Bonn and Tokyo on Notice

September 12, 1990

President Bush spoke before a Congress last night that is remarkably united behind his military stand in the Persian Gulf but restive about the degree of support being offered by key allies -- especially West Germany and Japan. Before the president addressed a joint session of the House and Senate, several Republicans voiced bitter complaints aimed at Bonn and Tokyo. After his speech, House majority leader Richard Gephardt made this the central theme of an otherwise supportive Democratic response.

Mr. Bush, operating under obvious diplomatic restraints, was far more muted about the performance of NATO allies and Japan. After saying "we are prepared to do our share and more... [but] we insist that others do their share as well," he was conspicuously close-mouthed on the subject of Euro-Japanese military efforts, or the lack thereof. Instead, he limited his specific tributes to the pledges of financial, food and fuel assistance from Saudi Arabia, the exiled Kuwaiti government and the United Emirates.

This could become a major issue as costs of the Gulf commitment mount. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney jacked up the price tag through fiscal 1991 to $15 billion in testimony before Congress and warned it could multiply if the crisis flares into military action. Various nations have tentatively pledged perhaps half that amount to Cabinet members touring the world hat in hand. The disparity between U.S. efforts and those of allies even more dependent on Persian Gulf oil is particularly rankling because it coincides with a showdown in the long budget fight between the White House and Congress. Yesterday, negotiators seemed to move closer to a $50 billion deficit-reduction agreement rendered somewhat moot by the financial burdens of sending a 100,000-man expeditionary force halfway around the world.

As Washington grouses, Tokyo writhes and Bonn seeks justification in the heavy financial burdens of its unification with East Germany on Oct. 3. Chancellor Helmut Kohl has agreed that Germany should not "sit on the sidelines" but is hobbled by a pacifist constitution that can't be amended until after Dec. 2 elections. Japanese spokesmen, stung by charges from Republican senators that its performance has been "greedy," "contemptible" and "appalling" were quick to say more aid was coming. Mr. Gephardt said "when young Americans stand on the front lines" the least the Japanese and Germans can do is make a "financial sacrifice" of their own."

We trust Bonn and Tokyo will get the message. If they prove wanting in this crisis, they can expect less U.S. support for their own security and a dangerous increase in Fortress America sentiment when it is all over.

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