Kerry's 'global test' would have spared Soviets, crushed Solidarity

By Lawrence J. Brady
Monday, November 1, 2004

Mr. Brady served as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Trade Administration in the Reagan Administration, responsible for administering high technology export control and enforcement programs.

In recent weeks John Kerry has repeatedly told us that the U.S. needs a new leader to restore the "alliance" and give credibility to our foreign policy. He has promised to use a "global test" in making his foreign policy decisions.

Sen. Kerry would do well to take a lesson from how President Ronald Reagan dealt with the Allies when, within weeks of assuming the presidency, the Soviet Union was poised to invade Poland and crush the solidarity labor movement which was the spark that led to freedom for eastern Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

President Reagan was determined to confront the Soviets with or without the Allies. His only global test was whether his policy was in the U.S. vital national interest. At the National Security Council meeting where Reagan made the decision to impose sanctions on the USSR and abort the second strand of the Siberian natural gas pipeline, which would have earned desperately needed hard currency the Soviets needed to prop-up their empire, a heated argument developed between Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger and Secretary of State Alexander Haig. Haig insisted that if the President pursued such a policy the alliance would collapse. Reagan's answer was, "Al, we had better know now whether or not we have an alliance."

As President Reagan took a series of actions in those succeeding months of the new administration he was continually confronted with the argument that the Allies would not go along and the NATO alliance would collapse. When he decided that we should renegotiate the agreement by which Western nations controlled high-technology exports to the Soviet Union (Cocom), the State Department repeatedly insisted that the French and the Germans would not go along. Reagan did not flinch however, and we achieved our objectives, namely, a much stronger system of controls on national security related high-technology exports.

Reagan challenged the Allies even further after a consortium of Western banks made a loan to the Soviets and they in turn distributed part of the proceeds to East Germany which was then training terrorist. The President decided to cease making subsidized loans and asked Europe to do the same. His logic was simple; the West was selling them the best of our technology and providing them with cheap money to sustain the empire.

Again, the State Department and many in the business community insisted that we were only penalizing ourselves by depriving our companies of business because Europe wouldn't go along. The Europeans got onboard contrary to the naysayer internationalists and Reagan's actions, unquestionably caused or certainly accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union.

If Sen. Kerry had been President clearly none of those actions would have met his "global test." The U.S. successfully aborted the pipeline by prohibiting American companies from selling goods to build the pipeline through their subsidiaries in Europe even though the British and French were so incensed by this that they passed legislation obstructing the extraterritorial application of U.S. law to U.S. subsidiaries in Europe.

The bottom line is that government's make foreign policy decisions based on their vital national interest. Reagan had concluded that continuing to support the Soviet Union with subsidized loans; the best of our high technology; and Western goods for the construction of the pipeline so that the USSR could sell their gas to a captive West European market was not only contrary to U.S. vital national interest but further, was paramount to countering the Soviets continued subjugation of eastern Europe and their own people. The Europeans on the other hand, liked doing business with the Soviet Union. European businessman liked the fact that they dealt with an autocratic regime where the negotiations were direct and unencumbered.

French and German firms were tied in to the Soviet Union in very much the same way they were tied in to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The major reason the U.S. was successful in getting French support was that we convinced Lane Kirkland, head of the AFL-CIO, to get the French unions to pressure the French government.

It is very difficult to understand what Kerry means by "global test" because he probably doesn't understand what it means himself.

As one who was part of those National Security Council meetings and who assisted in staffing many of the documents prepared for those meetings, as well as being the individual charged with implementing the sanctions and the high-technology controls, I have reflected on how Kerry would have acted in Reagan's place. We can only conclude that his notion of an alliance is a consensus organization where the U.S. would not act without the consent of the French and Germans and others. In that situation Solidarity would have been crushed, Eastern Europe would probably not be free and the Soviet Union might still be around.

Lawrence J. Brady was a founder and director of Capitoline International Group, Ltd., Senior Vice President of Hill and Knowlton Public Affairs Worldwide, and Director of International Business Development of Sanders Associates, a Lockheed subsidiary.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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