Selling the Russians the Rope?

Soviet Technology Policy and U.S. Export Controls

by Thane Gustafson

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Takes a new, critical look at the objectives of U.S. high-technology export-control policy. An expanded system of export controls could be more complex, costly, and controversial than any we have had before. A crucial question is whether the receiving side is able to absorb the technology it imports, diffuse it, and build upon it. Accordingly, the report describes the main developments in Soviet technology policy over the last ten years. Findings suggest that the Soviets are failing to exploit the potential advantages of systematically combining Western high-technology imports and domestic reforms in the management of innovation. In certain sectors (notably military), where Soviet technological skills are already high, their ability to learn from foreign technology is also high. But in the lagging areas where Soviet imports of foreign technology are concentrated, their record in absorbing and learning from it is poor. High-technology imports have not visibly improved their ability to innovate on their own — in some instances the opposite has happened.

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