Soviet Union Table of Contents
In the mid-1980s, West European exports to the Soviet Union were marginal, less than 0.5 percent of the combined gross national product ( GNP--see Glossary) of countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ( OECD--see Glossary). OECD countries provided the Soviet Union with high-technology and industrial equipment, chemicals, metals, and agricultural products. In return, Western Europe received oil and natural gas from the Soviet Union.
Although oil and gas were the primary Soviet exports to Western Europe, they represented only a small percentage of Western Europe's substantial fuel imports: Soviet oil provided 3 percent and natural gas 2 percent of the energy consumed in Western Europe. The completion of the Urengoy-Uzhgorod export pipeline project increased the importance of Soviet natural gas to Western Europe in the second half of the 1980s. In 1984 France, Austria, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), and Italy began receiving natural gas from western Siberia through the pipeline, for which the Soviet Union was paid in hard currency, pumping equipment, and large-diameter pipe. By 1990 the Soviet Union expected to supply 3 percent of all natural gas imported by Western Europe, including 30 percent of West Germany's gas imports.
Unlike the United States, the countries of Western Europe have not viewed trade as a tool to influence Soviet domestic and foreign policies. Western Europe rejected the trade restrictions imposed by the United States after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the declaration of martial law in Poland in 1980. From 1980 to 1982, the United States embargoed the supply of equipment for the Urengoy-Uzhgorod natural gas pipeline, but Western Europe ignored United States pleas to do the same.
Despite the poor relations between the superpowers in the early and mid-1980s, Western Europe tried to improve international relations with the Soviet Union. One major step in this direction was the normalization of relations between Comecon and the European Economic Community (EEC). After fifteen years of negotiations, the EEC approved an accord that established formal relations with Comecon effective June 25, 1988. Although it did not establish bilateral trade relations, the agreement ""set the stage"" for the exchange of information. This accord marked Comecon's official recognition of the EEC.
Data as of May 1989