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Favorable Exchange Rate
Eugene B. Skolnikoff. a political-science professor at mit. says foundations that intend to send money should demand that their currency be exchanged at the more favorable tourist rate of 100 rubles to the dollar, rather than the official rate of 1.5 rubles to the dollar.
He and Mr. Graham emphasize that American groups should also try to negotiate an end to the Russian tax on foreign contributions. Mr. Graham says that when he and Mr. Skolnikoff visited Russia last month, many scientists they spoke to expressed the fear that the tax would be an obstacle to foreign contributions. "Very often, they mentioned that tax." says Mr. Graham.
In a letter that the two mit professors have been distributing to foundations around the country. two officials of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Victor M. Sergeev and Artyom Mnatsakanyan. urge Western groups considering ways of helping Russian science to meet with Russian officials to negotiate an end to the tax and to institute procedures through which funds can easily be sent to specific Russian scientists and institutions.
Mr. Rabinowitch of the MacArthur Foundation agrees with the recommendations of the Russian scientists, noting that foundations and other non-profit institutions
cannot agree to pay such taxes under U.S. Internal Revenue Service regulations.
"These taxes have got to be a matter for negotiation, as do the exchange rates," he says.
Mr. Skolnikoff of mit says that because they can respond quickly and provide financial assistance with less red tape and political controversy than the U.S. government. foundations and other non-profit institutions offer the best nope to Russian scholars, at least for the near future.
"Whatever can be done should be done quickly," he says. "And the largest hope of moving fast is with the foundations."
Other, more pressing problems—such as starvation, bolstering the Russian economy, and keeping Russian nuclear scientists from selling information about nuclear-weapons technology to other countries—are likely to get the most attention and help from the U.S. government. Mr. Skolnikoff and Mr. Graham say. Thus. they add, it would he appropriate for foundations to focus on such areas as preserving the best aspects of Russian fundamental science.
"It's not at the top of everyone's agenda in terms of relief." says Mr. Skolnikoff. "But it’s one of those areas where a little money can go a long way."
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