WASHINGTON (Jul. 19)
President Carter today disclosed he has taken economic action against the Soviet Union in retaliation for the Soviet conviction of dissidents and American reporters in recent trials that violate the Helsinki Accord and normal journalistic practices in the free world.
The President made known to a select group of a score of Senators and Representatives at the White House that he has decided to cancel the sale of a multi-million dollar computer system to the Tass news agency that would have used it for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. He also explained to them, according to Senators who were present, that he would review U.S. exports to the Soviet Union of high technology items.
Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D. Wash.), one of those present at the White House session, has called for an embargo on the Sperry Univac Computer to Tass, and on the modern plant for producing bits for oil well drills that the Dresser Industries of Dallas, Texas have contracted to sell the Soviets for $144 million. It is understood, however, that this deal will be allowed to go through.
The Carter Administration took a curious, low-key route to reveal its intentions. First word of the President’s decision was by way of a leak to some reporters. The leak was then confirmed by a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Stanley Marcuss.
Carter appeared caught in a conflict between foreign policy advisors, who urged him to use “quiet diplomacy,” and the anger in the Commerce Department and throughout the country. Once the news came out, Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D. W. Va.), who had urged a strong U.S. response to the trials of Anatoly Shcharansky and Alexander Ginzburg, said “the President has taken an appropriate step.”
Rep. Barber Conable (R. NY), who also was at the White House, labeled the President’s decision “a half measure” but he also said it was “appropriate.” Jackson said he wanted the Dresser deal blocked and indicated concern that it has already been approved.
ISSUE OF EFFECTIVE ACTION
Sen. Frank Church (D. Idaho) told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency upon leaving the White House that “everyone there understood and approved” the President’s decision. “We are all outraged by the trials,” he said. “The question is whether the action will prove effective. The Russian government has been a police state for centuries. Direct reprisals of this kind have not been effective in the past.”
Church added that “the best leverage we can bring to bear is the expressed indignation of free people everywhere.” He said that the consideration of the U.S. withdrawal from the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow or seeking to move them elsewhere was not discussed.
Meanwhile, scientists yesterday rallied in behalf of Shcharansky at the National Institute of Health and the University of Maryland. Dr. Ailud Pevfner, chairman of the physics department at Johns Hopkins, announced that more than 400 scientists had signed a personal “statement of conscience” sent to Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev, and Soviet Academy of Sciences president, A. P. Aleksandrov. “We could easily have collected thousands more names if we had the time,” he said.
The statement was drafted and informally circulated by “Scientists for Shcharansky,” a group of Americans supporting him. Owen Chamberlain, Nobel Laureate physics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told the House Science and Technology Committee that this group, of which he is a member, is responsible for bringing Mrs. Shcharansky to America.