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NATO should be manager of aid to Eastern Europe

Leaders of the Western democracies may be forgiven if they have not quite gotten their act together when it comes to aid for the newly liberated nations of Eastern Europe. A considerable amount of aid already has been promised from the United States, Japan and West Germany, for example. Most of the nations in the European Community probably will offer some assistance before long. But while the aid is certain, productive results from that aid are in considerable doubt. Given the chaotic state of the economies of the Eastern European nations, it is critical that aid be carefully managed both by the giver and recipient. If the aid is simply thrown in to alleviate immediate suffering, for example, it will serve only to perpetuate the failed economic systems that caused the problem in the first place. There is a clear and urgent requirement for a single agency capable of approving, consolidating and managing an orderly long-term aid program. There are a number of means of doing this. Consider:

Existing International Agencies: At first glance, the World Bank might seem a logical agency to consolidate and manage such an aid program, with help from other United Nations organizations. But the assistance that is required is too urgent and too comprehensive in scope to be handled by any existing international agency. Clearly, a "Marshall Plan" objective-oriented organization is required.

European Community: Almost by by default, it seems destined as the multilateral organization to manage most of the aid to Eastern Europe. And while there are historical and geographical reasons to support such a solution, its primacy in the Eastern Europe aid program would have two disadvantages: First, coordination between the European Community and other nations providing aid still would be a problem. Second, it would gain for its members a major advantage in Eastern European markets of the future _ with the United States in sorry second or third place.

NATO: It may seem incongruous to consider NATO as a management agency for Eastern European aid. After all, it is plowshares rather than swords we are talking about.

Yet a closer look will reveal NATO as a logical choice: To begin with, NATO already has an established headquarters and a proven organization with functional lines of communication and authority. The transition from purely military functions to a combination of military and economic programs would be a minimal one. Further, we must be concerned about the label of "irrelevancy" that is increasingly being applied to the NATO organization as a result of the new peacetime atmosphere in Europe. If this label sticks, relations between the United States and Europe will themselves weaken toward irrelevancy, with obvious losses to us in terms of political alliance and economic cooperation. NATO's continued pertinence would be ensured by its destination as an aid management agency _ as would our involvement both with the European Community and the markets of the East European nations.

Of course, there would be problems associated with the establishment of NATO as a "Marshall Plan" aid agency, among them the coordination of Japanese and NATO-managed aid programs. But there are clear and overriding advantages that would accrue from NATO management of the aid program to Eastern Europe. We should put NATO in charge as quickly as possible.