Security-minded US charts new course in foreign aid
The foreign aid bill agreed upon in Congress this week carries a clear Reagan stamp. As with the rest of the administration's foreign policy, national security is of prime importance. There will be relatively less money for economic development and more for military assistance than in previous years. Much of this will go to the Middle East, with Israel and Egypt getting much more than any other country (more than 60 percent of the economic support fund).Skip to next paragraph
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The balance of other funding is likely to shift to lesser-developed countries of particular strategic importance, including those in the Caribbean region and bordering the Indian Ocean. Countries to which aid had been restricted (for human-rights reasons, or because they were developing nuclear weapons), now will get more help.
In arguing for foreign aid (a subject not much to his liking in the past), the President found himself having to twist as many Republican arms as Democratic. Conservatives have traditionally opposed aid for other countries, and liberals wanted to know how it could be justified in light of deep domestic program cuts.
In debating the merits of foreign aid, Rep. Jack Kemp (R) of New York acknowledged that it was ''difficult politically'' for conservatives like him to vote for the bill. But he called it ''an investment in the freedom and peace of this country and our allies.''
''These are military security bills,'' insisted Rep. Dick Cheney of Wyoming, chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee.
Others point out that the Soviet Union has provided Cuba with $2.5 billion in military aid over the past two decades, and continues to give $3 billion each year in economic assistance (about one-fourth Cuba's gross national product). The Reagan administration insists that this allows Cuba to support revolutionary movements elsewhere in this hemisphere, and that it is necessary to counter this with aid to its friends in the region.
In the Mideast, large sums will continue to flow to Israel and Egypt, as well as to the Sudan. Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights this week did
not make it any easier for some lawmakers to vote for foreign aid, and Rep. Paul N. McCloskey Jr. (R) of California warned that Israel may be drawing the United States into a Mideast war.
''I think this insensitivity to US concerns is a very dangerous thing for the Israeli government to pursue,'' said Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle. But Mr. Perle said limiting foreign aid would not cause Israel to reverse the action, and the US ''would look foolish'' if it later had to restore withheld aid.
US contributions to the International Development Association (ISA), a World Bank affiliate, have, in the past, been a sticking point in passing foreign aid bills. The two-year $11.9 billion legislation agreed upon this week is the first foreign aid bill to be passed since 1979.
But in arguing for passage, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) of Hawaii reminded his colleagues that seven out of 10 of the top IDA recipients border on the Indian Ocean.
''All are of strategic importance to the United States, and all have been courted by the Soviet Union,'' he said. ''Our interest in opposing the expansion of Soviet influence dictates our support of IDA.''
Opposing the expansion of Soviet influence underlies several significant changes in foreign aid won by the Reagan administration.
Prohibitions on aid to Argentina, Chila, and Pakistan have been lifted, although not without certain congressionally imposed restrictions. Aid to Pakistan, increasingly important because of its proximity to Iran and Afghanistan, will be cut off if that country proceeds with the development of a nuclear weapon. The administration wants $3.2 billion in economic and military assistance for Pakistan, with a first installment of $100 million included in the just-passed authorization bill.
Aid to Chile and Argentina is resumed, but is tied to improvements in human rights there.
The President wanted the so-called Clark amendment repealed (this bars aid to antigovernment forces in Angola), but the Congress refused to go along.