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Washington Journal: Clinton Seeks More U.S. Money For Former Soviet States

Washington, 2 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. State Department is asking for more money to help the states of the former Soviet Union and less for Central and Eastern Europe next year in a budget that seeks to promote democracy, freedom and peace around the globe.

President Bill Clinton submitted his request to the U.S. Congress on Monday for the funds to operate the federal government in the financial year that begins October 1. The State Department's proposed share of the budget is $21.31 billion, about $1.5 billion more than the current fiscal year.

It is up to the U.S. Congress to approve a final spending document. Political battles between the executive and legislative branches of the federal government over the budget are a traditional part of the governing process in the United States.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told reporters her department's budget focuses on security, democracy, human rights and the easing of regional tensions.

Albright said: "Since the Cold War's end, there has been a tendency to shortchange our international programs, and there is grave danger in this. For we live at a time when -- perhaps more than ever before in history -- America is counted on to help resolve conflicts, cope with emergencies, overcome obstacles on the road to security, prosperity, and freedom. We can't respond ourselves to every flood, famine, or fight; we must insist that others do their share."

Albright added: "But do not doubt that the forces of evil, ambition, and desperation that have roiled our globe in the past are still in evidence today. If we are but penny-wise and yield to the temptation of complacency, we will invite the dangers, both overt and latent, in the world to grow and spread. But if we're far-sighted enough to move along the path set out by the president's budget, we will give momentum to the positive forces of democracy and openness, hope and respect for human dignity. These are forces that have been embattled throughout the current century, but which we would like to see define the next. It is with this stark choice in mind that I will be making the case for the president's budget to Congress and the American people in the weeks and months ahead."

Some details of the State Department's proposals for assistance to the former Soviet States were also released. The U.S. wants $1.032 billion for economic assistance programs for all of the former Soviet Republics. That's about $200 million more than what will be spent in the current year. The State Department wants the extra money to help tighten security over former Soviet nuclear weapons.

The State Department's foreign aid budget calls for spending $393 million on the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including the Baltic nations. That is about $100 million less than the current budget. The U.S. is gradually phasing out many economic assistance programs as more Central and East European states speed their transitions to democratic, free-market states.

Under the proposal, the Russian Federation would receive $295 million and Ukraine would be allocated $219 million.

Assistance for the other now independent states of the former Soviet Union includes: Armenia $71.5 million; Azerbaijan (strictly for humanitarian purposes) $33.5 million; Belarus $10.5 million; Georgia $83.5 million; Kazakhstan $53.5 million; Kyrgyzstan $34.5 million; Moldova $73.5 million; Tajikistan $12 million; Turkmenistan $12 million; Uzbekistan $37.5 million.

There would be an additional $95 million allocated for what the State Department called regional assistance for the former Soviet states.

The largest single assistance to support democracy in Eastern and Central Europe would go to Bosnia with $175 million for reconstruction. This amount is $20 million less than last year's funding level and it is justified, the department said, given the progress in economic reconstruction already achieved.

The embattled Kosovo province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia would get $55 million to help refugees.