Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Donors Meet in Washington to Iron out Aid Differences

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Donors Meet in Washington to Iron out Aid Differences

Article excerpt

AFTER several weeks of jockeying, sniping, second-guessing, and feather-smoothing, top representatives of some 60 nations and international organizations will sit down together here tomorrow to discuss aid coordination in the former Soviet Union.

The debate over whether the conference should be in Washington, given that Europe (particularly Germany) leads in donations, is now moot. But other differences of opinion remain, including debate over just how dire the food situation in the ex-USSR could become this winter.

Still, a key point of agreement has emerged on the eve of the two-day conference: The meeting will serve a useful function, even if it does not produce promises of greater aid.

United States and European officials have stated repeatedly that the aim of the conference is to coordinate existing aid, not to serve as a pledging conference, thus downplaying expectations for any dramatic announcements.

But with foreign ministers and other top officials from the West, Eastern Europe, wealthy Persian Gulf nations, the third world, and international organizations, including NATO, gathered in one spot, the meeting will serve a greater role than mere technical coordination in emergency provisions of food, shelter, and energy.

More important, the conference will focus world attention on the daunting challenge of transforming the formerly communist giant into a commonwealth of democratic, economically viable nations.

"It has to be a very strong political signal to have the presence of the ministers," says a German official here.

"I think the basic idea is to show all those countries who are more or less directly affected by the developments in the former Soviet Union that it is in their interest to join the club, so to speak, to bring this country over this winter, to avoid a dramatic, chaotic development which might spill over in a way which would heavily affect all the neighbors of this former {union}," says another German official based in Washington. Revising current levels

If the assembled dignitaries conclude that aid in the pipeline and in reserve is not sufficient, the high-level dynamic of the conference could produce its own pressure to consider additional funds.

"If you look at what you have and what you need, and there's a gap, people will say, 'OK, who now is prepared to raise a hand? said the second German official.

Germany itself, though, may be cool to the idea of donating more. It holds the top spot among all foreign donors of assistance to the new Commonwealth of Independent States, with some estimates above 80 percent of all Western aid to the 11 former Soviet republics.

Foreign aid figures are difficult to compare, US officials point out. Germany includes in its total of $35 billion pledged or delivered a sizable portion for the resettlement of the 370,000 Soviet troops based in what was East Germany. …

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