Washington — US defense officials welcome President Carter's ban on transfers of strategic technology to the Soviet Union, although many US strategic trade experts feel it comes far too late.
The President's order, responding to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, effectively halts about $155 million in pending transfers of computer, machine-tool, precision electronics, and drilling equipment and tightens controls on future deals in these and other military-related fields.
However, the order comes, in words used earlier by one high administration figure, "after they have stolen us blind" of military- applicable technology "for years."
Members of the staff of National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski have long been pressing for tight US Defense Department controls on strategic trade with the Soviet bloc. Opposing viewS WERE expressed by US Commerce Department and Treasury officials whose job is to promote US exports, in part to help offset massive and growing US energy imports.
Sales of goods and know-how by the United States and its allies, according to Dr. Jack Vorona, assistant director for scientific and technical intelligence of the DeFense Intelligence Agency (DIA), have "unquestionably played a major role in the modernization and expansion of Soviet industry."
Dr. Vorona recently gave a congressional committee some stark examples, such as the 1973-74 sales of 164 precision miniature ballbearing machines that enabled the Soviets to develop heavy, multiwarhead intercontinental missiles at a faster pace.
Soviet military trucks now moving into Afghanistan with troops, ammunition, and supplies reportedly come in part from the USSR's Kama River truck plant. ThiS WAS BUILT ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY WITH Western technology, Dr. Vorona points out.
"Among other things, the US supplied the automated foundry for making the engines, the production line, and the computer that controls the plant," which, in full production, will turn out 150,000 trucks and an additional 100,000 engines a year, the DIA official adds.
Dr. Miles M. Costick, president of the Washington-based Institute on Strategic Trade, is the author of a forthcoming study entitled "Soviet Military Power and Western Technology." He interviewed some 50 former Soviet scientists, researchers, industrial managers, military officers, and defectors from the KGB, the USSR's main secret service, as well as other intelligence experts.
Among conclusions reached by Dr. Costick and others:
* Since 1970, the industrial free world has supplied the USSR with more than
* Gleaning much from the West's abundant open scientific and technical literature, the Soviets also have made systematic purchases of each of the 80, 000 US government documents and government contractor reports deposited with the Department of Commerce each year -- something the new presidential order cannot halt.
* An entire series of Soviet and Warsaw Pact military computers, called Riyad I and II, are apparently based on IBM 360 and 370 computers, illegally diverted to the USSR in 1971 and 1972 through an unidentified free-world firm. Soviet dissident Anatoly Shcharansky was jailed for informing Western newsmen of how the Soviets violated agreements with the US Department of Commerce regarding use of US-purchased computers.
* A team of US, Soviet, and Polish scientist has found a way to use crystals to control direction of high-energy particle beams -- a subject under active, highly classified research for application to "Buck Rogers" -type charged-particle-beam weapons in both the US and the USSR. Another Soviet-US team, the last issue of Defense Electronics magazine reports, has made advances in electrical superconductivity which could significantly improve Soviet electronics and computer devices.
* Small US computers for processing seismic signals in geological exploration have been adapted for guidance computers for missiles, electronic intelligence devices, and military satellite technology. Ostensible Soviet "geological survey" scientists who visited the US apparently were naval intelligence officers on assignment.
* The Soviets obtained the know-how to manufacture the RB-211 high-bypass ratio turbo fan jet engine, developed with $300 million in US government grants to the Lockheed Corporation. The engine powers wide-bodied jet aircraft and can be adapted for jet bombers.
* Largely through 20 years of work with GFM Corporation of Steyr, Austria, "the Soviets probably have the greatest gun-barrel manufacturing capability in the world," Dr. Costick observes.
* The Soviets obtained the heat-seeking, shoulder-launched "Redeye" antiaircraft missile, a favorite of terrorists and guerrillas, from one of the Scandinavian countries.