A senior National Security Council official, in remarks meant to be off-the-record, has called for the concerted use of economic trade as a U.S. lever on Soviet military and economic policy.
Dr. Samuel Huntington, an NSC specialist on Soviet affairs, suggested that the council help wield that lever by reviewing export licenses requested by American businesses. The council is headed by presidential adviser Zbigniew Brezezinski, with whom Huntington maintains an exceptionally close relationship.
Huntington made the remarks to a select gathering about 50 businessmen, academics and government officials at a conference on trade and national security at West Point 10 days ago. Those attending were told that speech was to be treated confidentially but a number agreed to describe it to The Washington Post when asked.
Huntington reportedly told the group that it should be made clear to the Soviets that the current and future flow of a broad variety of exports could be turned on or off according to the Russian willingness to cooperate with the United States, be it in Angola or in arms limitations talks.
The United States should assume a posture of "conditioned flexibility" for application in the currently deteriorating state of Soviet-American relations, he said, according to notes taken of his remarks. Trade should be conditioned "on the achievement of political and security objectives," he said. The United States should "hold out the prospect that if the Soviets are cooperative in other areas, the doors [to trade] could be open, but if they are not, if they engage in military adventurism, the doors could be closed."
Although Huntington stressed that he was speaking only for himself and not for the administration, some of the businessmen attending bristled at the speech. Except for militarily useful items, American companies can and do sell almost anything they please to the Soviets - from Pepsi-Cola to computers. Nearly $2 billion worth of goods flow back and forth between the two countries with limited regard for Soviet foreign or political policy.
The businessmen, who asked not to be quoted, said they read into the speech the prospect of future government intervention in their commerce.
Other observers suggested, however, that Huntingtonn's remarks represented the continuing intense debate within the goverment over the broad scope of American policy and that while his ideas have been discussed, there is no plan to implement them.
They are considered extreme and "hawkish" by many, and, should implementation be seriously contemplated, it would undoubtedly meet vigorous opposition not only from exporters but from farm interests that are heavily dependent on sales to the Soviet Union and from Congress, where legislation would be required.
The use of trade for leverage has been tried recently, most notably through the Jackson-Vanik amendment that tied most-favorite-nation status for the Soviet Union to Jewish emigration. But the Carter administration, even as the rhetoric has escalated, has yet to propose anything similar to Huntington's proposals.
Huntington, who is on leave from his Harvard professorship, has been known as a "hard-liner" both before and after he entered the administration. His close relationship with Brzezinski is attested to by their collaboration in 1964 on the book "Political Power: USA/USSR," and by the fact that Huntington accompanied Brzezinski on a recent trip to China.
Huntington declined to comment publicly on the speech. But others said that, at the outset, he placed it in the correct context of the current period of U.S. Soviet relations and the administration's reassessment of its policies over the past year.
U.S. trade policy has not adjusted to the need to counter Soviet expansion, as exemplified by Communist cooperation in such areas as the strategic arms limitations talks (SALT), he told the group.
Instead, the country has swung broadly from one extreme to another: from the "denial" of trade during the Cold War years of the '50s and '60s to a "laissez faire" posture of relatively uninhibited trade.
Huntington said that neither approach was right for the moment at hand. He cited one recent illustration: In October, the Agriculture department decided to allow Soviet purchases of nearly twice as much corn andwheat as authorized in the two countries' grain agreement. Huntington told the group that the NSC ultimately read of this decision in the newspapers.
He suggested a mechanism by which the NSC could review such future decisions before they are made.
The Soviets badly need U.S. technology, for example, to exploit their vast Siberian natural gas reserves, for which $6 billion in U.S. and Japanese capital is slated. Such needs open up to the United states equally vast areas of leverage either to help the Soviets or hurt them, to hold out the carrot or the stick, he said.
Currently, the United States is "not in a position to offer to the Soviets much of a carrot or threaten them with much of a stick," he said.
Last March, in a speech Huntington reportedly helped draft, President Carter warned that Soviet actions could rebound against U.S.-Soviet cooperation "toward common social, scientific and economic goals. . . ." Should the Soviets "fail to demonstrate restraint in missile programs and other force levels and in the projection of Soviet or other proxy forces into other lands and continents, then popular support in the United States for such cooperation will erode," he said.
Similarly, is his June 7 Annapolis speech on Soviet-American relations, Carter said the administration had "no desire" to link the SALT negotiations "with other competitive relationships not to impose other special conditions on the process. in a democratic society, however, where public opinion is an integral factor in the shaping and implementation of foreign policy, sharp disputes or threats to peace will complicate the quest for an agreement."
Huntington's sentiments are not new expressions. Former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger last month advocated the development of a "code of conduct for both the type of economis relations and the type of political conditions they [Western nations] want to attach to it" in relation to the Soviet Union.