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07/01/91

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Stanford center studies Soviet defense conversion

STANFORD -- Stanford University's Center for International Security and Arms Control is leading a project to help the Soviet defense industry convert to civilian production.

The project, which began earlier this year and is expected to last two years, also involves the House Armed Services Committee and the Institute of U.S.A. and Canada Studies of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.), chairman of the house committee, asked the arms control center to initiate the project, which is being funded by the Carnegie Corp. of New York.

Dave Bernstein, assistant to the co-directors at the Stanford center, and research assistant Katherine Smith recently released a project status report in which they said the principal objective is to assist the conversion of the Soviet defense industry by:

  • Analyzing the conversion problem in the Soviet Union and, if appropriate, extracting lessons from U.S. experience.
  • Helping the Soviets contact and explore cooperative ventures with appropriate U.S. companies.
  • Stimulating discussion among Soviet defense experts and U.S. government officials and academics on appropriate changes to trade policy.

The center also is doing research on defense restructuring and conversion in the United States. Such research coincides with the center's agenda related to Soviet-American relations and the building of a stable post-Cold War security relationship, Bernstein said.

"It is clearly in the interest of U.S. security to assist the Soviets in converting a major portion of their defense industry to commercial production for several reasons," Bernstein and Smith wrote.

Among those reasons are reductions in:

  • Soviet arms production.
  • Economic incentives for Soviet arms exports.
  • Economic and political pressures for high defense expenditures.
  • The difficulty in negotiating and monitoring further arms treaties.

In addition, they said, the interaction of previously isolated Soviet and American defense executives can build confidence for further cooperation.

The project involves international conferences, discussions on possible cooperative ventures with U.S. companies, and meetings between Soviet delegations and American government and defense industry representatives.

The first Soviet delegation visited the United States in February, and a second is expected in July. The center treats the information exchanged in those sessions as proprietary.

Members of the first delegation split time between the Stanford area and Washington, D.C. It included government officials, scientists and representatives of two of the Soviet Union's largest defense enterprises: Krunichev, the largest producer of space rockets and a major aircraft maker, and Machinostroenie, an amalgamation of scientific and production activities.

Krunichev recently has expanded in areas of food-processing equipment, robots and machine tools. Machinostroenie's conversion activities include food-processing machinery, sailboats, heavy orbiting platforms and spacecraft, both manned and unmanned.

While in Washington, the delegation met with staff of the House Armed Services Committee, with Bernstein and William Perry, co-director of the Stanford center, and with researchers from the Brookings Institution, National Academy of Sciences and the Office of Technology Assessment.

At Stanford, the Soviets explored ideas for cooperative ventures with representatives of Lockheed, TRW, FMC, Boeing, Bechtel National Corp., SRI International and the MITRE Corp.

"Several specific potential cooperative activities were identified in the discussions with the U.S. companies," the report stated. "These included teaming on proposals to the U.S. government, licensing for Soviet production of equipment developed in the United States, use of Soviet satellite launching capabilities, and work on the assessment and mitigation of hazardous waste."

A summer 1991 meeting will again have about the same mix of government and academy representatives, with plans also to bring five Soviet industrialists from the aviation industry.

In addition to the delegation visits, personnel from the Stanford center will cooperate with representatives of the Soviet academy on other activities supportive of the conversion process.

"While it is far too early to draw quantitative conclusions, it appears that U.S. companies can enter into mutually beneficial ventures with components of the Soviet defense industry," Bernstein wrote. "Such cooperation can help the process of defense conversion in the Soviet Union, and thereby enhance international security.

"The barriers to this type of cooperation are formidable, but the long-term economic incentives appear to provide adequate motivation for U.S. companies to further explore these opportunities."

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