President Carter has decided to impose new controls on American oil technology sales to the Soviet Union and to cancel the controversial Sperry Univac computer sale to Tass. the Soviet news agency, administration officials disclosed yesterday.
The economic decisions are in reprisal for last week's political trials in the Soviet Union resulting in prison terms for dissidents Anatoly Scharansky and Alexander Ginzburg.
Although there was no official announcement of the new presidential action, the word was passed by White House officials to some news media.
Until now the president has confined himself to public denunciation of the Soviet trials without specific threats of political or economic reprisal.
The president's new action would not impose an outright ban on oil technology deals between American firms and the Soviet Union. But it would require companies to submit proposed sales to review by the National Security Council and to ultimate presidential approve, according to administration officials.
Specifically, the president will order that oil technology transactions, such as plant construction and sales of drilling equipment, be placed on the commodities control list.Any such sale to the Soviet Union or other communist countries would require an export license, subjecting the transaction to government review.
Carter's action fell somewhat short of a proposal by Sen. Henry Jackson (D-Wash.) and other senators that the administration order cancellation of a $144 million arrangement negotiated by Dresser Industries, of Dallas, to sell the Soviets a modern plant for producing oil well drilling bits.
That transaction alone could amount to nearly half the dollar volume of Soviet-American nonagricultural trade this year. Congressional critics of the Dresser deal say the plant would substantially enhance the Soviets' ability to exploit their vast, but in many cases remote, oil reserves.
Administration sources said that the Sperry Univac sale to Tass was canceled under the commodities control provisions. Sophisticated computers are on the control list, and the Sperry Univac license application has been turned down.
One official said the computer in the Tass sale is "of a size and capability many times that of anything else exported." The Soviets can re-apply if they wish, an official said.
There was no hint yesterday of how much further the administration intends to go in economic retaliation for the Soviet trials, to which the president has objected on human rights grounds.
The administration's heaviest economic leverage against the Soviet Union is grain trade. Under a 1975 agreement, the U.S. guaranteed to sell the Soviets six million to eight million metric tons of grains every year through 1981, and well over $1 billion worth will be sold this year.
Strong support for perserving at least this aspect of detente exists among American grain farmers and their congressional representatives.