Who would have thought 10 years ago that RAND, a leading player in the Cold War game of mutually assured destruction, would one day announce a cooperative agreement with Moscow?
Not Alexander N. Shokhin, Russia's deputy prime minister, who signed the document Friday at the think tank where planners once helped the Air Force work out tactics and strategy for nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
"RAND was, in the Brezhnev era of stagnation, our enemy, the enemy of Soviet society," he said. "Now we are changing and it seems to me that the United States is also changing, so it is a good time to cooperate."
James A. Thomson, president of the Santa Monica-based research group, noted that "throughout its history, RAND has been very interested in the Soviet Union--although we don't need to dwell on the nature of that interest."
The deal announced Friday calls for RAND to provide the Russian government with research and analysis on issues including population migration, health insurance, school reform and the training of workers.
"Since most people in Russia associate RAND with the military-industrial complex, in order not to scare anyone away we proposed four projects in the social field," Shokhin said.
In the future, he said, RAND might work with Russian analysts on how to convert military industries to peaceful uses, research that could also prove useful in Southern California.
Thomson said the program is expected to start with the opening of a RAND office in Moscow later this year.
The agreement also calls for Russian students to enroll in RAND's graduate school, which operates with UCLA, and for RAND to help set up training programs for policy analysts in Russia.
RAND, which still relies on the Defense Department for three-fourths of its annual $99-million research budget, is footing the bill for now.
Thomson said it may cost as much as $7 million to fund the entire program, money that he hopes to raise from the U.S. government, other countries, charitable foundations and private individuals.
For its part, the Russian government has promised access to translation services and office space and to help in the fund raising.
Shokhin, a 40-year-old economist, was appointed deputy prime minister in November, 1991, after a shake-up in which economic reformers were named to positions of power.
Charged with overseeing Russia's domestic social policies and international economic relations, he came to RAND after a week of talks in Washington with officials of the seven leading industrial countries, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
"The question on everybody's mind was whether the pace of economic reform is slacking in Russia, and whether the current leaders are losing control of reform," he told a group of RAND staffers, elected officials and other guests on Friday. "I can tell you that the pace is certainly not slacking, and control is not being lost."
In recent months, he said, the Yeltsin regime has removed price controls, eliminated the last remnants of the communist era's planned economy, opened Russian markets to the outside world and started a campaign to privatize 7,000 state-owned enterprises.
At the same time, however, productivity has been dropping along with the standard of living, he said.