The Deaf Mutes and the Soviet Missile Threat
"As for businessmen, I could persuade a capitalist on Friday to bankroll a revolution on Saturday that will bring him a profit on Sunday even though he will be executed on Monday."
— Saul Alinsky, Chicago professional activist
The United States and the Western world today face a truly awesome threat from Soviet missiles. This threat would not exist if President Richard Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger had heeded warnings in 1970 from its own Department of Defense and outside experts that the Soviets were lagging in missile production technology and required specific technologies from the West to MIRV their fourth generation ICBMs.
MIRV capability is the ability to deploy a number of warheads from the same missile, thus vastly increasing throw weight. Soviet third generation missiles did not have this capability. As stated by a Department of Defense report: "... it was not until the fourth generation that the technology became available to the Soviets allowing greater throw weight and greatly improved accuracy so that high yield MIRVs could be carried by operational missiles"
The phrase "became available" is a subtle way for DOD to state what has been concealed from the public: that the U.S. made the technology available (as we shall show below). The fourth generation ICBMs are the SS-17, the SS-18 and the SS-19, which today have the capability to destroy most of our 1,000 U.S. Minuteman missiles now operational with only a portion of their warheads.
American Accelerometers for Soviet Missiles
Let's go back to the start of our help for the Soviet missile program.
Accelerometers are small but vital instruments used in missiles and aircraft to measure gravitational pull. In 1965-68 the Soviets displayed an extracurricular interest in American accelerometers, and a Soviet United Nations diplomat was forced to hurriedly leave the United States before being picked up for espionage involving acquisitions of U.S. ac-celerometers.
Testimony of Leonard I. Epstein, vice president of Trans-American Machinery and Equipment Corporation of New Jersey, to the House Un-American Activities Committee detailed Soviet interest in this American technology. Mr. Epstein related to the committee how he met Vadim Isakov, a Russian employee of UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund) on July 15, 1965, and how Isakov later visited Epstein's plant in New Jersey with a list of four items for purchase, including "an accelerorneter made by American Bosch Arma Corporation or similar company. The accelerometer is an intricate device which measures the pull of gravity on any vehicle such as a missile or space-orbiting device. The device costs about $6,000." Mr. Epstein, under instructions from the FBI, met several times with Isakov to "find out what he wanted."
In October 1965, "Isakov began to push for delivery on the ac-celerorneter. [Epstein] surmised that the urgency had something to do with the fact that the Soviets had smashed three vehicles onto the surface of the moon." Although Epstein was able to stall for "quite some time" on various grounds, Isakov later became "quite anxious to obtain an accelerometer." When Epstein pleaded export problems, Isakov suggested he would use the Soviet diplomatic pouch.
Eighteen months later, in August 1967, another Russian, intensively interested in accelerometers, turned up in the United States, this time under the auspices of the State Department Academic Exchange Program. From August 1967 to June 1968, Anatoliy K. Kochev of the Kalinin Polytechnical Institute of Leningrad was at Catholic University in the United States working on "construction methods of equipment to measure small accelerations and displacement," that is, the manufacture of accelerorneters.
Is there any connection between Isakov's unsuccessful espionage attempts to purchase accelerometers and Kochev's "academic" work on accelerometer manufacture in the United States, courtesy of the State Department? There are indeed obsolete accelerometers and sophisticated accelerometers. The Soviets know the difference. They know how to make the obsolete versions, but do not have the technical ability to make more sophisticated instruments. The trick is in the manufacturing process — that is, in knowing how to build into the instrument the sensitivity necessary to measure small gravitational pulls quickly and accurately. It is the manufacturing technique that was important to the Soviets — much more important than a boatful of purchased accelerometers.
Why did Kochev come to the United States in 19677 The State Department reports the title of his project as "construction methods of equipment to measure small accelerations." Ten months would be sufficient time for a competent engineer to determine the most modern methods in this field, and given the rather careless manner in which advanced accelerometers have found their way into used electronic equipment stores, it is unlikely that Kochev had major problems in adding to his knowledge of the state of the art.
Why did the State Department make an agreement in 1966 to allow a Soviet engineer into the United States to study the manufacture of accelerometers only a few months after another Soviet national had been foiled by the FBI in attempting to purchase an accelerometer? We have no answer for that.
American Ball Bearings for Missile Guidance System
In the late 1960s Soviet missiles were extremely inaccurate. According to Abraham Shifrin, a former Defense Ministry official, they could hardly find the United States, let alone a specific target. By the late 1970s their accuracy was so improved that Soviets could guarantee a high proportion of hits on a target as small as the White House.
The technological roadblock was mass production of miniaturised precision ball bearings for guidance systems.
In the early 1960s Soviets attempted to buy U.S. technology for mass production of miniaturised precision bearings. The technology was denied. However, in 1972 the necessary grinders were sold by Bryant Chucking Grinder Company and its products are today used in Soviet guided missile systems and gyroscopes. Specifically, the Soviets were then able to MIRY their missiles and increase their accuracy.
This is how the tragedy came about.
Ball bearings are an integral part of weapons systems, there is no substitute. The entire ball bearing production capability of the Soviet Union is of Western origin — utilizing equipment from the United States, Sweden, Germany, and Italy. This transfer has been fully documented elsewhere by this author (see Bibliography). All Soviet tanks and military vehicles run on bearings manufactured on Western equipment or copies of Western equipment. All Soviet missiles and related systems including guidance systems have bearings manufactured on Western equipment or Soviet duplicates of this equipment.
One firm in particular, the Bryant Chucking Grinder Company of Springfield, Vermont, has been an outstanding supplier of ball bearing processing equipment to the Soviets. In 1931 Bryant shipped 32.2 percent of its output to the USSR. In 1934, 55.3 percent of its output went to Russia. There were no luther shipments until 1938, when the Soviets again bought one-quarter of Bryant's annual output. Major shipments were also made under Lend-Lease. Soviet dependence on the West for ball bearings technology peaked after the years 1959-61, when the Soviets required a capability for mass production, rather than laboratory or batch production, of miniature precision ball bearings for weapons systems. The only company in the world that could supply the required machine for a key operation in processing the races for precision bearings (the Centalign-B) was the Bryant Chucking Grinder Company. The Soviet Union had no such mass production capability. Its miniature ball bearings in 1951 were either imported or made in small lots on Italian and other imported equipment.
In 1960 there were sixty-six Centalign-B machines in the United States. Twenty-five of these machines were operated by the Miniature Precision Bearing Company, Inc., the largest manufacturer of precision ball bearings, and 85 percent of Miniature Precision's output went to military applications. In 1960 the USSR entered an order with Bryant Chucking for forty-five similar machines. Bryant consulted the Department of Commerce. When the department indicated its willingness to grant a license, Bryant accepted the order.
The Commerce Department's argument for granting a license turned on the following points: (1) the process achieved by the Centalign was only a single process among several required for ball bearing production, (2) the machine could be bought elsewhere, and (3) the Russians were already able to make ball bearings.
The Department of Defense entered a strong objection to the export of the machines on the following grounds:
In the specific case of the granting of the export license for high-frequency grinders manufactured by Bryant Chucking Grinder after receiving the request for DOD's opinion from the Department of Commerce, it was determined that all of the machines of this type currently available in the United States were being utilized for the production of bearings utilized in strategic components for military end items. It was also determined from information that was available to us that the Soviets did not produce a machine of this type or one that would be comparable in enabling the production of miniature ball bearings of the tolerances and precision required. A further consideration was whether machines of comparable capacity and size can be made available from Western Europe. In this connection, our investigation revealed that none was in production that would meet the specifications that had been established by the Russians for these machines. In the light of these considerations it was our opinion that the license should not be granted.
The Inter-Departmental Advisory Committee on Export Control, which includes members from the Commerce and State Departments as well as the CIA, overruled the Department of Defense opinion, and "a decision was made to approve the granting of the license." The Department of Defense made further protests, demanding proof that either the USSR or Western Europe was capable of producing such machines. No such proof was forthcoming.
The following is a summary of the objections of the Department of Defense representative:
(a) I expressed dissatisfaction and suggested that the Department of Defense not concur in the initial request of the Department of Commerce.
(b) The official member of the Department of Defense in this connection concurred and, at a series of meetings of the Advisory Committee on Export Control, spoke against the proposal that an export license be granted.
(c) The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Supply and Logistics, after reviewing some of the circumstances, requested that I do whatever was possible to stop the shipment of these machines.
(d) A letter was transmitted from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to the Secretary of Commerce, approximately November 1, 1960, saying it [sic] spoke to the Department of Defense and requesting a further review.
(e) At two meetings where the matter was reviewed, the Department of Defense maintained nonconcurrence in the shipment of the equipment.
As of this writing I am still convinced that it would be a tragic mistake to ship this equipment.
The reference to a "tragic mistake" refers to the known fact at that time that miniature precision ball bearings are essential for missiles. Granting the license would give the USSR a miniature ball bearing production capability equal to two-thirds that of the United States.
In 1961 a Senate subcommittee investigated the grant of this license to Bryant. Its final report stated:
The Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security has undertaken its investigation of this matter not in any desire to find scapegoats, but because we felt that the larger issue involved in the Bryant case was, potentially, of life-or-death importance to America and the free world. We are now convinced, for reasons that are set forth below, that the decision to grant the license was a grave error.26
The testimony of Horace Gilbert to the Senate summarizes the position on the Centalign machines;
Mr. Chairman, I am Horace D. Gilbert, of Keene, N.H., and I am president of Miniature Precision Bearings, Inc., and I would like to express my appreciation for having an opportunity to be here with you and come particularly at this time, when I know that everyone is so busy, and at such short notice. As the name implies, my company produces miniature ball bearings of precision quality, 85 percent of which are used in the national defense effort. All but 1 percent of our sales are within the United States, and most of these bearings are produced by machines manufactured by Bryant Chucking Grinder Co., of Springfield, Vt.
Our company owns about 25 of these machines out of the 66 which, I believe, presently exist in the United States. This machine was developed over a long period of years, and much of the know-how, Mr. Chairman, in the latest model, was contributed by our company.
Several months ago Russia ordered 45 of these machines from Bryant, and the Department of Commerce has granted an export license.
I was very much disturbed when I learned of this, and I and Mr. Patterson over there — whom I will further identify as one of the developers of this machine — we have attempted to demonstrate to the Department of Commerce the tragedy of these machines being sold to Russia.
Unfortunately, we have not met with success, and I would like to assure you, Mr. Chairman, that if these machines are sold, it means absolutely no commercial or financial difference to us as a company or to me as an individual.
I have no fear as far as Russia selling in our markets is concerned, and our company does not do any significant amount of bearing business in their markets. I am here because I think that this is folly which would undermine our defenses.
The Department of Commerce has attempted to justify its decision with four or five arguments, none of which, in our opinion, appears to be valid, and I would like to touch on these.
First, they say these machines could be purchased in Europe, and consequently, Bryant might as well benefit by their sale here.
I am thoroughly familiar with the machines which are in production in Europe. Part of my knowledge has been gained by three trips to Europe in the last 11 months, and I can assure you that no European manufacturer in fact does produce comparable machines with the accuracy of that which is used by Bryant. I would suggest that, if the Russians could buy this machine in any other market, they would indeed do so. In fact, an American competitor of Bryant, Heald Machine Co., of Worcester, has been attempting for 3 years to imitate and produce a comparable machine, and they have not been successful.
Secondly, the Department of Commerce has pointed out that 45 of these machines which have been ordered by the Russians are only a small part of the total number in existence. The number in existence is a matter of record, and, as of the end of September, there were only 66 machines in the United States, and now Russia has ordered 45 for their own needs, and I understand that not all 66 of these are in production. They are in experimental facilities, they would have almost the equivalent of the entire U.S. capacity for production.
Thirdly, the Department of Commerce has suggested that these machines require skilled operators who need substantial training; and I can assure you this is not true, sir. Even if it were, I am confident that the Russians have skilled technicians who, in a short time, would be able to master the operation of this machine, were it complicated, which it is not, and that is part of the magic of the machine, that it is not complicated. There is a certain amount of skill required to set up the machine, but under a contract with Bryant, I understand that the machine must be disassembled and reassembled in the presence of Russian inspectors who are not at their doorstep. Consequently, they will have whatever knowledge they need to put this machine into immediate operation.
The case for Bryant Chucking Grinder Company is expressed in the following portions of a letter sent to Senator Dodd on January 27, 1961 by N.A. Leyds, Bryant's vice president and general manager:
We appreciate the opportunity to make the following remarks concerning the testimony of December 21, 1960 and January 24, 1961, received by your Committee relative to the license granted to us by the Department of Commerce for the shipment of 45 of our Model "B" Centalign machines to Russia....
There was no objection by any of the dissenters to the shipment of the J&L machines, and we certainly have no objection. But it has been readily admitted that these machines will quite probably be used in the production of miniature bearings...
We were not surprised at the objection by the Department of Defense as it is well known that their technical expert, who could not appear, is, and has been, against the shipment of most, if not all, machine tools to Russia. We do not question his sincerity nor wish at this time to discuss the validity of this person's opinion, but, whether this opinion described the policy of U.S. Government in this area is highly questionable. To our knowledge, the top technicians from the Defense Department have not seen our Model "B" machine...
We, along with other machine tool builders, are not restricted from producing any of the machines, not on the international control list, in our foreign subsidiaries. Our Company has subsidiaries producing machine tools in England and West Germany and presently regulations permit us to manufacture Model "B"s with spindle speeds up to 120,000 r.p.m. in these subsidiaries and ship them to Russia …
Our leadership in technology in this area is so slight that we must continually utilize our forces and talents at the maximum, to maintain the slightest gap which exists. We must be permitted to compete with our foreign competitors and maintain a healthy posture, or we must rapidly lose the race to maintain superior technology. A few other key machine tool builders with a similar problem can create a situation with far-reaching consequences to the nation's security. It is only when a company is strong that it can support the financial burden necessary to maintain research and development activities at their proper level.
In general we believe that in the matter of trade with the Soviet bloc, similar restrictions should apply to identical industries in each and all of the Free World countries. Our hands must not be tied.
The Senate subcommittee's conclusions were overwhelmingly in favor of denying the export license and raised major unanswered questions concerning the intentions of Leyds, the Bryant Chucking Grinder Company, and the Department of Commerce. These were the subcommittee's conclusions:
We believe that this testimony gives overwhelming support to the stand taken by the Department of Defense in this matter, and to the arguments presented by Miniature Precision Bearing in opposing shipment.
This testimony establishes conclusively (1) that the miniature bearings produced with the help of the Bryant machine are used primarily for defense purposes; (2) that the function performed by the Bryant machine is of critical importance; (3) that no comparable machines can at present be obtained from other sources; (4) that Soviet industry has not been able to master the problems involved in mass producing high precision miniature bearings; that the industry is in fact plagued by poor quality and obsolete equipment; that with its own resources, it would probably take a number of years to develop the capability; (5) that the possession of these machines would greatly accelerate Soviet mastery of the art of miniaturization .... we think it would be helpful if we briefly summarized some of the high points of this testimony and recapitulated some of the essential facts.
1. At least 85 percent of the bearings manufactured with the help of the Bryant machine are used by defense industries:
Subject machine is a key factor in the economical production of the highest precision for many important Department of Defense applications, such as the latest guidance systems, navigation, fire control, computer, synchro and servomechanisms used for aircraft, ordnance, ships, missiles and other space vehicles (statement of Mr. J.R. Tomlinson, president, and Mr. B.L. Mims, vice president in charge of engineering, the Barden Corp., Danbury, Conn.).
2. The function performed by the Bryant machine is of critical importance:
The outer ball track grinding operation is one of the last and most vital of those performed on the bearing outer ring. It is the operation which, until the advent of this machine, could probably be called the bottleneck opposing the precision performance of miniature bearings. The necessary perfection of other operations has been achieved 5 to 20 years ago (statement by Mr. H.B. Van Dorn, vice president in charge of engineering, Fafnir Bearing Co., New Britain, Conn.).
3. The Bryant machine is unique in its field:
Secretary Mueller in his letter of January 18, 1961 to Senator Dodd, said that "substantially comparable" machines could be obtained from other sources. Mr. Bradley Fisk, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Affairs, in his testimony before the subcommittee on January 24 said that there are "five factories outside of Russia that could make similar machines." It was not clear from his statement whether the companies he named do, in fact, make such machines, or whether they are theoretically capable of making them. A careful check has revealed that none of the companies named by Mr. Fisk produce machines that can be considered equal or "substantially comparable" to the Bryant machine.
For the Soviets and Bryant Chucking Grinder Company the matter did not end in 1961.
In 1972, just before the presidential election, Nicholaas Leyds, general manager of the Bryant Chucking Grinder Company, announced a contract with the Soviets for 164 grinding machines. Anatoliy I. Kostousov, Minister of the Machine Tool Industry in the Soviet Union, then said they had waited twelve years for these machines, which included mostly the banned models: "We are using more and more instruments of all kinds and our needs for bearings for these instruments is very great. In all, we need to manufacture five times . more bearings than 12 years ago."
Under President Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger license for export of these 164 Centalign-B machines was approved.
Simultaneously came heavy pressure on this author to stop research work on our technological aid to the Soviet military system and to stop making public speeches on this aid.
By 1974 the Soviets had MIRVed their missiles and were in mass production. The results we well know and are reflected in the chart on page
On March 8, 1983, Secretary of Defense Weinberger not only made this massive Soviet increase public, but admitted something not admitted in the early 1970s: that the newly achieved accuracy was derived from our U.S. technology.
We see from the strategic forces that the Soviets have dramatically increased their offensive strategic capabilities. The number, the explosive power and the accuracy of their ICBMs, an accuracy which, as we've said many times, has been largely derived from technology they have taken from us, this is far greater than they would need to simply deter the attack. The hardening of their silos, their provisions for reloading some of their larger ICBMs, a reload capability, refire capability which we do not have, and their enhanced strategic defenses, together with all of their writings and their exercises and the funds they've spent on civil defense, all of that suggests that they are developing the capability, and believe they are developing the capability which is equally important, of fighting a prolonged nuclear war. It is essential that, as we strive to maintain our deterrent.
26U.S. Senate, Proposed Export of Ball-Bearing Machines to U.S.S.R. (Washington, 1961).