U.S. allies give fraction of aid pledged for gulf

November 16, 1990|By Richard H. P. Sia | Richard H. P. Sia,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- More than two months after the United States asked its allies to help defray the huge cost of military operations in the Persian Gulf, the Defense Department has received only a small fraction of the promised financial aid, Pentagon records show.

The department's special "Defense Cooperation Account" shows a balance of $1.63 billion as of Oct. 31, with only two countries -- Kuwait and Japan -- making good on even a portion of their financial pledges.

The amount is barely enough to offset a single month of U.S. operations in the region, several independent analysts said. If war breaks out, by some estimates it could cost $1 billion a day.

The exiled leaders of Kuwait, who made a $2.5 billion financial commitment to the U.S. military, delivered five payments of $250 million each last month, with Japan chipping in $376 million on Oct. 25, according to records obtained by The Sun. Japan has promised $2 billion in money and other support through March, Pentagon officials said.

U.S. officials declared yesterday they were satisfied with the international response so far, but members of Congress continued to rail against what they consider the stinginess of the foreign governments opposed to Iraq's occupation of Kuwait. Some lawmakers faulted the Bush administration for not prodding the United States' wealthier allies to shoulder more of the financial and military burden.

With a near doubling of U.S. forces in the region certain to increase the bill, the administration must now exert more pressure to boost allied military and financial contributions if it expects most Americans to support a possible war, said Representative Les Aspin, D-Wis., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

"If Americans are critical today of the relative unwillingness of others -- chiefly Europeans and the Japanese -- to share the burden of this confrontation, imagine how critical, even furious, they are likely to be when they see few others paying the blood price," he said.

The Pentagon has yet to release revised cost estimates for the new buildup of offensive forces, although an unreleased Congressional Budget Office memorandum, drafted Wednesday, estimated a cost increase of 63 percent over levels associated with the initial deployment of roughly 210,000 troops.

In early September, the Pentagon had forecast a $15 billion cost for that initial military operation through fiscal 1991, telling Congress it hoped to offset about half that amount with direct foreign contributions.

At that time, President Bush sent Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady on what one official called "an international United Way campaign" that brought pledges from more than a dozen countries totaling $20 billion.

About $10 billion in money, equipment or services would support U.S. military operations. The rest would be set aside for Egypt, Jordan and Turkey to ease financial losses stemming from the trade sanctions against Iraq.

To date, Saudi Arabia has pledged $10 billion, with almost $5 billion to underwrite U.S. military costs and the rest for the ailing, front-line states. The Saudis also have provided base facilities, water, fuel, food and other resources to U.S. and foreign armies.

"Clearly, the government of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia can help considerably to defray the U.S. dollar cost of this deployment," Mr. Aspin said.

"Given the rise in oil prices and in Saudi oil production, the Saudis -- conservatively -- stand to enjoy windfall profits of roughly $150 million a day," he said. "Since the confrontation with [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein is now almost 15 weeks old, the Saudis have already earned significantly more than they have pledged to the effort. Money does not grow on trees, but in Saudi Arabia it does spew from derricks."

Pentagon account records, reflecting activity between Aug. 6 and Oct. 31, show that total deposits of $1.63 billion were wired to the Federal Reserve Bank in New York and then invested in short-term Treasury bills at interest rates slightly below 7.5 percent.

Defense officials said they still expected to see more foreign financial contributions, including $260 million pledged from Germany and $50 million from South Korea. Overall, Germany has promised support worth $1.05 billion, including the money and such other contributions as $130 million worth of chemical warfare reconnaissance trucks. The South Korean package totals $95 million.

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