Senate approves $225 M for Ukraine

by Eugene Iwanciw

WASHINGTON - In a 93 to 7 vote, the U.S. Senate on July 26 approved the Foreign Assistance Appropriations Act for fiscal year 1997. The House of Representatives had previously passed the bill. Containing an earmark of $225 million of assistance for Ukraine only in the Senate version, the bill now moves to the House-Senate conference committee for resolution of the differences between the two bills.

In its report, the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee wrote: "The committee commends the administration for its support during fiscal year 1996 for reform efforts in Ukraine, a struggling nation whose independence is key to a peaceful Europe. Although the committee has not earmarked funds for Ukraine, or any other nation, it expects the coordinator to allocate to Ukraine approximately the requested level of funding, subject to continuing progress in economic reform."

The House subcommittee, however, reduced the president's request of $640 million in assistance for the new independent states (NIS), from which aid to Ukraine is provided, by $50 million. The administration's planning documents indicated spending of about $170 million for Ukraine if the full NIS appropriations was approved.

The Senate Foreign Operations Subcommittee pursued a far different approach in assistance to Ukraine. In addition to fully funding the administration's NIS request at $640 million, the Senate earmarked $225 million of assistance for Ukraine, $95 million for Armenia and $25 million for Georgia. The subcommittee, under the chairmanship of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), took the further step of sub-earmarking the Ukrainian assistance for particular programs.

The sub-earmarks include $25 million as part of the U.S. contribution to the decommissioning of the Chornobyl nuclear plant, $35 million for agricultural projects, $5 million for a small business incubator project, $5 million for screening and treatment of childhood mental and physical illnesses related to Chornobyl radiation, and $50 million to improve safety at nuclear reactors.

The Senate subcommittee also devoted two pages of its report to Ukraine, which set a different tone from that of the House. It begins: "The committee is extremely disappointed by the administration's continued reluctance to seriously and fully address Ukraine's requirements. The USAID mission in this country and the program administrators in Washington have preferred to expand existing contracts with Russian-based organizations rather than assess and respond to the unique social, economic and political requirements in Ukraine."

As the Senate subcommittee was going to mark-up on the legislation, The Washington Times carried a story claiming that Ukraine and Libya had entered into "strategic cooperation." While Ukraine has denied that such an agreement exists, the Senate committee added a provision to the law stating: "Funds appropriated under this heading may not be made available for the government of Ukraine if the president determines and reports to the committees on appropriations that the government of Ukraine is engaged in military cooperation with the government of Libya."

Similar language was added regarding Russia's sale of nuclear technology to Iran. The Senate-passed bill states: "None of the funds appropriated under this heading may be made available for Russia unless the president determines and certifies in writing to the committees on appropriations that the government of Russia has terminated implementation of arrangements to provide Iran with technical expertise, training, technology, or equipment necessary to develop a nuclear reactor or related nuclear research facilities or programs."

The committee also retained language from previous years regarding aggression by any NIS nation. The proposed law reads: "None of the funds appropriated under this heading shall be made available to any government of the new independent states of the former Soviet Union if that government directs any action in violation of the territorial integrity or national sovereignty of any other new independent state, such as those violations included in the Helsinki Final Act."

During Senate consideration of the foreign aid bill, a series of amendments were adopted relating to Central and Eastern Europe, including an amendment by Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.) earmarking $11 million of assistance to Mongolia, an amendment by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) condeming Russia's infringement of the cease-fire agreements in Chechnya, an amendment by Sens. Hank Brown (R-Colo.) and Paul Simon (D-Ill.) similar to the NATO Expansion Bill passed by the House of Representatives, and an amendment by Sen. Brown commending Romania for its progress in democratic reform.

An amendment by Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.) earmarking $5 million for a environmental and natural resource institute in Ukraine also was approved as was an amendment by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) designating $25 million of NIS funds for commercial law reform.

The Clinton administration has stated its opposition to the earmarks for Ukraine, Armenia and Georgia, and has indicated its strong opposition to the various sub-earmarks included in the Senate bill.

The subcommittees of the two houses will meet in a House-Senate conference to resolve the differences between the two versions of the bill when the Congress returns after Labor Day.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, August 18, 1996, No. 33, Vol. LXIV

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