Congress Steps Up Pressure on Allies to Pay Their Share : Costs: Anger and frustration are mounting over unpaid pledges. Lawmakers worry that the money won’t arrive.
The war in the Persian Gulf is rapidly drawing to a close. American and coalition troops are liberating Kuwait and trouncing the Iraqi Republican Guard. Now comes the hard part: Getting U.S. allies to help pay for the short but expensive conflict.
With the war all but won after just a few days of ground fighting, anger and frustration are rapidly mounting in Congress over the failure of many of the allies to ante up the cash they pledged.
Now, policy-makers say they fear that the allies, both major powers such as Japan and Germany and rich Gulf states such as the United Arab Emirates, will not follow through on their pledges once the fighting ends and the pressure on them has eased.
As the war winds down in the Middle East, the issue is escalating rapidly on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers, flush over the U.S. victory and embarrassed over their earlier reluctance to support the war, are looking for a way to “do something” to claim America’s due.
“We have this the-check-is-in-the-mail syndrome going on, with countries like Japan that have the most to gain from secure oil supplies doing absolutely nothing,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, (D-Vt.).
Congress members are especially upset at Japan, which has refused to send troops to the Gulf.
“I have never seen such condescension on the part of the Japanese, who wouldn’t even send a medical team to the Gulf,” Leahy said.
And feelings about Germany are intensifying. German firms played a key role in helping Iraq develop its military and terrorist facilities, and some Germans have been vocally opposed to the U.S. effort, with some German physicians even refusing to treat American wounded.
“It is going to be very hard to get the money after the crisis is over,” complained Sen. Dale Bumpers, (D-Ark.). “And frankly, I don’t think we’re going to get it.”
Although the Bush Administration has been promised about $53 billion in cash from Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia, the exiled government of Kuwait and others backing the allied effort, only about $14 billion actually has arrived in cash transfers and in-kind payments.
Japan, the world’s second-largest economy after the United States, has still not approved any assistance for 1991. Indeed, the war will almost certainly be over before its Parliament comes through with a vote of support for about $9 billion in promised financial aid.
In addition, the Gulf War is bloating the U.S. budget deficit. Although the White House insists that the United States should only have to ante up $15 billion in added spending to complement the foreign pledges, private analysts are dubious at best.
They warn that the federal budget deficit could rise to between $320 billion and $330 billion in fiscal 1992 if the allied money does not come through.
Although Japan has pledged $10.7 billion in cash or equipment and supplies for 1990 and 1991, only $1.3 billion actually has come in, all of that during 1990. The remaining funds require approval by the Japanese Parliament.
Germany, meanwhile, has sent the Pentagon $2.1 billion of its pledged $5.5 billion for 1991, in addition to some in-kind aid for 1990 that ironically included more than $500 million in shoddy surplus East German military equipment.
Even the Persian Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, along with the United Arab Emirates, are the targets of mounting criticism.
Although Saudi Arabia has provided billions of dollars of in-kind assistance for U.S. troops, in the form of water, food and fuel, the Saudis have still paid only about $6 billion out of a total of $16 billion in cash assistance they have pledged for 1991.
At the same time, oil industry analysts note that the Saudis have received at least $10 billion in additional oil revenues as a result of the crisis and the initial surge in oil prices.
Normally secretive Saudi officials have sought to underscore their commitment to the coalition by publicly revealing that the government has borrowed $3 billion from Western banks to help pay for the war. But congressional critics complain that the Saudis could do more.
“If we hadn’t moved, Saudi Arabia would be the 20th province of Iraq right now,” said Sen. Alfonse M. D’Amato (R-N.Y.). “Their $16 billion pales in comparison with what they should be doing.”
And despite the Gargantuan U.S. liberation effort, the exiled government of Kuwait has not sent in all of its pledged funds either. It has provided $3.5 billion, more than $12 billion short of the $16 billion it promised.
But some of the greatest congressional scorn is being directed at the United Arab Emirates, which rebuffed earlier Administration requests for up to $7 billion in assistance and has failed to pay up two-thirds of the $3 billion it eventually promised.
As a result, while the Bush Administration continues to insist that the allied pledges will come in, impatient congressional leaders are starting to warn of a national backlash against Japan and other nations that fail to live up to their promises.
“We in Congress have to keep asking for the money, and keep the pressure on,” said House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, (D-Mo.). “And I think that’s what Congress is going to be doing. . . . They want the allies to do their fair share.”
In fact, some in Congress are starting to call for trade sanctions against Japanese products if the Japanese Parliament refuses to approve that country’s promised assistance.
“If they don’t come up with it, you can come back and put on a Gulf tariff bill,” Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.) said.
“You don’t have to go ask for pledges, you should go tell the Japanese what their fair share is,” Hollings added. “And then if they don’t come up with it, that’s fine, we can go get it from them when their cars show up in the Port of Charleston.”
Bush Administration officials acknowledge that they have not yet figured out how to force allied nations to meet their commitments if those governments feel that the need for the assistance is no longer a high priority once the war is over.
Richard G. Darman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, insisted in congressional testimony that the Administration is convinced that the money will arrive, but he declined to say what the White House might do if it doesn’t.
Michael J. Boskin, President Bush’s chief economic adviser, added that “it wouldn’t make sense for (the White House) to get into hypotheticals on what would happen if they don’t come through.”
But Democratic congressional leaders seem unmollified, particularly in the face of new fears that at least some U.S. forces or equipment may end up staying in the Gulf beyond the war.
Robert D. Reischauer, director of the Congressional Budget Office, warned Wednesday that “the costs of postwar policies, while uncertain, could be substantial, perhaps costing the United States more than the war.”
California Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Los Angeles), a key member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, said that if the Administration doesn’t put more pressure on the allies, Congress may place conditions on the use of the $15 billion the White House is seeking for Operation Desert Storm.
“We have got to have some way to force the Administration to turn up the heat on these countries,” Dixon said.
Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, agreed.
“Before the Congress votes on additional funds for the war, I think the Administration should press for faster payments,” he said.
For their part, the Japanese seem to understand that their performance has drawn disapproval in the United States.
Japanese officials now say they are confident that Parliament will approve the promised aid package sometime in March and say they expect to send all $9 billion to the Pentagon immediately after legislative approval.
German officials also assert that their funds are coming promptly. A spokesman for the German Embassy in Washington insisted that German cash has been arriving at the Pentagon “as soon as our American friends have put in their requests for it.”
But officials in both countries concede that they may have to rethink their roles in the world in the wake of their reluctance to take the lead in the Persian Gulf crisis.
In both countries, government leaders now understand that they must change their postwar constitutions to allow for their involvement in United Nations peacekeeping forces in future crises so they can do more than just provide cash to the United States military.
“This crisis occurred when Japan was just beginning to realize it was an economic superpower,” observed Hibeaki Ueda, a senior official at the Japanese Embassy in Washington.
“We thought we had at least a vague idea of our role in a new world order, but this Iraqi invasion made us realize that we lack one important fact of power--military power,” Ueda said. “This was a good lesson for us.”