WASHINGTON — Six weeks after President Bush sent Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady on separate whirlwind missions to Europe, Asia and the Arab world to ask America's allies for financial help in the Persian Gulf crisis, the Japanese are sending Mitsubishi off-road vehicles and prefabricated housing units. The South Koreans are sending gas masks. And the newly united Germans are sending chemical-detection trucks.
But so far, not many nations have been writing checks to the U.S. Treasury.
Just when and how all the contributions are being made is hard to track, and the Bush Administration so far has refused to say exactly how much the United States has received. But most of the allied assistance has clearly come not in cash, but in piecemeal contributions of military and civilian and logistic support sent directly to the gulf.
Besides the off-road vehicles and housing units, for example, Japan is also sending 125 10-ton trucks, a team of medical personnel and blankets, tents and medical supplies. The Tokyo government has also paid for 18 flights of transport aircraft and has leased several cargo ships to ferry troops and supplies from the United States to the Persian Gulf.
Other donors have provided substantial aid to Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, whose economies have been damaged as a result of the U.N. embargo of Iraq. Indeed, the flow is now so large that the United States has set up a new 20-country organization to coordinate the aid and avoid duplication.
Also, many countries have sent troops, joining with the United States in what has rapidly become one of the largest and most diverse multinational military efforts since World War II.
Those countries, especially Britain and France, say their military commitment is enough, and they don't feel they need to pay more to subsidize the U.S. military. Britain, for example, said its military presence is costing roughly $4 million a day. "We are already doing far more than our share," a British spokesman here said.
Some major allies--especially Japan and Germany, two economic superpowers that have restrictions against troop deployments abroad--initially were reluctant to help. But their refusal sparked a backlash in the United States, eventually prompting them to contribute some aid.
Now, virtually all have agreed to help underwrite American policy in the gulf. The Bush Administration has so far received pledges of roughly $20 billion, either for the military buildup or in aid for the three "front-line" states. That's just short of the Administration's initial goal of $25 billion in allied assistance.
The Administration actually prefers that contributions be in equipment rather than cash, since it wants to avoid any opening for critics to brand American troops in the gulf as "mercenaries."
It could also help avert an otherwise-certain tug-of-war over who should control funds being donated to Operation Desert Shield--Congress or the Administration.
Earlier this fall, the Senate fretted that the foreign assistance might turn into a kind of Defense Department slush fund. So lawmakers quickly hammered out a bill requiring congressional approval for the Pentagon to spend foreign cash contributions on military operations such as Desert Shield.
But Senate staff members concede that the new law doesn't cover in-kind donations. And no cash contributions have yet been recorded under the new congressional monitoring process. Lawmakers still aren't sure whether the Administration actually has received any cash from Saudi Arabia, the Kuwaiti government-in-exile or the smaller gulf states, which have pledged a combined total of $12 billion.
The Senate is considering legislation requiring the Pentagon to inform Congress about in-kind donations of equipment and other supplies as well. But it stops short of mandating congressional approval before such equipment can be put to use.
Foreign governments meanwhile have become remarkably creative in finding ways to offset American costs in the gulf without actually sending cash. Japan, which has quadrupled its initial pledge to $4 billion, is even shopping for U.S.-made materials to donate in order to avoid criticism that it is using its aid campaign as a way to boost Japanese exports.
So far, the only direct cash contribution Japan has made on the military side is $900 million to the Gulf Coordinating Council, the organization of Persian Gulf states cooperating in the military effort. Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu also proposed legislation permitting him to dispatch support troops to the region.
Meanwhile, Germany, although preoccupied with reunification, has agreed to send roughly $2.1 billion in assistance, either directly or through the European Community. The figure represents a dramatic increase over Germany's original offer of less than $500 million, which had drawn an angry response from the U.S. Congress.