US Can't Afford to Bail Out The Former USSR, She Says

INTERVIEW: REP. PATRICIA SCHROEDER

JUST prior to the dissolution of the former Soviet Union, US Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D) of Colorado described in an interview what she believes America's role should be in helping build the new Commonwealth of Independent States which has replaced it.Congresswoman Schroeder, a member of the House Armed Forces Committee, said she sees the United States role as one of "moral" leadership - providing immediate humanitarian aid as well as technical aid. But as for long-term aid, she says America simply cannot afford it. "In the last hours of the [1991] congressional session," Schroeder said, "we passed a provision that would transfer $500 million out of the US defense budget - $400 million earmarked for technical expenses and the dismantling of weapons, and $100 million to transport food. Food, she says, will come from a variety of sources, but the cost of getting it to the people who need it is the problem. Schroeder says the half-billion dollar donation will not begin to solve the problems of disbanding the Soviet Union. What, she asks, is going to happen with the arsenal of nuclear weapons now that the Soviet Union has been dissolved? "The Ukraine is the third-largest nuclear power in the world, with 30,000 nuclear weapons," Schroeder says. "You don't want the Ukraine to turn into Yugoslavia with nukes. We need to move very rapidly with this dismantling. I think everyone understands this. Clearly, we need those new republics on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty as we need North Korea on it. We need those republics [Byelorussia, Kazakhstan, Russia, and the Ukraine] to get on with dismantling those weapons." "I would like to see our government propose that Japan get involved" in aiding the new commonwealth, says Schroeder. "One of the things that might be possible is for Japan to offer development credits for each nuke dismantled - credits you could cash in to develop the country when you have a game plan to help build the infrastructure, to help build the economy. "Japan has the money to do it. We have a deficit; they have real money," she declares. "We've been pressuring Japan to get into the world and do more. We tried to get them involved in Desert Storm. I think we have the moral high ground to say the countries we rebuilt after World War II are now economically able to offer aid. "These [nuclear] weapons are closer to Germany than they are to us. It's terribly important to Europe that this be solved - before the refugees pour in. And the Ukraine could sell nukes to North Korea, or to others in Japan's neighborhood." America is willing to pay its own experts to help with the dismantling of the nuclear arsenal, and willing to help get food out and get everybody through the winter. But, Schroeder says, everyone knows the till is empty. It is up to the administration to say, "This is the new world order, and this is what everyone is going to do." Schroeder points out that the US defense budget is based on the threat assessment of the cold-war period. But even if the defense budget were to be eliminated tomorrow, she would not want to see that $291 billion spent on foreign aid. "We have to rebuild our own infrastructure. I think the new enemy is the debt. The Russians spent themselves into bankruptcy to fight us, and we really did the same thing. We have got to take care of our own backyard or we are in real trouble."

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