Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan See Boosts In U.S. Aid
Georgia would see a big boost in its U.S. military and economic aid under the White House's new proposed budget, while aid to most of the rest of the region would decline.
Under the budget proposed on February 2, Georgia would get $20 million in Foreign Military Financing aid (which allows the country to buy equipment from the U.S.) in Fiscal Year 2016. That's double the amount proposed last year (it's not yet clear how much of that was actually disbursed). From the State Department document explaining the proposal:
Funds will be used to advance Georgia’s development of forces capable of enhancing security, countering Russian aggression, and contributing to coalition operations. This will include support for such things as upgrades to Georgia’s rotary wing air transport capabilities, advisory and defense reform, and modernization of Georgia’s military institutions.
"Countering Russia" is a priority for the U.S. across the region. Georgian economic aid (up from $38 million to $50 million) would be aimed at supporting "Euro-Atlantic integration and resistance to Russian pressure." Moldova's economic aid would support "European integration and mitigate vulnerabilities to Russian trade bans and other forms of pressure." Ukraine's will "support new initiatives to counter Russian pressure and aggressive action." Regional economic aid to Central Asia is intended to"foster resilience to economic pressures owing to Russian political influence and overreliance on remittances."
The budget documents described a variety of programs for the U.S. under Georgia's economic aid:
FY 2016 resources will continue to support Georgia’s democratization, economic development, Euro-Atlantic integration, and resistance to Russian pressure. U.S. programs will help strengthen institutional checks and balances and the rule of law; develop a more vibrant civil society; promote political pluralism; increase energy security and clean energy; promote reforms necessary to foster economic development; expand private-sector competitiveness; and attract foreign investment. U.S. programs will have a focus on Science, Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (STIP). Increased funding will expand support to displaced persons within communities along the Administrative Boundary Lines with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, for example, through small scale infrastructure and income generation projects for vulnerable households. U.S. assistance also will improve access to independent, reliable, and balanced media to those living within the occupied territories.
The other two countries in the region which saw their total aid packages increase were Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. While security assistance to each country remained about the same as from last year's request, economic aid to each would be increased under this budget: from $36.3 to $45.6 million for Kyrgyzstan, and $21.1 to $28.4 million for Tajikistan. For Kyrgyzstan:
U.S. assistance will support democratic institutions, helping the Kyrgyz Republic to consolidate its progress toward accountable, inclusive governance, and working towards increased economic opportunities and increased resilience to external shocks. Programs will also aim to address chronic instability by bolstering civil society, support the rule of law and human rights, empower the private sector as a means to foster economic growth, and address key social issues such as education. Assistance will also support domestic energy policy reform to increase energy efficiency.
U.S. assistance will enhance Tajikistan’s stability, particularly along its long and porous border with Afghanistan. Programs will help build economic resiliency so that Tajikistan is less reliant on remittances, which make up fifty percent of its GDP, and less vulnerable to external pressures. Assistance will strengthen local governance and provide training opportunities to secure skilled employment. Programs will address systemic problems that contribute to food shortages such as inequitable access to water, inadequate supplies of seeds and fertilizer, a lack of modern technologies, and poor farm practices. [Economic Support Funds] will also help increase literacy rates, help young people find employment, and support domestic energy policy reform to increase energy efficiency.
Central Asia regional economic aid programs would get $21.7 million (up from $16.9 million last year):
U.S. assistance will continue to support regional cross-border activities under the New Silk Road initiative, which aims to further Afghanistan’s economic integration into the broader region and increase Central Asia’s access to diverse markets. Specifically, these resources will fund projects that increase economic growth and trade, including improving the transit of legal goods and services across borders, increase regional cooperation on the use of energy resources, increase cooperation and rational use of water and other natural resources, and improve governance along trade and transit corridors.
Interestingly, none of the Central Asian countries has been given Foreign Military Financing aid for FY2016, but the amount devoted to "Central Asia Regional" programs was $3.2 million, roughly the same as the region was promised last year.
The aggregate figures:
Armenia: $22.4 million, down from the FY2015 request of $24.7 million;
Azerbaijan: $11.1 million, down from the FY2015 request of $12.7 million;
Georgia: $76.2 million, up from the FY2015 request of $54 million;
Kazakhstan: $7.5 million, down from the FY2015 request of $8.3 million;
Kyrgyzstan: $45.6 million, up from the FY2015 request of $36.3 million;
Tajikistan: $28.4 million, up from the FY2015 request of $21.1 million;
Turkmenistan: $4.5 million, down from the FY2015 request of $4.9 million;
Uzbekistan: $6.2 million, down from the FY2015 request of $6.8 million.
It should be noted that in terms of military aid, the above figures are only part of the picture, an increasing portion of aid to the region is funded by the Department of Defense, rather than through the traditional State Department programs like FMF.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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