Bonn, Tokyo dismayed at Reagan's technology ban
President Reagan's decision to block gas turbine sales to the Soviet Union by overseas holders of American licenses has left the West German government feeling ''duped,'' in the words of one Bonn editorial.Skip to next paragraph
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And it has left the 400,000 or so West Germans who demonstrated against Reagan during his Bonn visit feeling justified in their mistrust of the president's peaceful words here.
Reagan's decision has awarded victory to the ''economic warfare'' school in the feud about Soviet policy within the administration. And it is this element as much as the likely loss of business for recession-ridden companies that worries the West Germans and other continental Europeans.
The simplest factor - the likely loss of sales to European license holders - is epitomized by one West German firm, which is facing bankruptcy, and was counting on its Soviet turbine contract to help rescue it, A.E.G.-Telefunken.
The A.E.G.-Kanis subsidiary holds a Soviet order for 47 turbines, worth an estimated 650 million marks ($250 million), for the Siberian-West European gas pipeline originally planned for completion in 1984. In a statement released unusually on a Saturday night (within 24 hours of the US decision) the A.E.G. group said the new ban, by blocking its sales, could endanger thousands of jobs.
The A.E.G. turbine order, in common with other West German contracts for the pipeline, was signed before the December imposition of martial law in Poland, the event that Reagan cited in ordering the new prohibition.
The Reagan administration, holding Moscow responsible for the Polish crackdown, instituted economic sanctions at the time that included forbidding the participation of American companies in the pipeline. Initially it did not extend this to cover US subsidiaries or licenses abroad, however, and European firms all continued with their plans for participation in the project.
Reagan's June 18 decision to extend the ban hit European officials like a bolt from the blue. There was no advance warning, and the decision was totally contrary to the understanding the Europeans thought had been reached at the Versailles economic summit less than two weeks before.
Roughly, that understanding, they thought, was that Western Europe would cooperate with the US in restraint on new credits for the Soviet bloc, while the US would drop its oppostion to European filling of contracts for the pipeline.
Now European governments are said by officials to be considering ''reverse linkage'' - that is, European breaking of the Versailles credit understanding in the same way the US has broken the pipeline understanding.
European suspicion of the US motives is increased by the inequity in the sacrifice asked of Europeans and Americans in unilateral ''American'' sanctions. The US share in the pipeline has always been minor- and it will be the European companies that pay default penalties to the Soviet Union because of the two or more year delays that will now occur. But the far more lucrative American grain sales - which might send a much more immediate political signal to Moscow - will continue unimpaired.