WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama has unveiled his $3.8 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year 2013, a plan meant to spur job growth and institute "difficult cuts," including reductions in U.S. assistance to Eurasia.
The budget, which now heads to Congress, has little chance of becoming law amid the starkly partisan climate in Washington and the political maneuvering of an election year.
But speaking at a campaign-style event near Washington, Obama said his plan would keep the country's fragile economy moving in the right direction.
"The main idea in the budget is this: At a time when our economy is growing and creating jobs at a faster clip, we've got to do everything in our power to keep this recovery on track," he said. "Part of our job is to bring down our deficit, and if Congress adopts this budget, then along with the cuts that we've already made, we'll be able to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion by the year 2022."
The envisioned savings would come from tax increases on the wealthiest Americans and through cuts in various government agencies.
While the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) would see a 1.6 percent increase in their budgets, bringing their total funding to $51.6 billion for 2013, some areas would take a hit.
Assistance to Europe and Eurasia would experience an 18 percent reduction, which the State Department said reflected "the successful transition of a number of countries to market-based democracies."
But the department also said the cuts reflected "hard trade-offs."
Without mentioning specifics, Obama also acknowledged that some of his suggested areas for saving were not ideal.
"I'm proposing some difficult cuts that, frankly, I wouldn't normally make if they weren't absolutely necessary -- but they are. And the truth is we're going to have to make some tough choices in order to put this country back on a more sustainable fiscal path," he said.
We're going to have to make some tough choices in order to put this country back on a more sustainable fiscal path.
Under the proposed budget, civilian assistance to Ukraine would amount to $54 million. That's the largest total in the Eurasian region, despite being some $25 million less than the amount requested in Obama's 2012 budget.
According to the State Department, the funds are meant to help mitigate the country's "worsening backsliding on democratic reform."
Georgia would receive nearly $43 million in nonmilitary aid under the proposed budget, representing another $25 million drop compared to last year's White House proposal. The funds would be used to "help strengthen institutional checks and balances and the rule of law" and "increase energy security," among other goals.
Kosovo would be the third-highest recipient of aid in the region, and Russia, with a reduced allotment of $36.2 million, would be fourth-highest. The funds would be used to support the country's beleaguered civil society and to support conflict mitigation programs in the North Caucasus, among other objectives.
Uzbekistan would receive $1.5 million in military financing aid from the State Department under the budget, representing a 50 percent increase from last year's proposal. Tashkent has provided significant logistical support to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan as a supply-line country.
The 2013 budget would give the State Department 10 percent less for Iraq than in fiscal year 2012, despite its increased role there after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
It cites more than $800 billion in savings in the coming years from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama's plan also calls for setting aside some $800 million to support reforms in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Written by Richard Solash.