World Bank and Arms Sales

IF stopping the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons is vital to our nation's security, why not withhold Western subsidies to governments that build weapons of mass destruction?

The United States provides roughly 20 percent of the funds used by the World Bank and other multilateral development banks to lend to Third World governments. These funds are paid directly to governments and free up local tax dollars for other purposes. In all too many cases, those other purposes are the production of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles needed to deliver them.

World Bank loans are conditional: They must pass workers' rights and environmental tests, for example. US representatives on the bank's board must even vote against loans that would hurt US agriculture and copper interests. Yet US law only requires our World Bank representatives to "consider" whether a recipient country has detonated a nuclear device in reviewing loans.

Sen. John Glenn (D) of Ohio has proposed tightening these restrictions. He has called on US officials overseeing World Bank operations to oppose any "direct or indirect use" of loans that would assist a nonnuclear nation in acquiring a bomb. He would also ask that officials "consider" a country's nonproliferation status before approving loans. These are welcome steps and deserve quick passage.

The example of China illustrates the need. Under the Bush administration, Secretary of State James Baker III warned Beijing that it had to stop deliveries of missile and nuclear technology to Pakistan.

In 1990, Pakistan nearly went to nuclear war with India. Mr. Baker imposed sanctions against two Chinese companies to make his point and lifted the sanctions only after the Chinese promised to behave. Recent satellite imagery, however, shows that China continued deliveries of its M-11 missile, giving the Pakistanis the ability to start a nuclear war on the subcontinent in minutes. China also is aiding Iran's nuclear program. The World Bank currently is working on 33 projects totaling more than $5.8 billi on for China alone. The US should ask the World Bank's board to suspend loan disbursements until China meets its nuclear and missile nonproliferation commitments.

The World Bank also is working on 60 projects totaling more than $10 billion for Pakistan and India. Both countries spent at least that amount building nuclear arsenals that now total several dozen bombs. Bank loans to those governments should be withheld until the two sides negotiate a nuclear disarmament arrangement.

Other governments with active nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs receive direct funding from the World Bank. Iran is scheduled to receive $857 million, despite reports that it has produced large stockpiles of chemical weapons and launched a biological weapons program three years ago.

The Bank is also planning a new $420 million loan program for Ukraine, despite the recent statements of President Leonid Kravchuck that he will renounce previous commitments to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-weapons state. It now seems he intends to keep the 1,656 nuclear warheads Soviet authorities left in his country.

Strong action is needed now. President Clinton should win congressional approval for the disarmament funding he is seeking. In return, he should work with Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen to propose a suspension in loan disbursements until recipient countries follow a policy of nonproliferation.

Export controls now limit the chance of foreign nuclear weapons carrying a "Made in the USA" label. It is up to Mr. Clinton to ensure that these weapons are not paid for by the USA.

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