How Reliable Is US Diplomacy?

By David D. Newsom. David D. Newsom, former undersecretary of state, is Cumming Memorial Professor of International Affairs . | The Christian Science Monitor, May 10, 1995 | Go to article overview

How Reliable Is US Diplomacy?


David D. Newsom. David D. Newsom, former undersecretary of state, is Cumming Memorial Professor of International Affairs ., The Christian Science Monitor


TWO recent congressional moves relating to Russia and Jordan demonstrate the difficulty of maintaining the credibility of US diplomacy.

In 1993, after President Boris Yeltsin had survived a right-wing challenge to his leadership, the Clinton administration pledged $1.6 billion in aid to Russia. The action was praised in a letter to President Clinton by four ex-presidents, three of them Republicans: Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan. Congress was also broadly supportive of the aid package. A significant part of the package was the Nunn-Lugar initiative to help destroy Russia's nuclear weapons.

But now, in 1995, the Republican-dominated Congress, on the eve of President Clinton's diplomacy in Moscow, is balking at further aid to Russia and questioning funds already appropriated. Even the Nunn-Lugar legislation -- a plan solidly in US interests -- has been challenged, although most observers believe it will survive.

King Hussein, showing remarkable courage, signed a peace treaty with Israel in October 1994. The United States played a significant role in encouraging the king's move and rewarded it with a pledge of $275 million in debt relief. The peace treaty at the time won strong backing in Congress; Israel, with many friends on Capitol Hill, urged Congress to support the debt-relief commitment fully. Notwithstanding such support, some in the House of Representatives are now proposing that the debt-forgiveness pledge be reduced to $50 million.

Both commitments, to Russia and to Jordan, were made in full accordance with US constitutional processes. Countries have reason to expect that when such pledges carry both executive and congressional approval, they are valid. …

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