BUDAPEST, JUNE 19 -- The head of military intelligence in Hungary says a former U.S. military man caught spying for the East Bloc may have actually helped speed the democratization process.

Retired Army Sergeant Clyde Lee Conrad, 43, was sentenced to life in prison this month by a West German court that found him guilty of passing secrets to Hungary and Czechoslovakia 1975-1985 for $1.2 million.

But Brig. Gen. Janos Kovacs, who has headed Hungarian military intelligence since October, said the spying operation probably led to better East-West ties, because the information Conrad produced made it clear NATO was not planning to attack the Soviet Union or its allies.

Kovacs said that this knowledge helped lead to a new approach in East-West relations on the part of the Warsaw Pact.

"The interesting paradox was that Conrad's information helped prove that there are no offensive NATO plans and this led sober-thinking people to reassess the situation and to develop a new approach," Kovacs said.

Hungarian leaders have said they wish to leave the Warsaw Pact's military organization by the end of next year. Kovacs said that as far as he knows just one person, Istvan Belovai, is in jail in Hungary for spying for the United States. Belovai is a former assistant military attache in the Hungarian Embassy in London.