In response to dramatic changes in the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States Congress felt compelled to extend a hand of friendship to Russia. A number of initiatives were proposed by Senators and Representatives and subsequently received support from the U.S. Federal Government.
The Freedom Support Act of 1992 states that: “The collapse of the Soviet Union provides America with a once-in-a-century opportunity to help freedom take root in the lands of Russia and Eurasia….The growth of freedom there will create business and investment opportunities for Americans and multiply the opportunities for friendship between our peoples.”
The Act was designed, among other things, to support democracy and free markets in Russia and Eurasia, to provide humanitarian aid, to prevent nuclear accidents and the spread of nuclear weapons, to expand assistance opportunities in building free markets, to increase support for democratic institutions, to support the development of a private sector, to leverage U.S. financial contributions through the International Monetary Fund, to support economic stabilization in these two countries and, most important of all for our discussion here, “[to expand] the American presence on the ground and [to] increase people-to-people contacts.”
To ensure the success of these efforts at this defining moment in modern history, the U.S. pledged a total of $6.33 billion (FY 91-93) to support agriculture, market reform, economic development via the Currency Stabilization Fund (CSF) and scientific research via the U.S. Civilian Research & Development Foundation (CRDF)
One component of The Freedom Support Act of 1992, spearheaded by Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ), provided funding for long and short-term exchange programs for high school students in the U.S. and in Russia. This initiative was administered by the United States Information Agency (USIA).