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Finding Common Ground: U.S. Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment (1991)

Chapter: 2 The Need for Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment

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Suggested Citation:"2 The Need for Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Finding Common Ground: U.S. Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1617.
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2
The Need for Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment

Since World War II, the United States and its CoCom (Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls) allies have been engaged in an effort to deny certain Western technology to the Soviet Union and its principal allies. This effort has limited the access of Soviet bloc countries to technology and products that could otherwise have upgraded their military capabilities. Although this denial effort has not prevented the Soviets from fielding capable and effective weapons systems, it has caused them to rely on less sophisticated technological approaches, and it has forced them to invest enormous resources in military-related research and development that might otherwise have been dedicated to civilian purposes. Now, for a variety of reasons, perhaps including the very success of national security export controls,* significant changes have occurred in the nature of the threats that export controls are

*  

The term national security export controls is used throughout this report as it is defined in statute (see Section 5 of the Export Administration Act of 1979, as amended). It refers to procedures designed to regulate the transfer from one country to another of items that would make a significant contribution to military potential that could prove detrimental to the United States. The report, however, extends the reach of national security export controls to include broader threats to national security, such as the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, biological, and advanced conventional weapons and missile delivery systems. Control of exports related to some of these threats has traditionally been dealt with through foreign policy export controls, which are restrictions imposed on the export of general classes of items when necessary to further the foreign commitments and interests of the United States or to fulfill declared U.S. international obligations (see Section 6 of the Export Administration Act of 1979, as amended).

Suggested Citation:"2 The Need for Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Finding Common Ground: U.S. Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1617.
×

intended to address and in the definition of "national security" under which the controls are implemented.

For 40 years a broad consensus has existed among the United States and its Western allies with regard to the source and nature of the threats to common security interests. In such circumstances, export controls could be imposed not only on technologies the transfer of which would immediately threaten security (e.g., weapons systems), but on other technologies that could, over a longer period, contribute to the military strength of a potential adversary (e.g., machine tools or critical electronics technology). In the new environment, in which the traditional East-West threat has significantly changed and proliferation concerns have become of major significance, target countries, activities of concern, and other aspects of the national security threat are likely to change, sometimes rapidly, and it may often be difficult to form an effective, enduring, and broad international consensus. In this new setting, export controls may have more limited utility in achieving national security objectives. More emphasis may have to be placed on items with particular end uses that pose immediate or near-term threats.

MILITARY AND POLITICAL CHANGES IN THE SOVIET UNION AND EASTERN EUROPE

Although the Soviet military threat has not disappeared, it has changed, and the threat posed by the former Soviet allies in the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) is sharply reduced and qualitatively different. The surprising aspect of these developments is that the threat is diminished, not because of significant reductions in the number or capability of weapons possessed by the Soviets (although some reductions have occurred and more are promised), but because of changes in the political structures and processes that govern the use of those weapons.

During 1990, democratic forces in the Soviet Union greatly strengthened their position, although the depth of the crises facing the leadership continues to make further progress uncertain. In addition, as described in Chapter 5, the nations of Eastern Europe have moved away from their commitment to WTO force deployments, and Soviet military leaders regularly speak of a new defensive orientation. Thus, even though Soviet military force deployments have not changed as dramatically as other operational and organizational factors, and the Soviet strategic capability remains largely unchanged, the West has an opportunity to influence democratic forces and the evolving military posture in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Indeed, it now appears to be in the interest of the West to encourage investment, aid, and technology transfer to the East European countries in order to accelerate their integration into the Western economic system.

Suggested Citation:"2 The Need for Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Finding Common Ground: U.S. Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1617.
×

Economic necessity is drawing the Soviet Union toward market principles and closer economic contact with the West. Although major obstacles remain and the time required is uncertain, movement toward eventual integration of the Soviet economy into the global market also seems likely.

Changing global political circumstances—including most recently the crisis in the Persian Gulf—are drawing the Soviet Union into closer political and, in some cases, military cooperation with the West as well. It would be premature to suggest that Soviet and Western interests and policy objectives have converged, but there is closer consultation and, occasionally, direct cooperation. This trend is likely to continue as both superpowers struggle with the problem of regional conflicts.

GROWING ECONOMIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL CHALLENGES FOR THE UNITED STATES

The operative definition of U.S. national security has also changed. Years of staggering trade deficits, declining market shares and competitiveness in world trade, and loss of technological leadership in many fields have forced the United States to contemplate the prospect of a changed position in the global order.

Among the growing economic and technological challenges facing the United States (discussed in detail in Chapter 5) are the following factors:

  • The changing structure of the global economy

  • The increasingly rapid global diffusion of technology

  • Declining U.S. technological and manufacturing preeminence

  • Growing technological and manufacturing sophistication in Japan and the newly industrializing countries

  • Increasing U.S. concern about the defense industrial base, including a growing dependence on commercial and foreign technology

  • The changing distribution of global economic and financial power

  • The growing importance of exports to U.S. economic vitality

  • Continuing U.S. domestic problems

Moreover, even if the United States is not, as some have claimed, a "declining hegemonic power,"1 policymakers are coming to recognize that (a) a strong military alone is not sufficient to protect U.S. interests or to influence world events; (b) failure to maintain a vigorous economy can also threaten fundamental security interests; and (c) an alliance strategy can only be effective if all participants are committed to finding multilateral solutions to common problems.

The rationale for any new export control policy must include the recognition that the United States needs to maintain a successful, vigorous role in

Suggested Citation:"2 The Need for Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Finding Common Ground: U.S. Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1617.
×

the global economy. Early entry into, and sustained participation in, global markets by U.S. exporters are key elements of such a role.

NEW THREATS TO INTERNATIONAL SECURITY

From the beginning of the Cold War, U.S. policy implicitly assumed that the Soviet Union and its allies were relentless opponents of U.S. interests, the political philosophy and structure of the Soviet Union were impervious to democratic processes, and the Soviet economic structure was immutable. Thus, U.S. national security depended principally on the balance of weapons within a fundamentally unchanging political and economic context. The primary strategy for maintaining U.S. national security was to seek significant reductions in the weapons posing physical threats while maintaining technological superiority. Although this approach has achieved many successes, as noted, the United States today is still far from the goal of a relatively safe and secure world. New and growing concerns have arisen about the behavior and intentions of various countries and political organizations beyond the traditional Cold War adversaries, concerns related to the acquisition of missile technologies and advanced conventional, nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

The new, proliferation-related threats could potentially manifest themselves in ways quite different from the traditional East-West military confrontation in Europe. These ways include expansion of conflicts initiated by regional powers, regional instabilities exacerbated by the availability of advanced weapons and technologies of proliferation concern, and extremist violence and state-sponsored terrorism. They reflect the emergence of stronger military forces, and an accompanying proliferation of high-performance weaponry and weapons of mass destruction, in many parts of the world that have not previously been a focus of security concerns. Managing these threats will require different kinds of policy approaches than those developed to respond to the threat posed by the Soviet bloc.

REDEFINITION OF U.S. POLICY*

Export controls, sharply reduced in number and fully multilateral, are a necessary and appropriate policy instrument for responding to any remaining threat posed to the United States by the Soviet Union and the other former WTO countries, but a new policy approach must be developed if export controls are to remain an effective policy instrument

*  

In this and subsequent chapters, formal findings and conclusions of the panel are printed in boldface type; recommendations of the panel are preceded by an asterisk(*) and printed in boldface type.

Suggested Citation:"2 The Need for Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Finding Common Ground: U.S. Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1617.
×

under the changed national security conditions. Given the new realities, export controls will be viable only if they enable the United States and other nations that share common objectives to (a) remain vigilant and prepared during the period of economic and political transformation now under wav within the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; (b) facilitate (rather than obstruct) the pursuit of important political and economic objectives, such as further democratization and the development of market economies in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; and (c) address flexibly new types and sources of national security challenges, such as those derived from growing proliferation threats or the threat of terrorism, as they emerge.

Because of the enormous uncertainties* inherent in the current situation, a new and clearly more sophisticated approach to export control policy is required, one that could be adapted and modified to a range of future conditions. Among its principal features would be the following interactive goals:

  • Maintaining a qualitative edge in U.S. military systems as a deterrent against threats of aggression, including those posed by Soviet and Soviet-allied forces.

  • Preventing or retarding the proliferation of items** that could directly and immediately enhance the conventional or strategic capabilities of countries that may now or in the future pose a threat to the physical security or vital interests of the United States and other nations that share common objectives.

  • Preventing or retarding the proliferation of items for use in acts of terrorism or other political violence against the interests of the United States and other nations that share common objectives.

  • Preventing or retarding the proliferation of items that may be destabilizing to global or regional political structures and power alignments.

  • Avoiding negative impacts on economic competitiveness and the overall viability of the free market economies that participate in global trade.

  • Promoting further political democratization and economic development in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere.

*  

Discussion of anticipated political and economic developments covers, as of this writing, a remarkably broad range of scenarios. For the Soviet Union, for instance, these extend from fragmentation of the Soviet republics, through radical changes in leadership, to an accelerated pace of democratization and a rapid transition to a market economy.

†  

As used throughout this report, the term items refers to systems, individual products, critical components, unique or exotic materials, associated test and calibration equipment, software, and technical data and know-how that have both military and commercial applications.

Suggested Citation:"2 The Need for Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Finding Common Ground: U.S. Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1617.
×
  • Encouraging conversion (or closure) of military industrial facilities in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to the manufacture of products for civilian consumption.

  • Maintaining harmony with U.S. allies and cooperating countries in the administration of export control measures.

  • Improving the structure and administration of export controls to increase efficiency and lessen adverse effects on the private sector.

NOTE

1.  

Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000 (New York: Vintage Books, 1989).

Suggested Citation:"2 The Need for Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Finding Common Ground: U.S. Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1617.
×
Page 12
Suggested Citation:"2 The Need for Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Finding Common Ground: U.S. Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1617.
×
Page 13
Suggested Citation:"2 The Need for Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Finding Common Ground: U.S. Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1617.
×
Page 14
Suggested Citation:"2 The Need for Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Finding Common Ground: U.S. Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1617.
×
Page 15
Suggested Citation:"2 The Need for Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Finding Common Ground: U.S. Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1617.
×
Page 16
Suggested Citation:"2 The Need for Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment." Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, and National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Finding Common Ground: U.S. Export Controls in a Changed Global Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1617.
×
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Protecting U.S. security by controlling technology export has long been a major issue. But the threat of the Soviet sphere is rapidly being superseded by state-sponsored terrorism; nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile proliferation; and other critical security factors.

This volume provides a policy outline and specific steps for an urgently needed revamping of U.S. and multilateral export controls.

It presents the latest information on these and many other pressing issues:

  • The successes and failures of U.S. export controls, including a look at U.S. laws, regulations, and export licensing; U.S. participation in international agencies; and the role of industry.
  • The effects of export controls on industry.
  • The growing threat of "proliferation" technologies.

World events make this volume indispensable to policymakers, government security agencies, technology exporters, and faculty and students of international affairs.

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