Norwegian Probe Says Western Technology Sold to Soviets
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The State Department is expressing concern about a ″pattern of involvement″ by several Western companies in Soviet attempts to obtain high- tech technology for military applications.
A Norwegian police report released Thursday concludes that European and Japanese companies, and possibly American ones, violated export control agreements by selling the Soviet Union sophisticated equipment used to make submarines quieter and more difficult to detect.
The report said the companies violated Western export controls for 10 years by selling computerized milling equipment to the Soviets.
The State Department said the report ″makes disturbing reading.″
″It reveals a durable and well-established pattern of involvement by several Western corporations in Soviet attempts to acquire high technology with military applications,″ it said.
The preliminary police findings released Thursday follow a seven-month investigation into the export of 140 computerized units to the Soviets from 1974 to 1984 by a subsidiary of the Norwegian government-owned Kongsberg Vapenfabrikk company.
The computers were sold to machine tool companies in France, West Germany, Italy and Japan, which incorporated them into milling equipment and re- exported them to the Soviet Union, the report said. One British company re- exported the equipment to China.
While appearing to shift some of the blame to the other countries, the Norwegian report finds Kongsberg violated the rules of the Paris-based Coordinating Committee for Export Control (COCOM), which regulates sales of Western high-technology and strategic materials to communist countries.
The investigation has ″led us to suspect that machine tool builders in France, West Germany, Italy and Japan have also largely violated COCOM regulations,″ the report said. But it added that investigators had not determined whether the companies received permission from their governments for some of the exports as exceptions to the rule.
An official for one company mentioned in the report, Innocenti Santeustacchio , a Milan-based unit of the Italian state-controlled steel group Finsider, said the company exported heavily to the Soviet Union in recent years in the framework of contracts signed by Finsider and Soviet officials in the steel sector.
″There is nothing improper about our sales, which are well documented,″ said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The report said Innocenti was one of several companies suspected of violating COCOM by re-exporting milling equipment.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorvald Stoltenberg said in Oslo that he ″must strongly regret the circumstances revealed in the report,″ and reiterated the need for sharper export controls. His government last week proposed such legislation to Parliament.
State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley praised Norway for ordering the investigation. She said it ″demonstrates the serious and frank approach the Norwegian government has consistently taken toward investigating this problem.″
The report found that only in one case - the sale of four milling machines in a joint venture between Kongsberg and Japan’s Tosn end user was a Soviet company which makes nuclear power plants, Atomash, said Norway’s Amabssador in Washington Kjell Eliassen.
Speaking to reporters, Eliassen said Norwegians questioned by police said they had seen U.S. equipment in the Soviet Union which appeared to violate COCOM standards. He said he did not know the nature of the equipment but that U.S. authorities had been informed.
He said the implications for Norway’s security were ″very severe″ and U.S. and Norwegian experts already had assessed the damage to NATO’s defense. Eliassen declined to elaborate.
Three directors of Kongsberg have been charged in the case, he added.
The report complained that France, Italy and Japan have not complied with requests to cooperate in the investigation. Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee met this week with representatives of France, Italy, West Germany and Britain to ask them to launch investigations of their own, committee aide Bill Triplett said.
The United States and its allies already are engaged in revamping COCOM, seeking uniform standards of control which will prevent the Soviets from gaining access to strategic materials and high technology.