RECENT press accounts, as well as CIA and Defense Department analyses, have documented the extent to which the Soviet military buildup has been supported by Western high-technology exports. The evidence suggests that during the last decade the KGB, under then chief Yuri Andropov, made the acquisition of Western technology by fair means or foul - by legal sales or espionage - one of the primary tasks of the Soviet intelligence services. Although Mr. Andropov is no longer the head of the Soviet state, there is still reason to believe that the acquisition of Western technology will remain a top priority for the foreseeable future.
It is therefore clear that our export control policy directly affects our national security. It is less recognized but equally true that it also affects the security of those countries that depend upon the technological superiority of American-made weapons for their national survival.
Several countries in addition to NATO currently receive modern military hardware from the United States. One is Israel, who recently used that equipment with devastating effect against state-of-the-art Soviet equipment used by Syria. The results were 86 Syrian MIGs destroyed without a single Israeli jet downed.
Both arrays of weapons present in this clash in Lebanon are currently employed to maintain peace in Europe. Obviously, the ability to maintain our defenses in Europe is much different when the potential combat kill ratio is 86 to nothing than if that ratio were even or worse. Hence the need to preserve our advantage.
The Export Administration Act recognizes that while most American companies are patriotic, they are not disinterested parties when it comes to the question of what export sales should or should not be made.
As one example, nearly 50 tons of American-made high-technology equipment and software were recently stopped in Hamburg and Sweden on their way to the Soviet Union. Included was a powerful state-of-the-art VAX 11/782 computer, manufactured by Digital Equipment Corporation, capable of several highly significant military applications. While Digital is not directly responsible for the shipment of this equipment, this case raises serious questions about the assertion frequently made that companies know whom they are selling to, and if just left alone would not engage in commercial practices prejudicial to our national security. A strong export control law is our means of ensuring that national security is fully considered in our trading relationships.
When transfers of technology with military application occur, our technological advantage is eroded and the costs of defense increase.
In Europe, failure to preserve that advantage could mean the difference between deterring a Soviet annexation of West Berlin and the inability to stop a Soviet advance short of the English Channel. In the Middle East, where Israel's survival depends on technological superiority and the use of force is a daily occurrence, the costs would be equally catastrophic.
We should resist efforts to weaken our export control law. Wise export control policy allows us to overcome Soviet quantity with our quality; it can result in reduced defense costs over the long run while preserving our security and that of our friends. We dare not trade such a policy for short-term financial gain, the consequences of which no increase in defense spending could overcome.