Two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday questioned why President Carter had not extended the suspension of high technology exports to all Soviet satellite nations, not just Russia.
Sens. Harry F. Byrd (I-Va.) and Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) told a committee hearing yesterday that Carter told them on Jan. 8 at a White House briefing that the ban on exports of high technology exports would include the Soviet satellite countries as well as Russia.
White House spokesman Rex Granum said later, however, that Carter never made such a statement about the satellite countries.Granum said that Thurmond did ask the President whether the suspension would include the satellites, but that the President didn't directly respond to the question.
Curtailing trade with some satellite nations would be contrary to past policies of encouraging the independence of those nations, a Defense Department official told the hearing yesterday. Romania, Hungary and Poland recently were granted most-favored-nation trade status.
Granum said that Carter told a group of senators at the briefing that the government "will be much more strict in the future" concerning high technology exports to the Russians and that "we're reviewing sales procedures of high technology in general and in specific to the Soviet Union."
When asked if Carter mentioned the satellite nations in his answer to Thurmond, Granum replied, "The President didn't respond to the issue raised in the question."
Thurmond's and Byrd's recollections of the discussion were raised yesterday during questioning of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Ellen L. Frost on what effect Carter's actions will have on the Soviets.
During the hearing yesterday, Thurmond said that he asked Carter in January about technology exported to the Soviets, such as ball bearings, trucks and computers. Thurmond said he asked Carter, "You mean no more technology will be sold to the Soviets and their satellites to be used for defense?" Carter replied, no it wouldn't be sold, Thurmond recalled.
Thurmond then asked Frost whether the Defense Department was carrying out Carter's policy not to sell technology to the Eastern European countries. Frost, appearing puzzled, said that hard-line Communist countries can be direct conduits to the Soviets and that restrictions on sensitive items should be extended to the satellite nations.
Thurmond then said that Carter specifically said that "technology would not be conveyed to the Soviet Union or its satellites." Sen. Byrd added that he had attended the meeting and also heard Carter make the statement.
Former Commerce official Lawrence J. Brady testified about confusion within Commerce and other agencies concerning what the country's export role should be. For example, Brady said that licenses to export computers for a major truck factory in Russia were denied because trucks built there were used in the invasion of Afghanistan. But a company was recently told that it would be allowed to ship an assembly line for the same plant.
Kent N. Knowles, director of the office of export administration at Commerce, testified that the government is "keeping track" of the use of technology by the Eastern European countries and he doesn't know what the government's export review policy will be.