Freedom Support Act Aids Russia and the US

By , Rep. Harry Johnston (D) of Florida is a member of the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. He is also a convener of the Congressional Roundtable on Post-Cold-War Relations.

THE House of Representatives recently took a historic step for both Russians and Americans. By approving the Freedom Support Act - the bill to assist the states of the former Soviet Union - the House passed legislation that will not only contribute to stable transformation in Russia, but will also further the interests of the American taxpayer. The emergence of market-oriented democracy in Russia will yield large, concrete benefits for Americans that will help revitalize our domestic programs and our eco nomy.

To begin, Americans will reap the benefits of dramatic cuts in defense spending. During the cold war, over 50 percent of our defense budget was dedicated to the Soviet threat. The record shows that democracies do not go to war with one another; as Russian democracy evolves, the old threat should vanish. Indeed, Presidents Boris Yeltsin and George Bush recently agreed to deep cuts in nuclear weapons, to the elimination of the world's most threatening missiles, and even to consider joint United States-Russ ian military exercises.

In light of this new strategic landscape, the Bush administration should rethink our defense requirements and push for a speedier, larger peace dividend. For example, the Gephardt amendment to the defense bill proposes a 40 percent cut in American troops stationed overseas by 1995, at a savings to the taxpayer of more than $8 billion a year if these troops are demobilized. Overall, we could easily reduce our defense budget by $50 billion beyond the administration proposal over the next five years. These responsible defense cuts, made possible largely by the advent of democracy in Russia, will fuel economic recovery in America.

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The Freedom Support Act contains a number of provisions that will speed realization of our peace dividend by further reducing the military threat. The bill authorizes American help in dismantling Russian nuclear weapons and in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It helps demilitarize the Russian economy by offering US assistance in converting military facilities to civilian production. And the bill initiates a host of measures to nurture the growth of democracy in the former Soviet nations, thereby increasing the chance that the new countries will be peaceful.

American business also stands to prosper from the development of these new market-oriented nations. The states of the former Soviet Union, and Russia in particular, offer some of the largest untapped markets in the world. Vast opportunity awaits American business, opportunity to create exports, jobs, and profits.

In the telecommunications industry, for example, AT&T estimates that through the year 2000, Russia and the other new states will offer a market of $25 billion. By common estimates, that potentially means thousands of new American jobs. In the oil industry, US companies are exploring investments in Russian, Kazakh, and Azeri fields which contain up to 10 billion barrels in proved reserves. Related oil and gas equipment deals could produce a billion-dollar-per-year market for US firms. And in the pharmaceu tical industry, Upjohn also predicts a billion dollar per year market for US exports.

The Freedom Support Act will help create the business environment in which these projections can become reality. The bill will establish American business centers in Russia and the other states to help American business penetrate the new markets.

American technical assistance will help build the infrastructure of free markets through programs in areas such as privatization and business law. And the bill authorizes American participation in multilateral efforts to stabilize and modernize these emerging market economies, efforts which will help US firms profit in the new nations.

Assistance to the states of the former Soviet Union is in America's self-interest. Americans should come to see that our new relationship with Russia will help revitalize the US economy and contribute to domestic renewal.

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