Reagan moves to implement Kissinger report
Washington — The Reagan administration - from the President on down - is now adopting the essentials of the Kissinger Commission report as its plan of action for Central America.
By doing so, the administration seems to stand a good chance of increasing the amounts of economic and military aid that it wants to devote to Central America.
Such aid increases, of course, may turn out to be considerably less than the administration desires. But the makeup of the Kissinger Commission was just ''bipartisan'' enough to give the administration some strong advantages when it comes to dealing with the Congress, at least in the short run, say specialists on executive-congressional relations.
Adoption of the commission report - which proposes increases in almost every form of aid - also entails risks, however. It gives the contentious Central America problem more prominence. It helps to guarantee that Central America will be an issue in this year's presidential election campaign.
More of everything in the way of aid is likely to mean more debate.
''The Kissinger report substantially elevates the Central America problem on both the foreign policy and political agendas,'' said one congressional foreign affairs specialist.
Central America emerged as an issue in last Sunday's debate among Democratic presidential candidates, with at least two of them calling for a cutoff in military aid to El Salvador unless ''death squad'' activity ends. But several other Democratic candidates also appeared to be conscious of the political dangers of a collapse of the US-supported forces in El Salvador should the US cut its aid.
The administration, meanwhile, has taken several steps that amount to fairly strong support for the Kissinger report. Over the past weekend, President Reagan , in his regular radio address, said he will send Congress a plan for enacting the report's recommendations. At the same time, a senior White House official said Reagan endorsed the commission's proposal to make military aid to El Salvador contingent upon political and human rights progress.
On Monday, M. Peter McPherson, administrator of the US Agency for International Development, said President Reagan ''supports the basic elements of the report,'' including a substantial economic aid program. Mr. McPherson said that ''no doubt such an economic assistance program . . . will be in the range of the $8.4 billion'' for a five-year period which the 12-member Kissinger Commission recommended.
Much will now depend on how the administration approaches the Congress and whether it tries to get Congress to accept five-year funding - which seems unlikely given the way the system works on Capitol Hill - or whether it will submit the aid package in increments. Much also depends on how much stress the administration places on a proposed increase in military aid for El Salvador.
One key Republican senator, David F. Durenberger of Minnesota, said that ''unless the economic development side of this program is in place by early next year, I'm not going to support the military aid. I'm not going to write them a large military check unless they are committed to achieving that economic goal.''
Last year, Senator Durenberger grew increasingly critical of administration policy in Central America because he felt it emphasized military solutions. As he sees it, the Kissinger report points in a more positive direction. It calls for a mix of military and economic aid, and, according to Durenberger, tells you not just what the administration is against in Central America but also what it is for.
But there is much skepticism among some congressional sources that an $8 billion plus aid package will be accepted by the Congress. Some congressmen will oppose the package, apparently, unless there is more progress toward a negotiated settlement in the region.
''It's doubtful that the administration can get multiyear funding,'' said I. M. Destler, a specialist on executive-congressional relations at the Institute for International Economics in Washington. ''They may get some immediate increases in aid. But over the longer term they are likely to get deeper into a no-win situation.''
Criticism which may be yet to come from the Democratic side of Capitol Hill once the Congress reconvenes was heard on Tuesday from Bella Abzug, former Democratic member of Congress from New York. Mrs. Abzug contended at a press conference that the Kissinger Commission emphasized military activity and that ''the enemy in that area is not communism or Marxism.''
''The enemy is poverty,'' she said.
Durenberger and AID administrator McPherson emphasized in their remarks that the ''enemy'' was multifaceted - both poverty and communism, among other things. McPherson put it this way in his statement: ''Poverty is a severe problem which must be tackled.'' He said that the administration was proposing a ''very substantial literacy and education program'' as recommended by the Kissinger Commission.