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White House Aide Blasts Republican Plans to Slash Peacekeeping Aid

By John F. Harris
The Washington Post

Republican plans to slash funding for foreign aid and peacekeeping are a policy of "backdoor isolationism" that risks "frittering away our victory in the Cold War," President Clinton's national security adviser warned Thursday.

"The United States could be on the brink of unilateral disarmament," aide Anthony Lake charged, if congressional budget-cutters deprive the administration of such diplomatic tools as aiding developing nations, contributing to U.N. peacekeeping missions and subsidizing nuclear dismantlement in the former Soviet Union.

Lake's speech to two foreign policy groups at the National Press Club was the bluntest statement so far from the Clinton administration opposing GOP plans for steep cuts in next year's budget request of $21 billion to fund the State Department and other overseas initiatives.

Administration officials said the tough rhetoric from Lake was intended dramatically to kick off a White House campaign to defend not only its budget but its approach to "engagement" abroad.

Many Republicans, in particular younger conservatives elected last fall, are hostile to foreign aid and to working in concert with the United Nations.

At a time when much of the public favors a less expansive foreign policy, Lake's vigorous defense of spending money in remote places, such as to support U.N. peacekeepers "building democracy in Namibia and Mozambique and Cambodia," might seem risky politics.

But an administration official said Lake, with Clinton's support, believes the battle over foreign spending can be won with an aggressive campaign of public education. An interagency task force, including officials from the State Department and the Agency for International Development, has been assembled to orchestrate the lobbying campaign, the official said. In addition, speeches by senior administration officials, including Vice President Gore, will make the case for preserving funding, although Clinton has nothing scheduled so far.