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Bush Pushes The Allies But Not Too Hard

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As the U. S. girds for a fateful showdown with Iraq, congressional critics are taking potshots at America's allies in the Persian Gulf crisis. They say such well-heeled countries as Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates aren't bearing nearly enough of the cost of Operation Desert Shield, which could hit $1 billion a day if shooting starts.

The monied states did pledge $10 billion for the effort last fall, but, since then, the U. S. has announced a doubling of its forces in the region to 430,000, and the cost of the intervention could hit $30 billion this year--without a war. Even a peaceful resolution could require the U. S. to keep as many as 100,000 troops in the region indefinitely, military analysts say. Faced with a budget deficit that may hit $325 billion, the Administration is now asking its allies to cough up billions of dollars more.

RATTLING CUP. Secretary of State James A. Baker III will be doing a little fund-raising with the allies as he jets around Europe and the gulf in the last few days before the Jan. 15 deadline for Iraq to exit Kuwait. But don't expect him to rattle his tin cup very hard. Although the U. S. can use all the financial assistance it can get, the Administration fears that unless Washington continues to bear the bulk of the cost, it will lose control of military strategy to its gun-shy allies.

Still, in the coming weeks Baker will prod some slow-paying allies to make good on their original pledges. Japan has only paid about a third of the $2 billion pledged. "Disbursement of Japanese funds for the multilateral peacekeeping forces has not been as quick as we hoped," complains one U. S. official. The Administration also wants the Japanese to increase their contribution to reflect the increasing costs of the gulf operation, but Japan's Finance Minister recently ruled out any new pledges, at least until April.

A recent General Accounting Office report that has Congress riled says Germany has come up with only about a third of its promised $1 billion. But Bonn insists it has paid two-thirds of the aid, and American military officials praise the Germans for their quick shipment of high-quality materiel. Still, the relatively modest contributions of the two industrial superpowers, Japan and Germany, which depend far more than the U. S. on Middle East oil, will continue to be a sore point in Washington as the crisis unfolds.

The congressional critics complain that the gulf states aren't ponying up enough, either. Saudi Arabia has given the Pentagon an open-ended commitment, and Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have offered $3.5 billion. But those payments represent only a fraction of the windfall the Saudis and the emirates have reaped from surging oil prices. Fareed Mohamedi, an economist at Petroleum Finance Co., a Washington-based energy consulting firm, calculates that Saudi Arabia's total oil exports soared from $30.4 billion in 1989 to $49.2 billion in 1990.

Saudi Ambassador Bandar bin Sultan denies that his country is profiteering on the crisis. In a letter to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.), Bandar said: "Additional Saudi costs as a consequence of the crisis will more than absorb that expected additional revenue." On top of underwriting $3 billion worth of U. S. military costs (table), the Saudis have doled out $3.65 billion in economic aid to poorer nearby states, boosted their own military spending by $1.7 billion, and purchased $7.6 billion worth of U. S. weapons. "It's important to look at the big picture," says Mohamedi. "The Saudis practically single-handedly stabilized the oil markets. And the U. S. would not have met its foreign-policy aims in the gulf if the Saudis had not paid money to Turkey and Egypt."

That argument hasn't convinced many people on Capitol Hill. Contributions from coalition partners have been "disgraceful," says Senator Timothy E. Wirth (D-Colo.). Declares House Middle East subcommittee Chairman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.): "We have to press the allies very, very hard for more help." And House Budget Committee Chairman Leon E. Panetta (D-Calif.) argues that America's allies should underwrite "at least 50%" of the cost of U. S. military muscle.

NEW ERA? Congressional critics complain that Desert Shield is turning out to be a U. S. operation with just a veneer of international support. "Everyone hoped we could begin a new era in which other nations would assume responsibility for peace in the world," says Panetta. "This is not the kind of new world order the President envisioned."

To ease such criticism, Bush has to put the squeeze on the allies. But, as long as the threat of war hangs over the Middle East, he really doesn't want them to chip in too much. The last thing he wants is for dovish partners to buy a big say in a military operation in which the U. S. would bear 90% of the casualties--and in which his political career is at stake.THE ALLIES ANTE UP

Pledged to U.S. Contributed to date

Millions of dollars*

SAUDI ARABIA Open-ended $3,000

KUWAIT $2,500 2,503

JAPAN 2,000 720

GERMANY 1,072 690

UAE 1,000 280


Estimated U.S. cost of Operation Desert Shield through fiscal 1991, assuming no

war: $30 billion

*Cash and in-kind contributions




Amy Borrus in Washington, with Gail E. Schares in Bonn, Ted Holden in Tokyo, and Blanca Riemer in Paris

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