Bush supports wider U.N. role in peacekeeping Pentagon to adapt its training, he says

no troops pledged

September 22, 1992|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS -- President Bush declared a strengthened U.S. commitment yesterday to the United Nations' ever-widening mandate to prevent conflicts and keep the peace.

Without pledging specific new money or troops, Mr. Bush said the Pentagon would assume a bigger role in joining, training and supporting peacekeeping operations.

"Because of peacekeeping's growing importance as a mission for the United States military, we will emphasize training of combat, engineering and logistical units for the full range of peacekeeping and humanitarian activities," he said.

Mr. Bush's plan points the way to a potentially significant new role for the U.S. military, which has had only a very limited role recently in U.N. peacekeeping operations and which, along with the former Soviet Union, stayed out of peacekeeping operations for much of the Cold War.

He outlined his ideas in a speech to the United Nations yesterday that served to rebut charges by Democratic challenger Bill Clinton that Mr. Bush was a "status quo" president who had failed to meet the challenges of the post-Cold-War world.

In a pitch that is bound to beviewed as politically motivated, the president proposed Fort Dix, N.J., as a center for training multinational peacekeeping forces. Fort Dix has been targeted for closing, and that is a key concern to some voters in New Jersey, an important state in Mr. Bush's re-election drive.

Mr. Bush also pressed for deeper U.N. Security Council involvement in preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The president pledged a radical restructuring of the U.S. foreign-aid apparatus to stimulate free-market capitalism in the developing world.

He also proposed $1 billion in grants and credits for U.S. businesses to provide expertise, goods and services in the developing world.

Without specifying exactly where this money would come from, he said it would be drawn from "existing foreign affairs resources." The U.S. foreign aid budget, constantly under attack on Capitol Hill, thus could be pinched further.

The White House said the move could create 40,000 U.S. jobs.

While pledging to "explore new ways to ensure adequate American financial support" for U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian activities, Mr. Bush did not offer specific sums.

The United States currently is $208 million in arrears on &r payments of its share for U.N. peacekeeping forces and $524 million in arrears in its share of the U.N. budget.

Mr. Bush's peacekeeping proposals came in the wake of pressure from U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali for the creation of "peace-enforcement units." These units, from U.N. member countries, would be designed to make, as opposed to keep, the peace. They would be more heavily armed and would need more training than peacekeeping forces.

Mr. Boutros-Ghali recommended that the new forces be under the secretary-general's command.

The president rejected any idea of a standing army under U.N. control, something the White House called "unworkable and illusionary."

Mr. Bush said, "Member states, as always, must retain the final decision on the use of their troops, of course."

But he did endorse the overall idea of supplying forces that go beyond the traditional role of keeping warring armies apart after a cease-fire has been declared.

"We must develop our ability to coordinate peacekeeping efforts so that we can mobilize quickly when a threat to peace arises or when people in need look to the world for help," he said.

His proposal comes as the United Nations has peacekeeping forces deployed in many parts of the world to try to control conflicts or monitor cease-fires in Europe, Asia and Africa.

One of the most serious of these is the war raging in the former Yugoslavia, where the United States has come closest to getting involved. Even there, the United States has made it clear there will be no commitment of U.S. ground troops. Viewing the conflict as mostly a European responsibility, the United States is only supplying air and naval support for relief efforts.

The United States has only a few military personnel in Cambodia, site of the biggest U.N. peacekeeping operation.

Mr. Bush offered the United States' "considerable lift, logistics, communications and intelligence capabilities to support peacekeeping operations," as well as exercises to "strengthen our ability to undertake joint peacekeeping operations."

He also said he had ordered the establishment of a peacekeeping curriculum in U.S. military schools and offered U.S. bases as international training sites.

The prospect of a bigger U.S. military role in peacemaking may alarm non-aligned countries wary of the United States' acting as global policeman.

Mr. Bush gave no indication of the size of the U.S. commitment. Nor did he suggest where, among various near-conflicts, he would want to intervene.

Some administration officials had urged that a special U.S. unit be designated for peacekeeping. The president didn't go this far, but a senior administration official suggested that forces in the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army would be "superb as peacekeepers."

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