Administration May Ask for $1 Billion for Russia
The Clinton Administration is considering asking Congress for at least $1 billion in aid to Russia, more than doubling the current level of direct U.S. assistance for the government of Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin, congressional officials said Monday.
The money would pay for bilateral economic aid programs ranging from emergency shipments of medical supplies and housing for Russian army officers to exchange programs that would send American bankers and entrepreneurs to train their Russian counterparts, the officials said.
The increase now being debated includes the sum of at least $700 million that Clinton already has told Congress he plans to ask for in direct aid for next year, a major increase over the $417 million obtained by former President George Bush for the current budget year.
Administration officials confirmed that a significant increase in aid is under discussion but refused to comment on specific figures, saying that Clinton wants to unveil the plan himself at his summit meeting with Yeltsin in Vancouver, Canada, on Saturday.
The $1-billion-plus aid request will probably be submitted to Congress next week as part of the Administration’s regular request for foreign aid for next year, congressional officials said.
Officials said they have found considerable support for increased aid to Russia in Congress.
Clinton said Monday that he plans a major campaign to convince the American public that increased aid to Russia is a good idea and said he is confident of success.
“I realize the responsibility is on me to communicate to the American people any kind of aid package I propose and to justify it,” he told reporters in Little Rock, Ark., where he is visiting his ailing father-in-law, Hugh Rodham.
“We give a lot more money than we give to Russia to smaller countries,” he said. “We’ve got a big interest there.”
Asked about a poll in Newsweek which found that 75% of Americans believe the United States is giving enough aid to Russia, Clinton said: “Foreign aid is unpopular in every country in the world. It’s always been unpopular here. I haven’t really had much of a chance to talk directly to the American people about what’s going on there, what their stake in it is.”
In addition to direct U.S. aid, the Administration also has asked the other members of the Group of Seven leading industrial countries--Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Britain and Canada--to consider an expanded program of multilateral aid for Russia. That plan could offer Russia as much as $7.5 billion in loans from the International Monetary Fund and a $6-billion fund to help stabilize the Russian ruble, officials said.