THE future of the Contract With America's promise of a balanced budget is tied to the future of our relations with Russia.
If a US-Russia confrontation reemerges, Republicans can forget about balancing the federal budget. Yet, Republicans last week were determined to run the risk of having to find hundreds of billions of dollars for a renewed defense buildup. Overnight, House Budget Committee Republicans mandated an end to development assistance and democracy-building technical assistance to Russia.
However understandable may be disclosures of Aldrich Ames's treason, other Russian covert action against our national interests, the Kremlin's support of its old allies in Serbia, and the Yeltsin government's opposition to a reconstituted NATO, they are not reasons to dismiss hard, long-term reasoning.
For decades, Republicans told the peoples of Eastern Europe that if they threw off their ''communist yokes,'' they would get help to rebuild their societies and economies. In 1989, Congress euphorically started fulfilling those promises. Then, instead of increasingly assuring success, the United States began a slow retreat. As former communist officials started winning elections, we pulled back.
Last week, Republicans accelerated that retreat. Since the late 1940s, the GOP has pointed at Democrats and asked, ''Who lost China'' to Communism? Do Republicans want to live for decades with the Democrats asking ''Who lost Russia?''
The numbers for aiding Russians (and Ukrainians) speak loudly. A dollar spent in rebuilding Central and Eastern Europe today is pennies compared with the budget required to fund renewed military spending to offset a resurgent Russia if we lose Russia's future to its past.
How, then, should a Republican-led Congress treat Russia? It should:
*Foster a massive increase in the number of Americans going to Russia to show them how to rebuild their economy, attract foreign investment, create jobs, instill knowledge of volunteerism, and develop a base for philanthropy.
*Make prudent outlays to joint US-Russian ventures. There is less shortage in Russia of entrepreneurial spirit and market opportunity than there is of startup and working capital. Providing funds to start badly needed businesses can attract other investment. When a US-aid dollar leverages private United States investment and together they leverage Russian investment, that aid makes sense.
*Pay for critically placed Russians to come to the United States to see the overall strength of our economy and learn in our factories and shops, hospitals and clinics, and universities and schools. We cannot show them if they do not come.
r Guarantee the financing of United States exports so that the Russians have the equipment to rebuild after years of inadequate capital, neglect of critical components of their economy, and massive infrastructure decay.
r Vigorously expand law-enforcement assistance to Russia to combat the organized crime. This is not just an internal Russian security matter. It poses direct threats to international security because of its links to terrorists and their participation in illicit trade in nuclear technology.
I have traveled around Russia with Republican members of Congress, governors, and our national committee chairman. They have seen the opportunities -- and the risks -- firsthand. They should tell our party faithful that it is as much in US national interest to help certain Russian forces today as it was to build ICBMs aimed at Russia in the past.