Those unpopular super powers
This has been the week when the new American President, beset at home by economic problems, went to Cancun in Mexico to meet representatives of a number of less affluent countries to try to explain to them why he is in no mood to open the American treasury to them.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
It was also a week during which the Greeks voted into office a new nationalist, and also Socialist, government which enjoys saying rude things about the United States and its NATO alliance and loves to talk big about asserting its future ''independence.'' The event again exposed the current popularity of the anti-American line. It is more or less endemic through Western Europe these days.
This unpopularity is just another symptom of the declining prestige and influence of the two superpowers. Fortunately for the US, Moscow has equal or, some think, even more serious problems of managing its own sphere of influence. During the past week the Soviets watched, one presumes with crossed fingers, while the Polish communist party dumped its most recent leader, Stanislaw Kania, and replaced him by Polish Army Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, who already held the posts of prime minister and defense minister.
Hope must be lively in Moscow that a strong soldier will be able to restore some political and economic stability to Poland. Such an achievement would spare Moscow having to take steps that might further strain its own well-stretched economic system.
Mr. Reagan's Washington is no more inclined to play the role of Lady Bountiful to the poor of the world than is Moscow. One measure of the Cancun meeting is that while the President went there preaching the doctrine of ''self-reliance,'' there continues to languish in the mills of Congress a foreign aid budget remarkable for its slimness and remarkable also for its unpopularity among legislators.
This modest US foreign aid program is being held up in committee in the Democratically controlled House, pending assurance that the White House will deliver enough Republican votes to make it worthwhile sending the bill to the floor of the House. So far the Republican White House has been too busy with other matters to do any lobbying for the foreign aid bill. Committee staff members doubt that it will get to the floor. Foreign aid may be continued by one of those resolutions that allows money to be spent in terms of previous legislation.
Those who, like this writer, remember the immediate postwar world find it difficult to adjust to the changes. Greece at the close of World War II was torn by a civil war. American aid beat back the communist insurgents, saved the government, and laid the foundation for a prosperous modern Greece. The same Greece today seems to be bored by its present easy life. The new generation wants change.
Well, it is going to get at least the rhetoric of some change, although friends and observers doubt that the new President, Andreas Papandreou, will actually want to implement his campaign rhetoric.
If he did in office all the things he talked about doing during the campaign, we would have to expect to see Greece pull out of the NATO alliance, pull out of the European Community, declare its ''independence'' of anyone and everyone outside Greece, and nationalize practically everything in Greece. It sounded exciting to younger voters in Greece during the campaign. It won Mr. Papandreou a lot of votes.