The Heritage Foundation

Backgrounder #478 on Russia

January 9, 1986

January 9, 1986 | Backgrounder on Russia

U.S. -Soviet Academic Exchanges No Longer Should Favor Moscow


(Archived document, may contain errors)

478 January 9, 1986 US SOVIET ACADEMIC EXCHANGES NO LONGER SHOULD FAVOR Mo5ooW INTRODUCTION During the Geneva summit, Ronald Reagan and Soviet Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signed an agreement on U.S.-Soviet cultural, educational, an d scientific exchanges. Although Reagan personally proposed some new ideas about improving contacts between Soviet and American citizens, the agreement itself is nothing new; it simply revives the agreement that was to have beenzenewed. in 1980.but was all owed to expire because of.the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The U.S. and USSR by now have a long history of cultural exchanges, dating back to 19

58. The record of these exchanges reveals asymmetrical benefits for the U.S. and Soviet Union. While Moscow has sent some ballet troupes and art exhibits to the U.S it has been mainly Soviet scientists who have visited American research centers.

Their pur pose has been to become acquainted with U.S. technology that could be used for Soviet weaponry activities in the Soviet Union, and the priority assigned to the military, the Soviets are well equipped and given to exploit exchanges with the U.S. for milita r y purposes the American scientific community, the Soviets obtain valuable information which is not contained in publications about personalities, institutions, and methods of work in American science research, and development intelligence data obtained by the French) that, in the course of scientific exchanges with the U.S., the Soviets have obtained information on Ildeveloping and manufacturing composite materials for missiles and space systems: automated control designs for highly Because of the centrali z ation of scientific and technological By placing their scientists in The U.S. government estimates (apparently on the basis of hard Laccurate coordinate-measuring machines for quality control of weapons components and subassemblies; information on automat i c control systems for optimizing solling mills; acoustical data for developing low-frequency sonars for submarines; and information pn aerial photography, magnetic recording systems, and lasers programs, however, should not prevent future U.S.-Soviet exch a nges in other areas. It is useful, for instance, for U.S. specialists in Soviet affairs to get a taste of Soviet reality. It also is worthwhile for the U.S. to maintain some presence in the USSR beyond the American diplomats whose contacts with the Soviet people are severely restricted new scientific exchange programs. The top priority should be to improve existing programs so that they no longer endanger U.S national security.

To this end, the U.S. should establish a bipartisan Advisory Committee on Excha nges, which would report to Congress. It would conduct. ongoing evaluations of all exchange programs with the Soviets and their East European satellites, review past exchange projects, and complete exhaustive risk assessments before embarking on new excha n ges in science and technology. For this work, a Committee on Exchanges would draw on the knowledge and experience of Soviet emigre scientists in the U.S. The Committee should establish criteria by which existing U.S.-Soviet.exchangas could be evaluated, a n d as new exchanges were proposed or implemented, they should be measured by these criteria The fact that Moscow has exploited past scientific exchange Yet there is no need for Washington to rush into DIRECT ACCESS TO MILITARILY SIGNIFICANT TECHNOLOGIES Th r ough scientific exchanges, the Soviets have obtained direct access to American militarily significant technologies 1977, Dr. Sergei Gubin of the Moscow Institute of Physical Engineering an institution of higher education famous for training military R&D s p ecialists) visited the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the Universityzof Michigan. There he studied the technology of fuel-air explosives under a professor who was a consultant to the U.S. Navy on fuel-air explosive devices. Upon returning to the. S oviet Union, Gubin continued working on fuel-air explosive weapons From 1976 to 1. Soviet Acau isition of Militarilv Sienificant Weste rn Technoloev An UDdate Washington D.C 1985), pp. 21, 24 2. Fuel-air explosives munitions are based on a principle of cr e ating an aerosol cloud of 1 fuel-air mixture which is then detonated to achieve an explosive effect 2Kirill Rozhdestvenskiy from the Leningrad Shipbuilding Institute the top training and R&D institution for Soviet naval architects) in 1979 and 1980 visite d the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at the University of Michigan. There he studied the wing-in-ground effect aerodynamic vehiclesin which the Soviet military had been interested for some time.

From 1980 to 1981, Talis Bachman, a psychologist from the Tartu University in Estonia, one of the best teaching and research institutions in the Soviet Union, visited Vanderbilt University to study the interaction of man and machine. This field is important for designing heads-up displays t hat optimize the amount of data presented visually to a military weapons system operator. Heads-up displays are used to project flight data on aircraft cockpit glass, thus eliminating the need for the pilot to look down at instrument gauges.

Among his other activities, Bachman attended a stafe of the art demonstration of such work funded by the Pentagon.

WHAT ARE THE SOVIETS SEEKING?

It is argued that their presence at American research centers tells the Soviets nothing they could not learn by reading Ame rican scientific literature. There is some truth to,this. What the argument overlooks, however, is that, although Soviet theoretical science is generally strong, the USSR encounters constant problems translating theoretical discoveries into hardware.

Arthur Alexander, the Rand Corporation's leading expert on the Soviet weapons acquisition process, the critical information is know-how which is something the Soviets cannot find in journals.

Alexander: "It requires personal contact, and frequently, dedicated effort by both parties know-how concerning a devtce or process, but also to purely theoretical infon~ation Exchange programs close this gap According to Writes This applies to the transfer not only of Another problem of the Soviet scientific establishmen t is excessive bureaucratization, which makes indigenous progress 3. A "wing-in-ground effect" aerodynamic vehicle is an extremely low flying aircraft; it uses the aerodynamic effect created by its proximity to the ground to increase its payload without ad d itional fuel consumption and/or increased power of engines 4. The Honorable Frank Carlucci A Letter to Dr. William D. Carey," Science, January 8 1982, pp. 140-141 5. Arthur Alexander, Soviet Science and Weaoons Acauisition (Santa Monica, California Rand C o rporation, 1982 pp. 37-38 3difficult. Because of the Russian tradition of relying on Western science ani technology, information about Western developments serves as aScatalyst for the Soviet decision-making process in science and R&D. Firsthand informati on derived from Soviet-American exchanges is particularly important in this respect.

The accessibility and sheer volume of American scientific literature actually creates certain problems for the Soviets. It is difficult to establish, on the basis of scien tific journals alone what are the most promising directions of American research and which institutions and personalities are especially worth watching. But exchanges, which allow Soviet scientists to work in the midst of the American scientific community as colleagues, help Moscow address this problem.

American scientific community, moreover, can help plan subsequent Soviet illegal acquisition of American militarily significant technologies Soviet scientists who gain firsthand knowledge of the SOVIET SCIE NCE AND THE MILITARY The Soviet bureaucracy is organized primarily for national security objectives ministries, Academy of Sciences institutps, and universities is the powerful Military-Industrial Commission. This coordination allows Moscow to ensure that exchange programs with the U.S. benefit the Soviet military.

According to Rand's Alexander, the role of #'big sciencell in weapons development in the Soviet Academy of SgCiences and the best universities has been growing since the 1960s. This is of partic ular importance to the Soviet-American exchanges since the Soviet scientists sent to the U.S. usually are not specialists from weapons design offices. This would make the true purpose of the exchange too obvious. Instead these scientists typically work in the Academy research institutes or universities. The Soviets send to the U.S. scientists in their 30s and early 40s, who have no apparent background in weapons design and, therefore, are unlikely to be denied admission to the U.S. While in the U.S., the S o viet visitors have unrestricted access to the facilities and labs in universities and institutes Coordinating all defense-related projects of the 6. Jbid pp. 38-39 7. soviet Acauisition., OD. cit. pp. 2, 3 8. Alexander, PD. cit, p. 28 4 I, The Soviets are very well aware of the fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult to draw the line between what in modern science is important for weapons R&D and what is not. Soviet Major General M.

Vasyukov, writing in Communist of the Armed Forces, the official journal of the Soviet Ministry of Defense in October 1985 stated Today it is difficult to overestimate the party's concern for the cardinal acceleration of scientific-technological progress i n the matter of strengthening military-economic potential. After all, the leading directions of scientific-technological progress--the robot technology, computer technology, instrument making and electronics--are simultaneously the basic catalyst of milit ary-technical progress.

Therefore, the Soviets can send scientists to the U.S. who have never worked directly in the military R&D, and never will, but are able to obtain information that is useful for the overall advancement of Soviet military technology.

TARGETING AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES The Soviet Military-Industrial Commission assigns high priority to gaining access to major American universities. The Commission has targeted MIT and Carnegie-Mellon, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Michigan, and Wisconsin universiti es as sources of information on new high-strength high-temperature alloys, lightweight structural alloys, and powder metal processing. For methods of evaluating strategic concepts on space, aviation, and missile systems, the Commission is targeting the Ca lifornia Institute of Technology, Harvard, and MIT. Aerodynamics research at the California Institute of9Technology, MIT, Princeton and Stanford also is of great interest.

Soviet scientists actually worked on the problems of communications at MITIS Operati ons Research Center: computers at the Operations Research Center at Berkeley and the Digital Systems Laboratory at Stanford: ceramic materials (crucial for space technology) at the Department of Material Science and Engineering at MIT; gas turbine aircraf t engines at the Department of AeronauLical Science and Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University 9. Soviet Acauisition, p. 21 10. International Research and Exchanges Board. Annual Rebort 1977-78 (New York: IREX 1979 pp. 48-51 5-computers at the C o mputer Science Department of UCLA; space technology at the Department of Aeronautics at MIT;ll aircraft gas turbine engines at the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology; and semicondutop at the Department of Material Scien c e and Engineering at MIT programs for short-term Ilscientific tourism.Il the USSR on a long-term exchange program is a graduate student or junior university faculty member specializing in Soviet politics history, languages, or culture. Thus benfits from t he cultural exchanges unquestionably have been in MOSCOW'S favor.

Even a cursory look at the institutional affiliation of Soviet participants in only one exchange program (International Research and Exchanges Board, established in 1968 by the American Coun cil of Learned Societies to conduct exchanges with the Soviets and Eastern Europe) confirms the bias toward military research and development in Soviet approach to the exchanges.

Institute of Engineering Physics dispatched eleven scientists to study in th e U.S the Moscow Aviation Institute sent four; Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys, three; Moscow Advanced Technical School, four Moscow Physical Technical Institute, two; Moscow Institute of Electronic Technology, two: Kuibyshev Aviation Institute, thre e Leningrad Aircraft Instrumentation Institute, two: Leningrad Shipbuilding Institute, two: and Leningrad Polytechnical Institute, three. All these institutions are famous for training military R&D specialists and conducting their own RtD programs for the m ilitary invasion and the Reagan Administration finally forced the State Department to be more selective in granting visas to Soviet exchange program applicants. The flow, however, continues. Example: even after Washington's row with the NATO allies over e x ports of pipeline technologies to the Soviet Union, Gennady Vasil'ev, a Soviet scientist from the Moscow Oil Institute, was allowed to come to the U.S. in 1984 By contrast, American scientists, for the most part, use exchange The typical American in In th e past decade, the Moscow These numbers would have been much larger had not the Afghanistan and 1985 to studv desian and construction of oil and gas pipelines 11. International Research and Exchanpes Boa rd Annual ReDort 1979-90 (New York: IREX 1981 pp. 45 - 46 12. International Research and Exchanges Board Annual ReDort 1980-81 (New York: IREX 1982 pp. 44-46 6PSYCHOLOGICAL AND POLITICAL DIFFERENCES FAVOR SOVIETS An argument is often made that both sides gain from scientific exchanges because American scienti s ts learn about Soviet science from Soviet scientists visiting the U.S. This is far from true scientists are instructed when departing to the West, Inin speeches and conversations [to] abide only by those facts which have been published in our op,en press a nd have been authorized for publication abroad This instruction was strengthened considerably by a Ilworkplace secretsll law of 1983, which is formulated so broadly that in effect, no Soviet can convey any professional information to a foreigner without p r ior authorization of the secret police violation ibtreated as a crime punishable by up to eight years of hard labor Soviet A This law, combined with the unceasing Wigilance campaignmf against Western "spies and saboteurs" waged for the last several years in the Soviet press, ensures that every prudent Soviet scientist will do as much listening and as little talking as possible in contacts with his or her foreign colleagues.

Soviet scientists are psychologically better suited than their American counterpart s for protecting secrets. To survive, a Soviet citizen must learn to be on guard constantly, lest an incautious word Slip out in the presence of a stranger who could be a secret police informer. Soviet scientists traveling abroad have to be certified by T h is means that the scientist has demonstrated superior ability to keep his mouth shut. incentive for Soviet caution is the Soviet fear.that information passed to an American in confiaence may one day appear in the Western press. the KGB as Itpolitically re l iable.Il An additional 8 U.S. OBJECTIVES AND REALITY OF EXCHANGES The U.S. has pursued several objectives in its exchanges with the Soviets. First, th.ere has been a desire to improve mutual understanding between the Soviet and American people through exc h anges of individuals and ideas. Second, there have been attempts particularly in the 1970s, to use exchanges as one strand in the web of relations supposedly designed to moderate Soviet international conduct. And third, exchanges have been used to give Am e rican 13. Michael Taksar, "Taksar Tells How Soviets Control Profs Visiting U.S CamDus ReDort March 16, 1983, Stanford University p. 2 14. Current Digest 'of Soviet Press, vol. XXXVI, No. 8, p. 13 7-specialists on Soviet politics, history, economy, and cul t ure a firsthand experience of Soviet reality directly. Admiral Bobby Inman (USN, Ret a former Director of the National Security Agency and Deputy Director of the CIA, stated in 1983 that Soviet-American exchanges play an important role in fulfilling the n eeds of the U.S. intelligence community, Foreign Service, and other branches of the government for specialists An Soviet affairs with the firsthand knowledge of Soviet society.

The first Soviet-American exchanges began in the late 1950s.

While the U.S. so ught to improve mutual understanding, it is now clear that the Soviets were interested primarily in American science and technology and in improving their image in the U.S. The same was true when exchanges began to flourish during the detente years 1974, d etente's heyday, twelve U.S.-Soviet exchange agreements were signed. They embraced existing exchange programs for students, and added exchange and cooperation programs in science and technology environmental protection, medical science and public health, s pace agriculture, world oceans, transportation, atomic energy, artificial heart research and development, and housing It is the third objective that serves American national interest In 1972 to The State Department's control over the exchanges has consist e d mainly of its power to issue or deny visas to Soviet visitors. During the 1970s, responding to the "spirit of detente," the State Department granted visas to just about any Soviet who.asked. U.S. national security considerations were rarely, if ever, a factor in the decision to grant visas.

The most visible Soviet-American cooperative project was the 1975 Soyuz-Apollo space flight. This cost the U.S. $250 million. It convinced the American participants that the U.S. was substantially ahead of the Soviet Union in space technology. But the Soviets got their foot into NASA's door and surely picked up useful and valuable information about space technology.

Americans had difficulty dealing with the Soviet bureaucracy important, Moscow was reluctant to give Am ericans access to areas of Soviet achievement, such as mathematics, or to the best research centers, such as the complex of Soviet Academy of Sciences institutes at Chernogolovka near Moscow, presumably because classified research is conducted there The U .S.-Soviet exchanges quickly ran into predictable snags.

More 15. Yale Richmond, Soviet-American. Cultural Exchanges RiDoff or Pavoff Washington D.C.: Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, The Wilson Center 1984 p. 32 8American access to the best personalities in Soviet science also has been very uneven, particularly when it comes to Soviets attending conferences in the U.S. Then President of the National Academy.of Sciences, Dr. Philip Handler, observed in 1978: When American scientists invite So v iet scientists to come to their laboratories...they are told with monotonous regularity that the invited scientists cannot come and are then asked to accept someone else 1136 As early as 1975, the General .Accounting Off ice reported that "the exchange of know-how may favor the Soviet Union.11 It added that perhaps Ilpolitical considerations might justify this concession 111 Not until the latter part of the Carter presidency, with Soviet-American relations already deteriorating, were exchange agreements re v iewed critically by the U.S. government. An interagency group evaluated the exchanges. It found that many of the projects had been approved because they fueled detente, rather than because they could be of scientific value to the U.S. It also was discover e d that there was no centralized government management and oversight of exchanges, that statistical data on exchanges conducted under different federal bureaucracies were not readily available, and that it was impossible to establish how much the U.S. was spending on the exchanges.

This review was.interrupted by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, after which a number of exchange programs were cancelled or allowed to lapse. Zn 1980, the National Academy of Sciences cancelled its federally funded exchange pr ogram to protest the internal exile of Nobel Laureate Andrei Sakharov. At the same time the International Research and Exchanges Board, a nongovernment organization funded to a large degree by the U.S. government, also scaled down its Soviet exchange prog r am imposition of martial law in Poland in December 1981, President Reagan allowed U.S.-Soviet exchange agreements on science and technology space, and energy to lapse In response to the 16. Dr. Philip Handler The Exchange Program between the National Acad e my of Sciences of the U.S.A. and the Academy of Sciences of the USSR," statement before the Subcommittee on Domestic and International Scientific Planning, Analysis and Cooperation, Committee on Science and Technology, House of Representatives, October 4, 1978, p. 75 17. Comptroller General of the United States, A Progress Reoort on United States -Soviet Union Coooerative ProeramQ January 8, 1975, p. ii I 9- I CURRENT U.S. EXCHANGE PROGRAMS AND POLICIES The U.S. government mechanism for dealing with exchan g es with the Soviet Union is insufficiently comprehensive and lacks public accountability. The policy guidelines for Soviet-American exchanges are developed by the Interagency Coordinating Committee for U.S.-Soviet Affairs (ICCUSA It is chaired by the Unde r secretary of State for European Affairs (at this time, Rozanne Ridgway and includes representatives from all U.S. agencies involved in exchanges as well as those concerned with national security, such as the Department of Defense.and the CIA solely respon s ible for representing the U.S. side in dealing with the Soviets over the issues of exchanges. The Bureau of Oceans and International and Scientific Affairs in the State Department has scientific experts to help in coordination with Soviet-American exchang e s in science and technology. It is the individual U.S agencies, designated for implementing exchanges, that administer such bilateral agreements technology are screened by the Committee on Exchanges (COMEX which is a subcommittee of the Technology Transfe r Intelligence Committee established in 1981 by the CIA. COMEX advises the State Department on issuiflBg visas to the Soviets, but the State Department has the final word The State Department's Office of Soviet Affairs has one officer Soviet nominations fo r exchanges in science and The oldest existing exchange program is conducted by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX it is relatively small with only some 1,742 Amerhcans and 1,770 Soviets exchanged under its auspices from 1958 to 19

83. It is financed partially by grants from the U.S. Information Agency and the National Endowment for the Humanities and partially by grants from private foundations. IREX staff includes professional Sovietologists with long experience in dealing with th e Soviets.

In the last several years the State Department has been more selective in admitting the Soviets to IREX programs result of this, IREX has succeeded in forcing the Soviets to accept more American students working on contemporary Soviet affairs so mething the Soviets were loath to do for many years. IREX obtains data sheets on Soviet exchange nominees well ahead of time, which allows for a review process on visa issuance and makes public the lists of all exchange participants. IREX is an independen t body, but it formulates its policy in consultation with the U.S. government Perhaps as a 0 18. Richmond, p c it, pp. 26, 27 19. Ibid, p. 22 10 The situation is similar at the National Academy of Sciences which has its own exchange program with the Soviet Union funded mostly by the U.S. government. This program includes seminars, conferences and short- and long-term visits.

Special problems have come up in the past concerning bilateral agreements between Soviet agencies and such U.S. agencies as the Depart ment of Energy, Department of Agriculture, and NASA. These U.S agencies have no special expertise for dealing with the Soviets.

Protecting American national security is not normally part of their agenda. Yet the exchanges resulting from these bilateral ag reements can be sizable. In the late 197Os, for instance, the USSR annually sent nearly 1,000 visitors to the U.S. under these accords agencies have not always insisted on Moscowts providing full data on their exchange nominees well in advance which made r eview by the intelligence community nearly impossible. The U.S. government agencies also take a possessive, proprietary view-of tttheirtt exchange programs with the Soviets. In the past, they tended to shield them and press the State Department to issue v i sas to Soviet visitors without sufficient review The U.S SOVIET-AMERICAN EXCHANGES AFTER THE At his meeting with Gorbachev GENEVA SUMMIT n Geneva, Reagan signed an umbrella accord on-exchanges. agreements had been renewed even earlier: in environmental pr o tection medical science, agriculture, world oceans, atomic energy, artificial heart RtD, and housing. Also under discussion with the Soviets is the possibility of a mammoth 35-year cooperative project on nuclear fusion, which would cost at least It$3.5 bi l lion in contributions from both nationstt and involve %onstructiop of expensive facilities t120 This expanded exchange agenda, reminiscent of the 1970s, could pose threats to U.S. national security A number of bilateral exchange Much more to U.S. liking w o uld be the large-scale exchanges between Soviet and American high school and college students proposed by Reagan. In negotiating the tenus of such agreements, Washington should not allow Moscow to substitute programs that emphasize sending Soviet scientis ts to the U.S. College and high school student exchanges always have worried Moscow.

The new umbrella agreement will convey the impression to the U.S federal bureaucracy that Soviet-American exchanges are to be encouraged at any cost. This might result in haste, poor oversight 20. The Washinaton Post November 13, 1985 11 and reluctance to resist Soviet demands negate much of the Reagan Administration's progress in reducing the transfer of militarily significant U.S. technology and know-how to the Soviet Un i on Such developments would RECOMMENDATIONS public accountability and well coordinated U.S. control over To exchanges with the Soviet Union and its allies are necessary achieve them o A U.S. Advisory Committee on Exchanges with the Soviet Union and its Eas t European satellites should be established bipartisan, contain representatives from the Executive Branch Congress, and the private sector, and should submit annual reports including criticisms and recommendations to Congress on the status of all exchange programs funded fully or in part by the U.S. government.

These reports should be made public in an unclassified version o The existing Committee on Exchanges (COMEX) under the CIA should provide all necessary information to the Advisory Committee.

COMEX s hould have power to review all exchanges with the Soviets and East Europeans and.to override decisions of government agencies conducting exchanges o The State Department should negotiate concrete terms of new agreements only within the guidelines set at t h e start of the Reagan Administration that established the protection of U.S. national security as the condition of Soviet-American exchanges. The Department of Defense should be a participant in developing the U.S. position 8 o No agency of the U.S. gover n ment should be authorized to fund an exchange agreement or to accept specific Soviet participants without a review by the Department of Defense It should be o An extensive review of past exchanges should be conducted to determine their benefits and disadv a ntages before new exchange programs are launched o No new program of scientific exchange should be undertaken without a sound risk assessment o The many Soviet emigre scientists who live and work in the U.S and who have firsthand knowledge of Soviet scien ce, institutions personalities, and decision making should be asked to help review past U.S.-Soviet exchanges assessment for future exchanges.

Their views would contribute to the risk 12 o Soviet scientists should be allowed into the U.S. only in proportio n to the number of American specialists on contemporary Soviet politics who are allowed to conduct their research without obstruction in the Soviet Union and with reasonable assurance that no transfer of militarily significant technology and information f r om the U.S. to the USSR takes place o It should be made clear to the Soviets that exchanges make sense only if Americans can meet freely with whomever they chose in the Soviet Union, and if the Soviets stop reducing their participation in exchanges to the same small group of lldependablell officials and academics from government-run institutions.

CONCLUSION Moscow abused the so-called cultural exchanges of the 1970s by sending to the U.S. Soviet scientists assigned to acquire knowledge of U.S. defense rese arch and development. The Reagan Administration has been able to remedy the situation somewhat. But more must be done in view of what the U.S. now knows about exchanges with the Soviets. Such scientific and cultural exchanges do not reduce tensions in Eas t -West relations in and of themselves than half way may endanger U.S. national security and will hardly earn respect from the Soviets Attempts to meet the Soviets more Soviet-American exchanges should be conducted along the following policy guidelines. Fir s t, there should be public accountability and guidance to be implemented through an Advisory Committee reporting to Congress. Second, sound risk assessment should be conducted for every new exchange program in science and technology. Third, there should be strict reciprocity in exchanges: Soviet visitors should enjoy access to American science equal to that enjoyed by American specialists in contemporary Soviet affairs to research resources in the Soviet Union.

Only such a consistent and patient policy on the part of the U.S can turn the Soviet-American exchanges into a two-way street.

Mikhail Tsypkin, Ph D in Soviet Studies Salvatori Fellow 13

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