The well-intentioned effort to use United States tax dollars to influence significantly the course of events in Russia and Ukraine died a quiet death over the past few months. Born in 1991 as a $400 million bipartisan congressional initiative to reduce the threat from excess Soviet weapons of mass destruction, by 1993 aid to Russia and Ukraine had become a $3 billion hobby shop. When Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin met in September 1994, with few concrete results to show for the time and money invested in aid, the two frustrated leaders quietly agreed to focus on trade and investment. The Russians, badly cast as supplicants, were relieved.
This is not to say that the winding up of grant aid programs will end claims by the former Soviet Union on the United States Treasury. The disturbing Russian and Ukrainian habit of ignoring bills due could result in future claims against federal export credit and investment agencies that far exceed the $4 billion already disbursed in grant aid between 1991 and 1994. This year alone, $900 million in agricultural loans have been rescheduled. Moreover, massive disbursements from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank could lead to future losses by their largest shareholder, the United States. No doubt pundits will seek again to attribute setbacks in Moscow to a lack of support from Washington. It may therefore be useful to provide a brief draft history, before it is revised, of recent American aid to Russia and Ukraine.