Allies Curb Computers for Soviet

By Paul Lewis
The New York Times

July 17, 1984

The United States, 13 NATO allies and Japan have jointly agreed to impose broad, new export controls on the sale of small computers and sophisticated telephone equipment to nations of the Soviet bloc, Western diplomats said today. The agreement comes after two and a half years of difficult negotiations.

The accord, reached here last Friday night at the urging of the United States, expands the existing NATO embargo on the sale of large sophisticated computers to include smaller models that could have military applications. The new version of the embargo implies that many of the more expensive personal computers now available at retail outlets in the United States will be subject to export controls of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the future.

Also the agreement sets maximum levels of technological sophistication for digital switching and other telephone equipment supplied to the Eastern bloc by Western corporations, according to the diplomats.

Major Updating Completed

The agreement completes the first major updating of Western restrictions on the sale of computers to Eastern Europe and Communist China since the present computer embargo list was drawn up in 1976, long before many important advances had occurred in this field - particularly for personal computers.

It also finishes the major review of the West's strategic embargo against these countries, a study that the Reagan Administration began in 1982. As a result of this review, the Western allies and Japan had already agreed to place new restrictions on the export of industrial robots, printed circuits, electronic-grade silicon, spacecraft equipment and many other advanced technology items deemed useful to the Soviet defense effort.

In general, the Reagan Administration took the most restrictive line throughout the embargo review talks, diplomats say, with the Europeans and Japanese advocating a more liberal approach to trade with the Communist world.

Rules for Member Nations

The talks were held in the Paris- based Coordinating Committee for National Strategic Embargoes, a secretive body with membership comprising the United States, all its NATO allies (except Iceland) and Japan.

Under this body's rules, member countries may seek their partners' permission to sell embargoed items if they believe special circumstances make the deal safe. At present, though, the members have agreed informally not to seek exceptions for sales to the Soviet Union and Poland. Economic sanctions were imposed on those countries after the Russians' military intervention in Afghanistan and the banning of the Solidarity trade union movement in Poland.

American and other Western officials today expressed satisfaction with the new embargo agreement. They said the United States had agreed to liberalize the sale of some less advanced computers to the Eastern bloc countries in return for joint Western restrictions on the sale of certain powerful small computers.

Able to Take Rough Handling

In addition, the Western powers have undertaken to ban the export of ''ruggedized'' computers, built to withstand rough treatment and thus suitable for battlefield use, these sources said.

''The embargo criterion now is not just computing capacity but also flexibility and transportability,'' one Western official said.

Richard N. Perle, Assistant Secretary of Defense in Washington, recently cited the Apple 2 personal computer as an example of a readily available small, modern computer of military value to the Eastern bloc. The United States, he said, uses this model for targeting nuclear weapons.

Although NATO's new strategic embargo list remains officially secret, officials say details of the banned computers will become clear over the next few months as member governments publish new national export control orders telling their industrialists what goods are now banned.

Model Specifications Cited

Officials at last week's meeting did not draw up a list of specific computers that will be banned. They defined the technical specifications of models that may not be sold to Communist bloc nations. Now Government officials will start examining models currently on the market to determine which fall under the expanded ban.

During the embargo review talks, Britain and France both resisted American pressure for tough new restrictions on the sale of modern, computerized telephone equipment to the Eastern bloc.

But a compromise was eventually reached, setting ''common parameters'' for such equipment that are designed both to limit Soviet access to advanced Western technology and to assure fair competition between Western companies bidding for approved Eastern bloc telephone contracts.

Copyright 1984 The New York Times Company