening in the Orthodox Church and why the people are unhappy with [Josip Broz] Tito’s last declaration and so forth.
Then a second incident hit me right squarely, and that was a nuclear accident in the research reactor outside of Belgrade. The alarm went out for help from somewhere, and we in the American Embassy thought we knew something about atomic energy so we offered our help. But by the time we were in the mix, help was already on the way from Paris, transporting half a dozen Yugoslav scientists to Paris because they had been excessively radiated and they needed bone marrow transplants. About half the group died; the other half came back and hopefully survived in a peaceful way. Then I became acquainted with the people in the engineering department of Belgrade University and learned about their nuclear engineering curriculum, which they had just established, and became quite a good friend with a leading Yugoslav who was then drafted by the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] to head one of their important departments.
After spending three years in Belgrade with only a minimum amount of time on these kinds of activities, I returned to Washington. And decided I really had to go back to get additional education if I wanted to compete or, more importantly, if I wanted to satisfy my curiosity. Somehow, through a long complicated story, the Department of State said, “We want you to go to Caltech to study nuclear engineering.” Probably the first and only Foreign Service Officer ever to be sent back to get an engineering degree. Anyway, I was off to Caltech.
A year later, I had my diploma in hand, having lost a lot of weight in the course, and I was a little concerned I did not really know much about nuclear engineering except what I read in the book. So I received an appointment to go to Argonne Laboratory to work in the Nuclear Reactor Department. [I was] at Argonne for a few months focusing on what did we learn from the experimental boiling water reactor, which was a power reactor outside of the city of Chicago. That I did for four months and then finally arrived at the doorstep in Washington saying, “Here I am. What are you going to do with me, State Department?”
Well at the time, there were hundreds of young people, younger than I was, scrambling for the best jobs all over the world. I knew nothing about these techniques because I had never paid attention to the State Department before. But there I was in the swirl of all of this and I was getting special attention. People kept coming up asking me what I wanted to do. I could not figure out why, but then it dawned on me that I had a unique credential or unique skill. The lesson learned from that experience was, if you have a special interest or a special talent, and you are competing with a mob, play that distinguishing characteristic to the utmost.
Lo and behold, very quickly I was assigned to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency [ACDA], which was just standing up at that time. They had a science department, unstaffed. They looked at me and said, “You have a degree. You work in that science department.” So I went to the science department of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and that was really an eye opener. What were we supposed to do? Well, we were scientists. What did scientists do in the arms control business? Inspections. All inspection issues that come into the Arms Control Agency will go to the Science Department, which is where I was assigned. Eventually there were five or six of us but at that time there were two of us. So all issues relating to inspections came to the Arms Control Agency, came to us. Of course other agencies were looking at them also.
Here just a couple of them for the record. The first one was the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was in the process of being negotiated between the U.S. and the Soviets. Of course, the British were involved too. I and two other people were assigned to look at the inspection requirements, on-site inspection. After about three or four months and after trying to educate ourselves on what it was all about, we had come up with the conclusion that we needed at least seven annual inspections of Soviet sites to be comfortable with the Test Ban Treaty.
Originally, the number had started at twenty, where the people wanted to go into every crack and crevice in the country, but we had whittled it down to seven, and the Soviets had gone up from zero to three. So there we were. They agreed to three onsite inspections, the U.S. government was insisting on seven, and the story is because of that numerical difference we did not have a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It’s kind of unbelievable but that’s what the historians now acknowledge.
At the same time both sides were so committed to limiting testing that they decided to back off and just limit testing in the atmosphere, on the surface, and in the oceans. Underground testing would be okay under certain constraints such as a hundred and fifty kiloton limit and no leakage across borders and so forth. So the Limited Test Ban Treaty appeared in 1963, but it was an education about how close one could be and not quite make it. Then history records that finally the U.S. agreed to a comprehensive test ban, but the Senate turned it down. So in the ‘90s the whole business stopped. After all those years of trying to get a comprehensive test ban, it boiled down to no limit on underground testing but, more or less, a goodwill gesture that we would not really test underground.
The second issue, which was much simpler, was putting nuclear weapons in outer space. That was an inspection also, so I was assigned to the science group. I think my colleagues and I came up with: how are we ever going to put one up there? How you are ever going to inspect it or check it? I think everyone was persuaded that it would be such a difficult job to put one up there that works that no one was going to do it, so why not sign an Outer Space Test Ban Treaty, and that was then carried out.
The third project I was put on a little later was nuclear weapons on the seabed. For a couple years, during that time at ACDA and then subsequently, I worked on prohibiting nuclear weapons from being placed on the seabed. Here the interesting story is the initiative for that really came out of Vice President [Hubert] Humphrey’s office where I was working. He was responsible for all things wet, all oceans. That was under his purview in the structure of the government of that time. He convinced the leadership in the State Department––which was namely Foy Kohler, who I had earlier served in Moscow with––it was a good idea so they pressed forward with it.
Then the issue came of, okay, we can sell it to the U.S. government, even though the Navy is not very enthusiastic about messing around with their seabed. But we needed to sell it overseas. How are we going to sell it overseas? No one would trust the Navy to do an honest job on this because the Navy didn’t like any of the missions that were wet, so I was selected to go to NATO and to Geneva to explain the difference between an acoustics detection system and a nuclear bomb. That was okay. I had a lot of briefings, I had a set slide show, whatever. I could do that, but the condition was that a Navy captain would be at my right the entire time I was there, day or night, to make sure I didn’t do in the Defense Department. So that went ahead, and about two years after I left the scene the agreement was signed and it has been enforced ever since. There the lesson learned is: if you’re going to do arms control, better make sure the Defense Department is on your side when it comes right down to the crunch.
The final one, just to add to the spiciness, really exciting assignment, was the Cuban Missile Crisis. That as you recall was in 1962 or thereabouts. The issue that we were to address, did they really have physics packages in those nose cones? No one doubted the nose cones were going there because we saw the nose cones, but nobody saw what was inside. Maybe you could measure the radiation from the outside but the Soviets figured that out and probably may have put fake radiators in there. Some of us always worried about, how do we really know they are going to put nuclear weapons down there? Would they really risk putting their deepest secrets that close to the Americans where we could grab them?
Well, if you read the history books, nobody else challenged that. And to this day, it has never been challenged. Even the chief, the leader of the inspection team, who was Bill Perry, will readily acknowledge he doesn’t know anyone who ever saw what was inside the nose cones. But there are historians here in town who say they interviewed all the Russian generals who were involved, who packed the weapons, who dismantled the weapons, who sent them down there. And they all are fully convinced, they say, “Yes there were nuclear, there were physics packages there ready to go.” So I don’t know. But anyway that was an interesting story that we considered for a while.
Then my service in that part of the government, namely the Arms Control Agency, the Vice President’s office, other places around, was rapidly coming to an end, and the State Department wanted to send me back to some place in Foggy Bottom where I would be a third level bureaucrat. I said, “This doesn’t sound very exciting,” so that’s when I left the Foreign Service after twelve years, became a civil servant. No, wait, I’m not there yet. I’m sorry, I skipped. Before I get to that, I have to introduce the Moscow story.
Back in ‘63, in those years, the Department of State was trying to staff twenty-two embassies around the world, each with a science person, a distinguished scientist, who could provide advice or whatever, outreach to these embassies. They were in the process of selecting, most of them had been selected, but the highest priority happened to be Moscow and they were looking for someone for Moscow. Well, the preceding year, they had sent over to Moscow a very distinguished American physicist to assist the embassy in understanding what was going on in the Soviet Union. But he really wanted to assist himself in figuring out and he really was of no use and a real problem with the Embassy because he was freelancing it.
The Moscow Embassy said, “Never again are we going to have a distinguished scientist that we cannot control over here.” What does “control” mean? Control means they needed someone who knows some Russian, they needed someone who knew some science, but most importantly, they needed someone they could trust and control. Who can you trust and control more than a Foreign Service Officer? So in that search they found one to meet that criteria and that was me, and that’s how I went to Moscow. Because the first thing was they knew they could trust me, and I wouldn’t do anything that was not consistent with the policy or I wouldn’t be freewheeling or freelancing and so forth.
Off I go to Moscow and, arriving on the scene the first day I’m there––not easy to get there when we were driving from Le Havre to Moscow with two infant children, but we arrived––I went in to see the ambassador, Foy Kohler. He said, “Oh, am I glad you are here. I got a lot for you to do. You are going to help me, I am going to work with you” and so forth. He said, “All of us need you” and so forth and he gave me a big pep talk. “You are sitting over there and your apartment is here.” He said, “I want you to go talk to Mac [Malcolm] Toon” – who became an ambassador subsequently to a lot of places, not Moscow, other places – “He is my political counselor.” [Clarification: Toon did serve as US ambassador to the USSR from 1977-1979].
I said, “Okay.”
I went in to meet Mac Toon. He said, “Oh! You have the apartment just below me. So we’re roommates. At least, ceiling mates.” He said, “Now here is science. I need your help. I get all these science things. Everything we do here is science now. I get all these urgent messages, these dispatches, these requests, and I will divide them into two categories. There will be the important ones that need immediate action, and there will be the not so important ones. I will take the important ones, and you take the other ones.” I said, “Well, that takes a lot of responsibility off my shoulders.” I was kind of happy, although a little bit taken aback. That was the division of labor at least initially, but it worked out well. The important ones were all this arms control business, the nuclear stuff and that sort of thing, and obviously he had to be cut in on that.
Anything else I wanted to do, he said, “Go talk to the ambassador.” That was my initiation in Moscow. Then we had a very busy time. We were expanding things, our portfolio. We were trying to get American exchanges there all over the country. We were trying to get Soviet scientists to the United States. Each one was a hassle. Visa problems, intelligence people liked this or didn’t like this, it was a real hassle, but it went on. It had been going on since ‘59. Here it was to step it up a level, because the Soviets wanted to step up the relationship, put it on solid footing. Now with regards specifically to the nuclear issue, Glenn Seaborg had been there about three months before I arrived. Had gone to the Soviet Union and signed an agreement with them on the peaceful uses of atomic energy.
The important work was done. The agreement was the important work; now the implementation. The political people said, “You take over the implementation,” so I was responsible for that. It was kind of an exciting time because the Soviets were really moving out in the nuclear area. They had the world’s first nuclear desalination plant ready to go in Kazakhstan. They had two different breeder reactors about to be built and then they were even toying with maybe you can do something with nuclear power in space or whatever. It was a very active time and a very interesting time for someone at least at my level, at any level, to be involved. But always this idea of inspection kept coming up.
Then the related issue, which was not receiving much attention, was the space program. The ambassador really thought we should be cooperating with them in space. They had put up Sputnik, and the event that was turned over to me was they were going to have this person, a Soviet cosmonaut named [Alexei] Leonov, walk in space. The first walk in space. It was a tethered walk in space. I paid attention to that. He had his walk in space about thirty minutes and they showed it on TV – or on the movies, really. Not on TV really; there wasn’t much there. They showed it on movies all over town and I saw these movies and it was pretty spectacular, this fellow going out and dangling.
The interesting thing was one of our astronauts who I personally knew, Ed White, was scheduled to make a similar walk two months later. I saw this walk in space and I said, “Gee, wouldn’t it be interesting if we could somehow get to Ed the film clips of this guy tumbling around in space.” Because he would go out, he would tumble, he would fall, and finally get up. So that was the challenge. I didn’t know how to––it was kind of a secretive deal there, dealing with the space people.
Finally, I met my friend Fred Birkholzer of NBC, who was a fellow I bummed around with there, and I said, “Fred, couldn’t you show that walk on space on television in the United States?” He said, “That is a pretty cool idea.”
I said, “If you showed it, maybe Ed White could see it and he might learn something from it.”
He said, “Yeah, that is a good idea. I’ll check it out.”
So we checked with the Russians––or Soviets, excuse me, I keep saying Russians––the Soviets. They came back and said, “Yeah, that is a good idea. Can you show it on NBC?”
He said, “Yeah, I think I can arrange it.”
They said, “How much will you pay us?”
He said, “I didn’t know I had to pay.”
They said, “Sure, you have to pay. We need twenty-five thousand dollars if you’re going to show it on TV.”
Birkholzer came back to me and said, “Glenn, I do not have twenty-five thousand dollars.”
So I sent off a message to the State Department, USIA [United States Information Agency], which was our information agency, and to NASA, saying, “They are prepared to share with us, but there is a money issue.”
About three days later, Fred Birkholzer came back and said, “Glenn, you know I got a strange thing in the mail today they said I could have the money to buy the film.” He bought the film, they sent it back to New York for TV broadcasting, and they sent a copy down to Houston.
Then Ed had his walk in space, didn’t tumble as much, and then about six months later when I was back in the United States I went down to Houston to see what happened and he said, “I’ll give you a free lunch because I learned a lot. I learned how not to tumble.” That was kind of a success story and one of which I am glad we played a role in. Another aspect of the Moscow assignment which involves space had to do with the ambassador’s eagerness to meet with the people from the space agency in Moscow. He asked me, “Can you introduce me to the space––” You are the ambassador and I am supposed to introduce you? Come on.
I said, “Well, Mr. Ambassador, you show very good films at Spaso House.” He used to show these first run films he would get from the States and he would invite special Russians and they mobbed the place because they loved Western movies.
I said, “Mr. Ambassador, if you could get a movie that would be of interest to the space people, maybe we could get some of them to come to Spaso House and you could have this evening and you could meet them and talk to them and so forth.”
He said, “Well, do you have any ideas of a space movie?”
Well, I said, “It just so happened that NASA has sent me a film taking movies of the back of the moon, and the Soviets have never been on the backside of the moon. Why don’t we take that movie which shows the backside of the moon because we circled the moon and they didn’t, and have that as the first feature of a double feature? The second feature could be one of the American Western movies.”
He said, “That’s a strange idea, but nothing else has worked so let’s try it.”
I think we invited fifteen people from their space program, including several astronauts. And the Spaso House, they have a large room there for movies. It was full; all the space people showed up. It was amazing. Then we had about three or four subsequent events like that where again NASA would provide us with their latest films from space that were different. The Russians had the first Sputnik but we had three of the manned––we weren’t quite to the moon yet, but we had a lot of the other shots that they didn’t have. We’d get them and we had a good connection with NASA, and USIA in particular was in the middle of it, and those films would come out and we would show them and it was a big success story.
The other one that was kind of a success story was the Americans had the first astronaut oceanographer, Scott Carpenter, I don’t know if you remember that. He was both a scuba diver and an astronaut. He was going to make a goodwill visit to St. Petersburg. He was U.S. Navy. He was all set to come to St. Petersburg when the Navy wanted to send a warship in there. So a naval ship came in, had to postpone his visit for a few months but finally it took place. When he came to Moscow he was really a hero because the Russians, they like their manly men, and here this guy who had gone to the depths and gone into space was really a sensation. That was in my days. I’m sure since after I left there in the late ‘60s that whole area blossomed. I always have been a big believer that the biggest event in U.S.-Russian relationships was the handshake in space, I don’t think anything can rival that.
Now, whether that had an impact on the nuclear standoff, I cannot help but believe that somehow modified attitudes of hardline people in both countries when they saw that handshake in space. A lot of this science and exchange relationship to proliferation––wasn’t even proliferation, just buildup of nuclear capabilities on both sides––that had a direct link to the nuclear program, the missile program, and that all got mixed together. I have been quite impressed by that aspect of U.S.-Russia relations.
Even now, as far as I understand, with all of the people being expelled from Moscow, nobody has been expelled from Star City. We used to have twenty to thirty people at Star City in various phases of training, and presumably in Houston there are people. I don’t think those people were ever influenced by this business of getting rid of the Russian and American spies on both sides. That’s been a sustained thing.
On the nuclear side, I think looking back and looking forward, it hasn’t been quite so easy. We had a physics program for a number of years in Russia, all peaceful uses, just very straightforward physics experiments. That has run into trouble several times, not because of all the experiments, but because of the political environment. Don’t sign anything that is bad.
Okay, now let me fast forward to my experience in the Environmental Protection Agency which is relevant. In 1980, I was assigned as the laboratory director of the Las Vegas Laboratory of the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency]. One little known fact about that laboratory at the time was it was responsible for monitoring nuclear contamination around the Nevada Test Site. In fact, the origin of the EPA lab was a lab established out there specifically for that purpose. Then when atmospheric testing stopped that lab then took on additional responsibility as EPA lab monitoring for Superfund sites and so forth. But one of the inherited responsibilities were a team of fifty people who monitored nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site.
Now what did that mean? By the early 1980s, we had already made seven hundred and fifty tests and the Russians had made more. To argue that we needed more tests was getting to be tougher and tougher all the time. But during my tenure there in five years, we had thirty-five tests, all underground tests. What was the responsibility of the EPA of all people? Well, the test site is about fifty to seventy-five miles north of Las Vegas. It’s a large area, and around the test site live people. Those people sort of were always worried. Are we going to get atmospheric pollution, or is something going to happen in the test, even though it’s underground, that’s going to break through and affect us.
As a result of that concern, EPA had a contract with the Department of Energy, which did the nuclear testing. The EPA would provide monitoring around the test site to ensure that if anything happened, buses and trucks and jeeps would get the people out the way. In other words, every time there was a test we had people in vehicles stationed all around that test site with all kinds of monitoring equipment to make sure that if something went askew, off they go, people would be out of there. There weren’t that many people but there were some.
To do that, either myself or my deputy at the lab would sit on what they call the test controllers panel. This is chaired by somebody from the Department of Energy, which gave the go ahead for the test. They’d be there for the countdown, everything in order, is the weather proper, have all the tests been taken. It was a big deal routine. The day of the test at four o’clock in the morning––the tests were always in the morning, maybe eight or nine o’clock––the people would gather in this pavilion. It was not underground, it was not necessary to be underground, but the tests were underground. They may have been a number of miles away because you weren’t sitting right on top of where they were testing.
There was a regular routine to go through the motion of a) were all the systems in place technically, so it would work, and b) are all the precautions taken so it would not—we called it “seep”—to make sure people around wouldn’t be contaminated. If the press did put out a release, which they often did, “Oh, seeping from the test!” the government would have a position that the levels were only this or not at all. Usually they were not at all. But the Las Vegas newspapers were very aware of what was going on and were eager to have a story about something going wrong. That was of concern.
This was the usual routine and there were a few innovations that I would like to mention. Even though we would always say there were no events, no leaks, no seeps, no anything, there were people on the outside that wouldn’t believe it. There were about five little towns around the test site. Small towns. A couple hundred people, maybe even fifty people, maybe a couple hundred, maybe even up to eight or nine hundred. We decided––I don’t know whose idea it was. I was there when the idea was born. I am not sure who came up with the idea. It wasn’t me but somebody on the staff did: let’s teach the local residents to make the measurements themselves.
So we sent in what we called community monitoring stations around the test site, which were supervised by a local resident. In two places there were schools, so the school science teacher was the choice. The other three places was a local resident, may have been a dairy farmer or somebody, and they were trained to how to make gamma measurements and also how to collect what they call rare element samples, xenon and krypton. Then there would be records kept and every month or every two months we would release all the records. We would have released them right away if you want to go out there, but it was kind of a pain. You would not want to go out there every day. We would release the records and they wouldn’t be DOE [Department of Energy] releases, they would be EPA releases. The idea was EPA was not conned by the testing game and it worked tremendously.
In my time there, there was only one time when we kind of got in trouble. There was a leak of a lot of inert gases, which are high on the screen, but they don’t mean anything. I happened to have been in California when it happened, but to show I was not indispensable my deputy took care of it all. I just had phone calls. They had simply to go out and make a lot more measurements and tell the press what it was. A lot of people said that doesn’t matter, nobody is going to get injured, and so forth. So there were three or four times when the press questioned whether there was. There was only one time when they really came out with the headlines and that was taken care of with no problem. It was an honest effort to keep the people informed.
Never once in my experience, there wasn’t a single time, when the Department of Energy tested when we did not say yes, raise our hands yes. Somebody, usually my deputy, would raise a hand and say, “Yes, go.” We would have a medical doctor there and he would raise his hand. The other interesting thing was there were a lot of foreigners there, our friends like Canadians, Australians. This is interesting when you think about it today. Here we in effect were teaching these people how to do nuclear tests, but they weren’t violating anything in our view. But suddenly people say because the Iranians are doing calculations they are doing nuclear testing. There is something missing there because there was a recent release about getting all these documents that show the Iranians were figuring out all the details of nuclear testing. I thought about that and you know we were telling these other people how to do it. Anyway, that is just an ad hoc comment. There are two other interesting points. TMI: we sent our teams down to TMI for two years.
Kelly: Can you say the––
Schweitzer: Three Mile Island. There was a big argument there, about what was leaking. DOE, Livermore [National Laboratory], and peoplehad all these models there about whether something was leaking or not. People tend not to believe models, but we are used to having people go in jeeps with monitoring equipment and go out and measure. So we went out and measured everything and we often got numbers that were a little different from DOE but it was clear that neither one of us were recording anything of concern.
Then we did another thing, which I thought was interesting. It was a public opinion battle. That was the battle about the nuclear. We thought, who are the most influential opinion makers in the area? Who are the most important opinion makers in the area? We decided it was the pastors and the rabbis and the fathers. We rounded up thirty of them and gave them a basic training in nuclear contamination health effects. After they were exposed to that, they were treated like VIPs, and in the evening when they were free, they became very strong advocates in support of the government. The local clergy from the various denominations, now some of them may have only had churches of fifty people, some might have had a couple hundred people, but when you take them all together, they were the ones that were closest to Three Mile Island, so that worked pretty well.
The final story from the Las Vegas experience was Amchitka. Amchitka, there were three nuclear tests, this was Project Plowshare. They were going to show how to make harbors by sending out big explosions on the coast and blasting out the way and you have a deep harbor. So there were three tests in Amchitka in the ‘60s, I guess it was, ‘60s-‘70s, in that time period, to show that this was a feasible approach. Now the Soviets were allegedly doing similar things in storing gas, making huge gas storage caverns all over Siberia. We tried it for gas also in the Southeast. Amchitka, it was interesting. What was the problem at Amchitka? There were three tests up there. The Governor of Alaska said, “Well, you may be contaminating my island.” Nobody lives there. Nobody lives anywhere near Amchitka. At least they didn’t at the time.
It turns out that tritium is the only item that can be detected after a nuclear test, after underground tests, in time. That is the major thing you’re worried about. So we were up there measuring. Once a year we would go up for two weeks, measure the tritium levels all over the island, underground, [00:42:00] and then around the edge of the island try to take radioactive samples to see if there was anything there. Our people thought it was kind of a fun deal but a very expensive deal. You had to be flown in by the Coast Guard and had you take in all your own equipment, your vehicles, your cooking equipment. Everything had to be taken in with you on these big cargo planes. I guess the Alaska politicians thought it was important. So we did that, and one interesting aspect was when the Exxon Valdez tanker broke into pieces. The people we had sent to Amchitka were experienced on how you operate in that part of the world. They were drafted by the Department of Interior, whoever it was, to help them: how do you sample up there where all the Exxon Valdez waste is going? That is just another story that spun off out of that.
Okay. Now let’s go back to Russia. In 1985, I was asked if I would join the staff of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering for a very specific reason. The Academies’ program with the Soviets, exchange program, had sort of collapsed because of the Sakharov problem, his house imprisonment in Gorky.
Kelly: Maybe you can just fill in a little bit for people who do not know who he is.
Schweitzer: Andrei Sakharov designed the world’s largest thermonuclear bomb, which was fifty megatons allegedly. They had one that was a hundred, they set one off fifty megatons. Sakharov was a leading physicist, but then he had second thoughts and he became a very rabid opponent of further development of nuclear weapons. He reversed. He wasn’t criticizing anyone, he was criticizing the concept. Why do we need these huge bombs that we are making, setting off? Then he had a large following but he was arrested by the Soviets for anti-government activities and he was put in jail for the indefinite future. Jail being a home in Nizhny Novgorod, Gorky it was then, about eight hours from Moscow, and he was up there starting in the early 1980s.
By the way, there is a street in Washington called Sakharov Place right down by the old Russian Embassy. So he was quite a hero worldwide. Anyway, he was put in house arrest, he was well known in the United States, and his colleagues were very upset about why he was being imprisoned for no valid reason. A lot of those very famous scientists were affiliated with our Academy of Sciences and they had started a very strong program––arms control program within the Academies, particularly the nuclear area––that had been led by very prestigious Americans, particularly Nobel Prize winners. They were meeting with the Soviets regularly to see how we could make accommodations and reduce the danger to the world. But when Sakharov was arrested, the Academies stopped that activity. They said we are not going to talk to you about this anymore.
A few years later our five year exchange agreement expired, just about ’84, ’85. The question was, should we renew the exchange agreement, not only because of Sakharov, but because of the way they were treating human rights issues. There were a lot of Jewish dissidents who wanted to emigrate and they claim that they were being discriminated against in their jobs, in their workplace and so forth. The Soviet Union wouldn’t let them out of the country. They were called the refuseniks, and that was of concern in the United States too. So we had this compilation of issues. I was recruited specifically to address that issue and the idea was if I couldn’t solve the problem, they could find me a job in the Environmental Department––that was my fallback. I remember when the president of the Academy took me to breakfast and said, “We want you to take this job, and we know you have another talent we could use, so don’t worry about losing your job if you don’t make it.”
The fix was very simple. We had an agreement, and I met with the head of their Academy of Sciences, their outreach person who was, needless to say, a part of their in team. I said, “Can’t we develop something in the agreement that recognizes that human rights are a problem?” I don’t know if I used the word “human rights” or not because that was not a popular word. Finally, at a luncheon we agreed to add the phrase, something like “in supporting exchanges we will take into account the environment within which these exchanges take place.” The environment was the buzzword for human rights. They didn’t have to say it, but we all understood that that was a key thing. That was incorporated into the agreement. The agreement was signed, Sakharov was finally let out of Gorky and he could return to Moscow. The pressure was from a lot of people, not just from us, but a lot of people: why are you keeping this fellow in isolation?
The president of our Academy went to Moscow to make a visit. He wasn’t with me on the original trip; this was a couple years later when he went. We did two things. One, we had a dinner with all the foreign associate members of the National Academy of Sciences. There were about ten Russians who were members of our Academy at that time. They all came to dinner, including Sakharov. But at the dinner Sakharov stood off from the rest. He wasn’t sure if he would be accepted by his peers, Russian peers. We had some Americans there. A couple of us tried to talk to him, welcome him and he went to dinner and basically said nothing and went home.
Then, about two days later––maybe it was a mutual suggestion, I don’t know who suggested it––but we agreed there would be a press conference by the heads of the two academies to talk about this new agreement. That was a very historic moment because for the first time there was a press conference and the Western press got in there somehow. I don’t know, maybe they were invited, but anyway the western press was there. Somebody immediately asked the question after both presidents had made some remarks. “What are you doing about human rights?”
The president of the Soviet Academy, this did not faze him at all. He was a very important guy. His name was [Gury] Marchuk, he had all sorts of medals. He said, “You’re right, we have to pay more attention to human rights, and we are going to do a better job in understanding what human rights are about and making sure that is taken into account.” The first time a Soviet official ever publicly acknowledged they had a human rights problem. We did that, and that was amazing. It was really kind of a turning point, I think, in our relationships with the Soviet Academy and after that we had all sorts of activities. There were people who were worried about nuclear issues like [Wolfgang] Panofsky and his friends. That was their golden day of interactions.
I remember the Soviets came to the United States, we took them to Omaha to the Strategic Air Command, they climbed inside our bombers and saw how they operated, and that was a big deal. Our people went to the Soviet Union and they saw a lot of interesting things there they hadn’t seen before. During that period, about ’88 to ’95, that was really when the nuclear cooperation really boomed in terms of talk. Not in terms of action, but in terms of talk. We were non-governmental and the action was taken – I think Reykjavik [the 1986 summit between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan] led to a few actions. There’s some uncertainty about how that all happened. That was very important.
The lesson I learned there was: just a small step to take into account the other side’s concerns is often very important. And just a small step to recognize some person as being important. If you can identify with some person it worked wonders. That was the end of my activities with the Academy for a while. In 1992, I was unexpectedly called to the State Department to discuss a new center that was being considered for Moscow. Secretary [of State James] Baker had just made a trip to Russia and had discussed with his colleagues from the European Union and from Russia the idea of a center in Russia which would facilitate the transition of Russian weapons scientists from weapons work to civilian work. That was the idea. The reinvention of the weaponeers. I was called unexpectedly to the State Department. They said they were looking for someone to lead the effort in Moscow to set this up. There were people from Los Alamos [National Laboratory] and Livermore on temporary duty there at the State Department, trying to organize this approach.
The diplomatic negotiations were coming to a conclusion. Everyone had agreed that this was a good idea, and now they needed to transform this idea into action. The step that was being considered was taking a group of American, European, and Japanese specialists to go to Moscow to establish the basis of this center, and would I be interested. They said, “We would like you to go there for several months and get this started.” They knew I knew a lot about Russian science and they said, “We know you know Russian science and we think you can do a good job.”
I said, “It doesn’t really make sense to go there for several months because my experience is nothing happens in several months in Russia. Let me talk to my spouse but I’m pretty sure I would be interested in going for a longer period of time to try to set it up.”
They thought that over and they called me back and said, “Okay, we agree with you. Would you go for two years?”
I said, “Well, what are the details?”
They said, “You’ll be an advisor to the government.” And they went through my personal status and “Here is how much you’ll be paid” and so forth. “We would like you to go as soon as possible.”
This was a relatively easy call for me. The uncertainty was the housing. They didn’t know about the housing, and said, “We’ll have to see what we can do about the housing. You’ll get a diplomatic passport.”
I said, “That’s a good idea.”
Then it was agreed, okay, I will go there. They said, “You have to take a Russian language test.”
I said, “Okay, I’ll take the Russian language test.” Because your pay will depend on that. The better you speak Russian the more money you get. Then you’ll have to fill out all these forms and so forth. Fortunately I had a security clearance so that wasn’t a problem.
With my wife somewhat in shock since she had a job, off I went to Russia to begin the process of setting up this International Science and Technology Center [ISTC]. I arrive, there was one unpaid employee there to meet me and one representative of the security service who said he would be on my staff and that was it. We had a couple offices and the facility was under construction where we were going to be. I arrived, and I had arranged for the Academy to send me a fax machine because there was no communication and I needed a fax machine and a printer. I made two trips over. One trip I took the fax machine and one trip I took the other one in my company baggage so I had something to work from and that was it. There were a couple desks there.
But I had one young lady, a very talented lady, who was unpaid. She was doing this because she was doing a favor for somebody. She didn’t know how long she would be there. And then I had this fellow who was from the security services who turned out to be a wonderful helper. There was nothing secret about what we were going to do, that was for sure. We began the job of setting up the International Science and Technology Center. The idea, the first priority, was to provide grants to the nuclear weapons scientists to help them change their talents to peaceful uses. It didn’t have to be exactly in their field but somewhere where they could make a scientific contribution.
It wasn’t to be limited to nuclear but it was to include biological, chemical, missiles, and so forth, but nuclear was the cutting edge. This was in July ‘92 when I arrived. Then groups of experts from Brussels and from Washington descended on us to write all the papers. We had to write the statute––we had the law, the law had been written––we had to have a statute that spelled it out and every one of those paragraphs was contentious. These groups kept coming in from the capitals to work out the details of what the law said. For example, what are intellectual property rights, how are they handled; access to closed facilities, how is that handled; staffing, how is that handled. All of that is spelled out, and everything was going okay. But my practical problem was how do we get the facility in shape so we can get the people here and get mobilized and get people organized and so forth.
That took a back seat, but it didn’t matter because the Russians were so slow in getting this thing to happen that there was no great rush. The first summer and the fall, we made very slow progress. In the meantime, I had to find an apartment. And of course my spouse had to come over, get organized, and get the car over there and all the usual things of moving, but it was all right. So by Christmastime of the first year, we had really not gone very far, but we were chugging along. We got some papers signed but we did not have the formal approval of the governments.
The U.S., there was no need for ratification. This was an agreement that did not require congressional ratification. The U.S. was all set. In the European Union it required ratification by the European Parliament which is some unknown body that operates in eleven languages. That caused a problem. In Moscow, it had to have the signature of Boris Yeltsin. What we did, we got the sides to sign a provisional protocol to continue. That was not the law, that was not the agreement, that was a protocol that said you can keep going until we get around to formally doing this. Even that was a very short-term thing.
Then, we dragged on to the next summer and we were able to visit a lot of institutions in Russia and it was amazing. Some were totally shut down, nothing in there. I remember there was an empty building. On the other hand there were certain buildings that were very active and the nuclear facilities, which would be involved, were also active because they were busy. The weapons design buildings were in closed cities. That was not easy to get to the closed cities. So we spent a lot of time doing a little bit, but we did just enough I think to convince the governments that we should go ahead and formally sign this thing, formally endorse it.
Again, governments were not ready to formally sign. They were ready to sign something to give a temporary status. They had these documents being signed for temporary status. They had to be signed in ten languages in Brussels, and in Moscow they had to go up through the system and somehow go through all of the formalities that were required to get things to the president’s office. They had to go to this agency and that agency. In Japan, they had to go through the Cabinet and then they had another system there.
Finally, about early in 1994, all the documents were ready, everything was signed, the place was established and the governing board and the staff of the Center finally met in about March or April 1994. That was a big deal symbolically. The interesting thing was money was in the bank. We did not have to worry about money. Sixty-seven million dollars was sitting in the bank for projects. It had nothing to do with our salaries. Our salaries were all being paid separately. But we had sixty-seven million dollars so people knew it was for real. This was sitting in bank accounts and that was a problem, how to get the bank money over. That meant as soon as we had an agreement the people could start getting paid.
The key thing that made this happen in my view was the attitude of the people in Sarov, old Arzamas, which Sig [Siegfried] Hecker knows very well. He used to go there a lot. In fact, we went there together one time. Initially they were against this for some reason. The first year I was there, these people in Sarov said, “This is terrible, intruding in our system.” The second year, they were the ones that saved it. For some reason they saved it. The Duma got involved and they were about to kill it, but the Sarov people made an impassioned plea of how important this was to them even though in terms of financial needs they were the least needy. They had money. But they apparently recognized the importance of stopping this mad dash for weapons. I don’t know if Sig has told the story the same way, but I was there when the report came to me that Sarov has just submitted the papers, that they want this to happen. That was very important and I think it may have sunk if that had not happened.
Anyway the Center was set up. By that time we had staffed up to about seventy people. People kept coming in from Japan and from Europe and the United States and we had a pretty clear mandate of what to do. Get some projects out, that was our thing. We had to stop talking and get projects into people’s hands. By the time I left six months later, there were a number of projects in people’s hands. We figured out a way to expedite a few projects through the system quickly. We didn’t know how it would be done over the long run but we knew we had to get something out to show credibility. Maybe we couldn’t address two hundred but we could address twenty of the best ones and get them in the system and the governments could confirm them and the money could start flowing and that happened.
Then in the fall, I was replaced by a French fellow in my slot and then I left. After twenty-seven, twenty-eight months, I went home. Over the years, I really had no role in that organization other than I was a recipient of projects here in Washington, which used that Center as a mechanism for connecting them with the former states of the Soviet Union. That was very helpful because again, my focus was on, let’s get projects going. The nuclear people didn’t need much help in that regard, honestly. The bio people and the chemical people, they weren’t disciplined at all. They didn’t know how to deal with something like this. But the nuclear people knew all about how to deal with CERN and this was old stuff to them.
[Evgeny] Velikhov played a key role in this even though he did not have a formal role. Initially he was the scientific advisor to the Russian government but as it rolled out, he was very important. He was well known throughout Russia, Soviet Union and Russia. He was well liked at the very top levels. He had great international experience and he was a major force in making this happen. There were a number of Russian institutes which were important. MEPhI, Moscow Engineering and Physics Institute, that is their nuclear university, they were essential because the leadership of ROSATOM [State Nuclear Energy Corporation], a lot of them came out of that funnel. The sites out in the provinces were important, the Snezhinsk site, Chelyabinsk-70 I guess it was. Then even the sites in the Urals, those nuclear sites. The missile sites became important even though they were way out and they were not as used to dealing with the bureaucracy as the Moscow people.
Let me just give you a couple examples of the spinoff benefits one gets from having a presence like that in Russia. At the time, one thing I paid a lot of attention to—we were not coupled to the intelligence services in the United States, we were doing our own thing. We did not do anything classified so I was not constrained for what I could say or whatever. One of the issues was the Chinese. What are the Chinese doing here? We went down to Snezhinsk and there was a big Chinese presence. What they were doing, they were buying automated hospital beds. The people in Snezhinsk, they figured out clever ways to make hospital beds that the Chinese were just after. Now maybe the Chinese knew other things behind closed doors, I don’t know, you never know that. But that was interesting.
What were the North Koreans doing? We don’t know. All we know is every day there would be a North Korean diplomatic car parked in our parking lot next to this Minatom [Ministry for Atomic Energy] institute. You got a sense of what was going on. And what are the Libyans doing? Well, I don’t know. My neighbor told me he was there on a pesticides study mission. Well, pesticides in Libya, I guess that’s all right, but very deliberately we were not going up and debriefing them every time we turned around. Maybe we should have been, but I thought we had to be as clean as we could be in terms of the intelligence people because if we ever would have gotten caught with our hands in the intelligence business I think that would have been a very fatal mistake. Now maybe it didn’t make any difference, maybe we were all suspect anyway. Obviously, we talked to the Embassy, but we didn’t know classified things. Everything we reported, the Russians gave us unclassified papers to document, there’s nothing classified about that.
One lesson I think I walked away with, when you try something international––then there was one mistake we made which I always regretted. When the institution was first established, I was named the director and my first deputy was a Russian. I thought that was very good. I think the Western countries, which provided the money, were worried about the money and they figured if an American had the ultimate control in that that would be better than having a Russian with ultimate control. In the division of labor between him and me, we had no problems. I had to sign all the financial documents and that sort of thing, but I said, “Volodya, that’s why I think I’m here and you’re not here,” because he was far more knowledgeable of what was going on that country than I would ever be. He came from Snezhinsk and then he went to the IAEA after he finished that job.
I thought that was good. Then the board of directors, the chair initially was an American. No, the chair was a European and there was no deputy, just a chair, a European. I had always thought there should be co-chairs. I always thought the Russians should be a co-chair of the council. I always thought to this day, because I think that would have been––the Russians really appreciate recognition of authority. And even though the co-chair would not have had any more authority, the name carries authority. It looks like he’s a more important person. Russians are very sensitive to their titles. In our staff, we always called them all senior program officers, not just program officers, trying to get names that would indicate they are important people. I think in this institution we had it would have been nice if we somehow could have at least given the impression that it was more a collaborative effort where the leadership is on both sides of the ocean, or both sides of the borderline because the Europeans, but we did not do that.
Then eventually the Center sort of faded away, and there are a variety of reasons. I’m not the best person to talk about that because I wasn’t on the scene this whole time, although I would go back every once in a while, be invited back or go to conferences. I would always notice the lack of high-level Russians participating. Somehow, we just didn’t make it a big enough deal on the Russian side, my view. Anyway, I think it lasted fine. I thought it would last ten years, that was my guess. It lasted actually eighteen or something. The last few were not very good. But I think we should have prepared for phase out right in the beginning because we’re dealing in the heart of their security apparatus and that’s not flattering for them.
Now the question is, what did we learn from those experiences that could be helpful today? A couple things. One is, if you are going to rely on scientific cooperation, not only as a promoter of science but as a mechanism to encourage confidence, build confidence, build trust, build respect and all sorts of things––what people talk about when people talk about science diplomacy it is all about I am building confidence with you. They have to be sustained. Having a one or two shot event, having one event, a second event and then having [nothing] at the end of it, it’s pretty hard for that to be called a confidence building activity.
I think for the sake of confidence building – well, how do you do that? It’s easy to take a diplomatic mission somewhere. You go, but the one thing science has for you, to do useful things in science, you have to stay at it. You cannot just have an introduction. You have to stay at it, get joint papers and this sort of thing. All these efforts that are undertaken both for the sake of science and for the sake of diplomacy, I think you have to give a lot of attention to the science as the longevity inspirer. There are all sorts of cases where I can point to where I had a great visit there, we agreed to all these things. So what has happened? Nothing. Well, where were you? I think that’s really an important lesson.
Secondly, it’s important when you have a project with other countries, they get involved right at the start. You don’t walk in there and say, “Here is a project. You want to join it?” You say, “Here is a concept. Do you want to help us develop a project and then we can both join it?” That is one of the flaws I think in some of our projects’ development systems. Even these days I am applying for projects for support. But I try to always write the proposals as if this is just my ideas, this is going to be a joint project and I have to have the other people put their ideas in too. That does not make project reviewers very happy because they say “Hell, he’ll change it,” but I think that’s important.
Also, I think we don’t do a very good job in communications. Success stories, I think if they’re genuine success stories, you really have to get the word out. The word does not go out automatically. The people change. It’s not easy, how do you get the word out. If you contribute to the university they put your name on the building, but these projects, somehow you have to get the word out as to the successes. Or the failures. It’s really not a good idea to try to cover up a failure because sooner or later that will come to light. If you haven’t accomplished much, you ought to be honest and say it. Again, that does not help you to get a follow on projects. Everyone likes to see a success story, but I think it is important. Particularly in the nuclear area, I mean this is a long game, and there are certain people in the nuclear area where people recognize we are responsible people and they are not going to start just making a lot of wild statements. I think we learned that in the ISTC also.
Finally, when you’re operating on other people’s territory, you have to really recognize that it’s their territory, not your territory. I mean it’s fine to say I want to have private meetings, I have to go over here, we have to meet alone, but when you say what restaurant we’re going to, let them pick it. Or you can say, “Where can we have the next meeting?” Let them offer, or maybe they won’t offer. Also the final step on the nuclear side, I do have a criticism of the American nuclear community. I think in the exchanges with Russia, we saw too many Americans trying to participate. I mean there would be a project, which three or four Americans could take over, but every laboratory had to have its hand on the wheel. You would have people from all over the place taking part in this one project, which was overloaded with people. You don’t measure your success by how many people participate. Well, it depends on what the project is. Maybe if it’s a lecture you do measure by the number of people, but we have to be careful that we not try to overload the system on these very important ones. On any nuclear negotiation you could probably have twenty-five people contributing, but I think it’s better if you skinny it down and have just a handful.
Now my final topic: let me just make a few comments about other countries and have we learned anything in our nuclear experience with Russia that spills out. Here I tried to think about that as we finished up our activities with the ISTC, as we finished up other projects, other things. I had the opportunity to experiment with some of these things actually in the Iran program, which I jumped into in 2000. What happened was I became impressed by the number of Iranians––I knew nothing about Iran––the number of Iranians who were winning prizes at university competitions, at high school competitions, for math, science, chemistry. In those days if you looked at the winners coming back from Beijing––gold medal Chinese, silver medal Iranians, bronze medal maybe Americans, next medal South Koreans and so forth. You look at all them and the Iranians come up high.
Secondly, I have deep roots in California and it’s hard to maneuver in California without coming across the Iranian-American community there. Thirdly, I was asked by I think the American Chemical Society to write an article on science diplomacy and scientific national security concerns. As a challenge, I took on the issue of the Caspian Sea. I wrote an article and got involved in trying to speculate what was going on there and that sort of whetted my appetite of what was going on in Iran.
Then out of the blue I was back at my desk at the National Academies in about 1999 and I get an invitation from this unknown institute in Iran. Wouldn’t I be interested in attending a meeting on Central Asia? Maybe they found my name because I had been involved in Central Asia. I said “Why not,” and I got permission to go and wrote a paper about something I did not know much about, but I went. It turned out it was the think tank of their Foreign Ministry so it was pretty close. I was very impressed by the people they had there and then they offered a post-conference tour. So I said “Okay, I’ll sign up,” and it was a three day or four day tour up along Northern Iran around the Caspian. They organized a special bus, a little minivan for four or five of us, and it took us around. It was unbelievable. We really saw some impressive things. That got me interested in Iran. Then finally through coincidences the FAS, Federation of American Scientists, sent a couple people to Iran. One of them was Bob Adams who happened to be a good friend and he came back and said, “Should we get involved in Iran?” Anyway that is how I got involved in Iran.
What did they have in common with what I saw in Russia? At the time, there was nothing in the nuclear area that sort of even struck an interest. I had known about the Atoms for Peace program because that was everywhere, and when you meet people from Iran they always referred back they were involved in the Atoms for Peace program or somehow the Point Four Program, but I was not paying any attention to the nuclear issue at all. Then about two or three years into the fostering of exchanges – and the areas in which the Iranians are good are manifold – the issue of the Iranian nuclear desires came up and there was a lot of playing on that. I sort of recommended to my boss we should not get involved because we don’t want to be tainted with looking out for nuclear stuff, so we deliberately avoided that topic. There were a lot of people trying to figure out what was going on. I didn’t pay much attention to it.
Then in 1994, ‘95 maybe later, must have been 1994, former President [Mohammad] Khatami, former president of Iran, took a trip to the United States. [Clarification: Khatami was president of Iran from 1997 to 2005]. He had just stepped down as president. I had met him on one of my trips to Iran, he had asked to see me and I shook his hand and whatever. But when he got to New York, we got a phone call that he would like to visit our Academy of Sciences. At that time people were very suspicious of Iran, but anyway, they wanted to treat him nicely because he was the U.N. Secretary General’s expert on clash of civilizations, the [Samuel] Huntington topic. He was swinging around, coming down to Washington and meet some of the clerics in Washington because he was a cleric. I went to the head of our Academy and said, “Why don’t we invite President Khatami to a dinner because we have had a good relationship?”
So by telephone, we invited him to come to the Academy of Sciences for dinner. It was scheduled on a Saturday evening; that was the only time he had in his schedule. Saturday evening we opened up the Academy. We had a table for about twenty people maybe, four or five of his people, and then we invited a few people from the U.S. The idea was to encourage him to talk and talk he did. Then somebody––I don’t know who the person was––raised, “Well, how about your nuclear program?”
And he said, very candid, “Yes, we had a nuclear program. And last year we stopped it when I learned about it.” He claimed he learned about it and ordered it stopped, and we stopped it. Then he said it’s a very bad thing, that we don’t want to be involved in that, and he gave a nice lecture on that. But they had never admitted in public that they had such a program. There was a dissident group saying they did have it, but it was never admitted in public.
We didn’t publicize it. This was a private dinner and then he made a stop and went on and I thought, “Gee, that was interesting.” Then I kept going to these talks around town about how the Iranians are going to develop a nuclear bomb and I just parked that away inside my head and didn’t pay much attention. I said we’re doing fine, we don’t take any money from the bad sources, and we don’t get involved in nuclear issues, things are going fine. Then when the nuclear deal started being negotiated by Secretary [John] Kerry, I was contacted and they said, “We know you guys do a lot of exchanges. And we have a piece in here, we’re going to talk about nuclear exchanges, and we would like to know what we can learn from you.”
So I was called over to the State Department a couple times to talk about what do we think about it and I sort of said, “I don’t want to do anything clandestine and if the Iranian government agrees, and agrees that we are a good organization to do this, I think we would consider it.” Then that was fine and they thought that was a good idea and we talked about some of the specific areas. I said, “Well, some of those areas we’re already addressing.” They had ones like radiotherapy or cancer therapy. They had eye surgery for contact lenses, they had dosimetry measurements, neutrino astronomy, desalination – all those topics have strong non-nuclear weapons aspects – plasma physics.
They had come up in our discussions over the years. We never thought of that as a weapons oriented thing. Anyway, they put them in Annex 3 of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], which is called Cooperation in Nuclear Science. We said if this is a U.S. government agreement, if the U.S. government wants us to do that, we would be happy to consider it, but we want to be sure that the Iranian counterparts know about this and are not getting in trouble. We want to make sure that any Americans who travel are not going to get in trouble and we want to make sure that both sides benefit. The State Department said, “That’s fine.”
We said, “You know how to get ahold of us.”
Then when Secretary Kerry finished the negotiations – this issue did not come up in the negotiations as far as I could tell, I don’t think Annex 3 was ever on the table – and maybe everybody said “good idea.” That’s how we got involved, but we never really got involved except that little report I gave you that lists the areas of cooperation which would make sense. We looked at it strictly from the technical point of view. How could we benefit from this neutrino astronomy with the Iranians. Well, they’re pretty good with those sorts of things. Plasma physics we already knew they were pretty good because they were cooperating with a team up in the state of New Jersey and they wanted to get into ITER [International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor]. They didn’t have many people in these fields but they had some that were pretty good, so we thought our people could benefit from that and we could continue our philosophy of benefit. We didn’t want to make a big fuss out of this. We were very careful unless we have the ability to follow through, we don’t build false expectations, and we’ve just been waiting in limbo now to see what happens.
You can have your own opinion whether you think what Trump is doing is a good reason. The Annex isn’t the key aspect of whether we keep or do not keep the agreement but it is there. We have tried to stay out of the political debates and we have tried to avoid discussing it with Iranian contacts because we don’t want them to get in trouble. That’s our point and we think if for some reason the governments decide that maybe we should try to squeeze the positive things out of the agreement – some people say there are certain positive things in there, like acceptance of the IAEA Expanded [Additional] Protocol forever – I think people would say that’s a plus. I think these nuclear science exchanges, they certainly don’t hurt anything, and the more exchange you have the better you get to know what they’re doing, their capabilities. I think even the people who are worried about the bomb would say the more we know the better off we are, and who knows what comes out of them.
I guess the bottom line, if you look at the Annex 3, they explicitly mention involving the International Science and Technology Centers. Now the sole Center which I had has disappeared but there is a clone in Kiev and there is a revised ISTC in Astana. Maybe they are referring to those, but anyway, that’s the Iran story. Now the other current events story has to do with Korea. We made one run at trying to engage Korea many years ago because at the time – we were way back, I think in about 1991 – we were concerned that North Korea was moving out in the nuclear area and that was even before Bob Gallucci got involved with his new agenda. We did have some interactions with the North Korean Academy, but they didn’t go very far. It was so difficult to deal with them that maybe we made a mistake, we just didn’t follow through. We could not find any areas where we sort of shared––we were too choosy on our scientific areas. We were not interested in a humanitarian effort. Other people do that better than we do, we do not need to compete with the UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] or the U.N. whatever or all those people. They do it better than we ever could.
Then in recent years, I look at some of our reports that we put out and there are occasional references to: are any of these lessons applicable to North Korea? Then I thought about, well there is a volcanology and seismology project in North Korea, there was. I don’t know if you know Norm Neureiter or not, but Norm has been pushing that, and that seems an area where people could benefit scientifically. They have studies on coastal fishery resources; that seems to be an area. They have certainly a nutrition – I think if you could scratch hard enough you could find areas but the issue is, would a multilateral approach work? That’s really the issue. The ISTC means multilateral not bilateral. I thought, would a multilateral framework be useful in this regard?
There were times at the ISTC discussions, maybe we should include the Koreans into the old ICC way back when, but that never happened. It’s interesting to surmise about that, but I think when we initially got involved with the Russians and the ISTC, I think they liked the multilateral approach. They were going to plug into Europe, U.S., Japan, the industrial strengths of the world. I think the Russians really liked that basic concept. They were no longer going to be closed in, they were going to reach out. This is the Velikhov approach, we are going to reach out, and I think they liked that. I don’t know anything about Korea – at least I do know something about South Korea, but not North Korea – and other people are far more able to comment on that than I am.
It’s just that it might not hurt to have one option on the table that’s worth five minutes of discussion. People could shoot it down right away. I suspect that some time, if we get engaged with North Korea, people will be looking around, is there something positive we can do that’s short of just plain aid, where they would have a sense of their contributing something to the party. And that’s what the Russians really liked. When the economy was so bad, they could be recognized for contributing something to the party. They couldn’t contribute any money, they couldn’t contribute even the heat. We sat in overcoats sometimes. They couldn’t contribute transportation, you had to get out on your own, but they could contribute their brainpower and that was formidable. In those early days, that was important and just taking the time to drop by was a big deal. Oh, you took time to come out and see us? They really liked that.
I remember we went into one institution up north of Moscow and I took with us a carving. We had a carving we were going to give them as a gift. It looked like a brain. They [inaudible], “There’s our brain!”
Thank you for letting me chat with you for a while. I hope I have not misrepresented anyone other than myself and maybe I think your idea of focusing on what we have learned in the past has an indefinite lifetime. It is not like we have to accomplish something in the next three years to take advantage of what we learned, but a lot of those lessons are going to be around as long as our children and grandchildren are around. So thank you.