From Pugwash to Putin

From Pugwash to Putin

A Critical History of US–Soviet Scientific Cooperation
Gerson S. Sher
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 05/17/2019
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-253-04262-0
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For 60 years, scientists from the United States and the Soviet Union participated in state-organized programs of collaboration. But what really happened in these programs? What were the hopes of the participants and governments? How did these programs weather the bumpiest years of political turbulence? And were the programs worth the millions of dollars invested in them? From Pugwash to Putin provides accounts from 63 insiders who participated in these programs, including interviews with scientists, program managers, and current or former government officials. In their own words, these participants discuss how and why they engaged in cooperative science, what their initial expectations were, and what lessons they learned. They tell stories of gravitational waves, classified chalkboards, phantom scientists, AIDS propaganda, and gunfire at meteorological stations, illustrating the tensions and benefits of this collaborative work. From the first scientific exchanges of the Cold War years through the years following the fall of the Soviet Union, Gerson S. Sher provides a sweeping and critical history of what happens when science is used as a foreign policy tool. Sher, a former manager of these cooperative programs, provides a detailed and critical assessment of what worked, what didn’t, and why it matters.

Author Bio

Gerson S. Sher spent twenty years as Program Coordinator for US-Soviet and East European Programs at the National Science Foundation, before providing leadership throughout the rest of his career to private and public foundations at the intersection of scientific cooperation, international affairs, and global security.


From Pugwash to Putin is a testament to the deep personal commitment of many brave scientists in the US and the USSR (and post-Soviet Russia) who triumphed over adversity for the betterment of mankind. Sher does a brilliant job in bringing this tale of commitment and cooperation to life. Let’s hope this story will remind today’s leaders that despite political differences there is much to be gained through scientific cooperation.”
 — Robert E. Berls, Jr., PhD, Senior Advisor for Russia and Eurasia at the Nuclear Threat Initiative

“Sher’s book is a masterful account of "what worked, what didn’t, and why it matters" in science collaboration between the US and the Soviet Union during and after the cold war. Both scientists and diplomats interested in science diplomacy can learn from his authoritative account informed by insightful interviews with key participants.”
 — E. William Colglazier, former Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State

“In From Pugwash to Putin, Gerson Sher expertly documents the history of cooperative scientific exchanges, first between the United States and Soviet Union, and then with Russia and the other post-Soviet states, focusing on the explosion of programs that developed following the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. Himself a key player in catalyzing those exchanges, Sher supplements his authoritative account of the state-to-state and institutional arrangements with stories from the Americans, Russians and others who made the cooperation real, often under challenging circumstances (for example, see "The Expedition from Hell"). While clearly a passionate supporter of science cooperation and of the maxim that "science knows no borders," Sher assesses with candid objectivity the results of 60 years of exchanges—not just in advancing science, but in achieving other goals such as reducing proliferation risks, promoting better relations between Washington and Moscow, and commercializing new ideas.”
 — Steven Pifer

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Table of Contents



Part I: The Timeline

1. The Deep Cold War and the Exchange Program

2. Détente and the Heyday of Massive Agreements

3. Sanctions and Perestroika

4. After the Fall: New Times, New Approaches

Part II: In Their Own Words

5. How Did It Start?

6. What Kept Them Going?

7. Scientific Accomplishments

8. Other Accomplishments

9. Problems

10. On the Nature of Sciences in the Former Soviet Union

11. Vignettes

Part III: Conclusion: So What?

12. What to Make of It All?

Appendix: List of Interviews