The Trump administration will try to drastically cut financial aid that this country is giving to Eastern European countries, writes Bloomberg.
“On edge” as Trump “cozied up to Vladimir Putin, Eastern Europe breathed a sigh of relief when U.S. officials swung by to reassure them of unwavering support – but Washington’s spending proposals tell a different story,” the agency writes, under the headline, “Trump budget plan is bad news for Eastern Europe.”
And even though US Vice President Mike Pence recently “toured the ex-communist region to affirm backing against the ‘specter’ of Russian aggression,” the White House is now “seeking sweeping funding cuts for its allies,” said the article.
According to this, cuts in the State Department budget would lower funding for Europe and Eurasia by USD 336 million in 2018, compared to what the previous US administration asked from the US Congress for 2017.
Although uncertain to pass, Trump’s planned budget “sends a strong message on his priorities,” said Bloomberg.
Serbia – with more than 40 percent less – is among the countries that are planned to receive less US money earmarked for building democracy and the rule of law, and fighting corruption.
The Obama administration asked for USD 23.4 for Serbia for the current year, for programs aimed at improving military training and education, combating drug trafficking, terrorism, and financing funds for economic development.
According to Bloomberg, almost 45 percent less was asked for 2018.
The cuts, compared to last year, would be most drastic for Bulgaria (almost 80 percent), followed by Georgia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Ukraine, which would, however, have less reduction than last year.
It is worth noting that the Obama administration had set aside 40 percent more funds for programs in Serbia in 2017 than in 2016.
The White House is now at the same time “urging an increase in spending at the Department of Defense, some of which is earmarked for eastern Europe.”
Only Ukraine is named, and the US would spend more – “USD 50 million for training and equipment to “defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity’.”
Jonathan Katz from the German Marshall Fund and a former USAID official told Bloomberg that this signals the US is “retreating from efforts to firm up democracy in the region.”
“Previous administrations have sought to balance defense, diplomacy and development. What this administration is proposing to do is out of balance,” Katz said.
The Washington Post recently wrote that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson intends to reorganize the State Department, including changing its mission statement, to leave out any mention of “promotion of democracy.”