Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

US Leads World Effort To Give Russia More Aid

Weekend meeting is a catalyst for donations from Western countries

STARTING today, Clinton administration officials plan to begin negotiating with other Western industrial countries over far more significant support to the Russian economy than the United States offered here this past weekend.

President Clinton's $1.6 billion aid package, announced yesterday, was bigger than expected. Yet all of it is money that has already been appropriated by Congress, in one form or another, so it can enter the pipeline immediately.

About these ads

But the next step is for the industrial countries together to join in a more expensive and concerted effort to stabilize the value of the ruble, says a Clinton administration official.

In economic terms, this summit has been surrounded by other key events. The day before the summit began, the so-called Paris Club, a group of Russia's creditor governments, agreed to reschedule $15 billion of Russia's $80 billion in foreign debts. Ten days from now, finance ministers from the "group of seven" industrial-ized countries (G-7) will meet in Tokyo to discuss further steps.

But President Clinton is clearly in the role of catalyst. His telephone call April 2 to Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa indicated he had conferred with all the G-7 leaders within the past several weeks, seeking consensus on helping Russia.

Action has clustered around the Clinton-Yeltsin summit. Along with the Paris Club easing its terms, Britain announced it was doubling its aid to Russia and Canada announced it would resume grain shipments again, even though Russia is still $400 million behind on payments. (Yeltsin emphasizes trade and investment, Page 6.)

The administration expects Japan and other allies to make similar announcements before the Tokyo G-7 meeting April 14-15. The meeting is intended to move aid to Russia ahead of the regular G-7 summit next summer.

The Paris Club decision laid the serious groundwork for easing Russian economic problems. Further debt rescheduling may follow by other creditors.

The next priority for the Russians is to contain inflation. Western aid efforts failed last year because the Russians failed to meet Western conditions for anti-inflation discipline. This year, Clinton aides hope that the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development can design "graduated" conditions so that stabilization funds can begin supporting reforms early and increase as they grow.

About these ads

The aid program that Clinton offered Russian President Boris Yeltsin this weekend includes $700 million for food that the Russians can buy on credit. This means primarily wheat and grain the Russians may need in the next several months before Russia's own harvest becomes available. It is by far the biggest element in Clinton's package.

In addition, the package includes $194 billion in food grants to be delivered to the Russian government for distribution, auctioned off in commodities exchanges, or delivered through private voluntary organizations.

THE Clinton administration concluded new agreements with Moscow last week to give another $215 million to help Moscow reduce its nuclear forces. The US had already agreed to provide $150 million in such aid. The new agreements would help the Russians eliminate ballistic missiles, submarines, and heavy bombers that deliver nuclear weapons. They would also help build a storage facility for fissionable materials and create a better system for accounting for and controlling nuclear materials.

In an echo of an initiative by President Kennedy 30 years ago, Clinton is proposing a "Democracy Corps Initiative" for steeping Russians in the ways of democratic institutions. The White House estimates that about 3,000 Russians will be brought to the US in 1993, most of them for student exchanges. Others will undertake some training in American universities or workplaces, learning banking or American-style journalism.

American officials said Clinton arrived at the summit prepared to listen to Mr. Yeltsin and his reform plans to learn what sort of help he might need. But any further initiatives will force Clinton to go to Congress for more money.

To get it, he will need to campaign for it, to persuade the Congress and the public that aid to Russia matters. His most thorough stating of the case was in a speech in Annapolis, Md., April 1. Russia, he said, "presents the greatest security challenge for our generation and offers one of the greatest economic opportunities of our lifetime."

To divert resources in defense against a threatening Russia would crimp the American economy, he said. "Therefore, our ability to put people first at home requires that we put Russia and its neighbors first on our agenda abroad," he added.

Clinton's personal relations with Yeltsin seemed to be strong from the start this weekend. They spent an hour-and-a-half over lunch with Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney talking intensively about the referendum Yeltsin faces on April 25. Clinton and Mr. Mulroney gave him campaign advice. "I think they're going to have a productive and very effective relationship. I was impressed," said Mulroney of Clinton and Yeltsin.

The contrast with the Bush administration is stark. Bush and his top aides found Yeltsin to be unpredictable, a maverick. They preferred to deal with Mikhail Gorbachev.

"I am very satisfied," said Yeltsin after a summit event. "We developed a kind of psychological understanding, contact with each other."

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.