Choices for the United States
AMERICAN economic relations with Russia have been problematic for a century. The United States denied most-favorednation status to the tsarist regime because of its policies toward Jews. American firms had a major role in selling the Soviet Union industrial equipment in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but Stalin halted grain exports after the famine of 1932-33, and his purchase of machinery ended with this loss of his main source of foreign currency. The period of the cold war added formal restrictions to those imposed by financial factors. The United States prohibited exports of high technology to the Soviet Union and prevented the importation of many goods (for example, crab) on the ground that they were produced by slave labor and were, therefore, unfair competition.
During the 1960s and 1970s the Soviet leadership became more interested in trade, and the increases in energy and gold prices gave it the hard currency to purchase more abroad. American restrictions were relaxed somewhat, but most of the old questions remained. At what level of technological sophistication should the exportation of machinery and the like be forbidden? To what extent should the kind of subsidized or guaranteed credit often found in international trade be extended to the Soviet Union? Should the Soviet Union be granted most- favored-nation status? As in the prerevolutionary period, the issue of Soviet treatment of its Jews became a crucial question, but now it was emigration policy rather than domestic policy that lay at the heart of the dispute.