Clinton outlines U.S. policy on world peacekeeping

May 06, 1994|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- With flash points exploding around the world, President Clinton announced stricter guidelines yesterday for U.S. involvement in international peacekeeping operations and has rejected the creation of a United Nations standing army.

In a new peacekeeping policy document released yesterday, the administration refuses to "earmark specific U.S. military units for participation in U.N. operations." This blocks a move by some members of Congress and the United Nations to establish a permanent U.N. "foreign legion" composed of troops from member nations, including the United States, that would operate under U.N. control.

Under the Clinton blueprint, the U.N. Security Council must assess the scope, mission, duration, resources and risks of each operation before committing forces, and the United States would use its veto power if necessary.

Although the new approach will put stricter limits on U.S. participation, the 18 U.N. peacekeeping operations now being conducted are unlikely to be affected immediately, according to Mr. Clinton's national security adviser, Anthony Lake.

"Neither we nor the international community have a mandate or the resources to resolve every conflict," Mr. Lake said.

Madeleine Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told members of Congress yesterday: "[The new policy] is not designed to expand U.N. peacekeeping, but rather to help fix it, to make multilateral peace operations more selective and effective. The U.N.'s resources have been stretched perilously thin by the dramatic increase in peacekeeping requests it has received."

The major share of these costs has been borne by the United States. The new policy is intended to reduce the nation's 32 percent share of annual U.N. peacekeeping costs to 25 percent by Jan. 1, 1996.

This year, the United States is expected to be assessed more than $1 billion for U.N. peacekeeping costs. This amount is out of reach because money appropriated by Congress for peacekeeping last year had to be used to pay the previous year's commitments. Additional costs are likely to be incurred for new or expanded peacekeeping operations. The administration is holding talks with lawmakers on how to pay down the debt.

Under the Clinton plan, other nations would pay more of the international bill, which is so underfunded that some nations have yet to be paid for their previous and current peacekeeping services. This has made it difficult to organize U.N. forces, a problem the United Nations faces as it considers its response to the crisis in Rwanda.

The new policy recognizes peacekeeping as "one useful tool" for resolving conflicts. It says: "Peace operations are not and cannot be the centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy."

Peacekeeping will not be allowed to interfere with the Pentagon's primary responsibility of being able to fight two regional wars nearly simultaneously to protect U.S. national interests.

"If peacekeeping operations ever conflicted with our ability to carry out [that responsibility], we would pull out of peace operations to serve our primary military purpose," Mr. Lake said.

The new policy sets conditions for U.S. financial, logistical and political involvement in peacekeeping operations. These include:

* Advancing U.S. interests.

* Threats to international peace from aggression, humanitarian disaster or violations of democracy.

* Clear objectives for the mission.

* A cease-fire in place before peacekeeping operations begin.

* "Significant" threat to international peace before peace enforcement operations begin.

* The threat of "unacceptable" political, economic and humanitarian costs if no action is taken.

* Realistic prospects of ending the operation.

For U.S. troops to participate in such operations, the criteria become stiffer. They include "acceptable" risk, adequate resources, and the conviction that U.S. involvement is needed for the operation's success. Clear objectives and an "end point" for U.S. participation must be set, and the operation must have congressional and voter support.

If combat is likely to involve U.S. troops, the administration says, sufficient forces with clearly defined objectives must be available to "decisively" carry out any plan. The size, composition and deployment of U.S. forces would be subject to adjustment.

U.S. troops on international missions will remain under the command of the president. But, as commander-in-chief, the president has authority to place U.S. troops under the control of a foreign commander. This happened in World Wars I and II and the Persian Gulf war.

The policy states: "The greater the anticipated U.S. military role, the less likely it will be that the U.S. will agree to have a U.N. commander exercise overall operational control over U.S. forces."

Combat operations involving U.S. troops, it adds, should be conducted under U.S. control.

"The central conclusion of the study is that properly conceived and well-executed peacekeeping can be a very important and useful tool of American foreign policy," Mr. Lake said.

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