When Dr. Samuel Huntington of the National Security Council (NSC) staff on the evening of July 10 discussed with Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan how to hand the Russians, it followed a policy debate waged within the National Security bureaucracy for six weeks and now threatens to divide the Democratic Party.
Moynihan thought Huntington was asking him to publicly urge stopping U.S. technology transfers to the Soviet Union as a protest against the dissident trials; Huntington says he intended no such request. But the two former Harvard professors fully agreed that needed oil-drilling bits should not be sent to Russia just when the Kremlin is thumbing its nose at Jimmy Carter's concern for human rights.
Huntington, an intimate of NSC director Zbigniew Brzezinski, was not inciting mutiny against President Carter. Rather, he was trying to influence the final outcome of a debate involving much more than drilling bits.
Senior figures in the administration and Congress fear that Carter is turning Teddy Roosevelt on his head, speaking loudly while carrying the small stick supplied by the State Department. They feel the president must not let the world believe that the Soviet Union can play the barbarian without fear of reaction from Washington.
That Secretary of State Cyrus Vance has a different view was revealed to one worried Democratic senator soon after Moscow announced dissident trials all over the Soviet Union "Cy," asked the senator, "what do you think the Russians are up to?"
"Oh," the secretary of state replied, "I think they're trying to get all of this out of the way" - in other words, getting Soviet ducks in a row so as to permit the serious business of negotiating. The senator was chilled.
But this mindset was well laid out long before the dissident trials convened. During weeks of internal debate over technology transfer, the State Department argued against any linkage whatever with general Soviet conduct. The NSC staff disagreed. Huntington's staff study on "oil vulnerability" showed how much the Kremlin depends on drilling bits to be produced by a Russian plant built by an American firm, Dresser Industries.
Huntington expounded his position in supposedly off-the-record remarks to an annual conference at West Point June 16. The NSC aide, who will return to Harvard this fall, stressed he was speaking only for himself in linking technology transfers to Soviet behavior. Businessmen present, with visions of Russian trade dancing in their heads, bristled (confirming Lenin's forecast that capitalists will sell the rope for their own hanging). After an account was published in The Washington Post of June 26, the Literary Gazette of Moscow broadened its assault on Brzezinski by attacking the Huntington speech.
The Dresser Industries deal was brought up during discussion at West Point. But the decision was going against the NSC staff and in favor of the State Department. Accordingly, defense-oriented senators - including Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.) - got in the act by discreetly pushing the NSC position on Dresser Industries with the president.
When the Kremlin convened the dissident trials, Vance (taking advice from his Soviet affairs expert, Dr. Marshall Shulman) was in control. He rejected a suggestion by Malcolm Toon, U.S. ambassador in Moscow, that Vance's arms-control discussions in Geneva be postponed. Some State Department officials hinted many more such suggestions might exit Toon from Moscow.
It soon became clear that the principal reaction by Washington was cancellation of a Moscow visit by the deputy director of U.S. Environmental Protection. That was ludicrously unsatisfactory not only to Jackson, Moynihan and other senators, but also to important senior figures in the administration.
Consequently, Jackson took the Senator floor July 10 to declare: "When the Soviets are doing so much to provoke us . . . this is the time for us to let the Russians know that we can play the game, too." Without taking to Huntington or anybody else on the NSC staff, Jackson decided to go public on his private technology transfer manuevers. On July 11, he urged halting the Dresser Industries deal plus a Sperry Univac computer-system sale to the Tass news agency.
Jackson, whose anti-Soviet rhetoric has never matched Carter's in shrillness, is pleading with the president to carry a bigger stick. But sources in the bureaucracy report that Vance went to Geneva with important SALT concessions in his briefcase. If he actually pulled out the concessions instead of turning off the technology deals, the agitation and concern here this week will be only a pale preview of what's ahead.