The Reagan administration yesterday unveiled a $9.2 billion military aid request for 1984 that would nearly double assistance for Turkey and also provide substantial increases for Honduras, El Salvador, North Yemen and Pakistan.
As expected, about half of the entire package would go to the Middle East countries of Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon. The aid levels for those countries would remain roughly the same as this year.
The total administration package represents a sharp increase over the $7.8 billion in aid spending allowed for 1983 under a continuing resolution. However, the administration announced yesterday that it is seeking an additional $962.5 million in 1983 supplemental funds from Congress, much of which would go to rebuilding Lebanon's army and reconstructing parts of war-torn Beirut.
The administration's plan to boost military assistance to Turkey from the current $402.7 million to $759 million appeared to be one of the most controversial parts of the new aid package.
Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou sent a letter to President Reagan yesterday protesting what he said was an upset of the aid ratio adhered to by Washington for Greece and Turkey since the late 1970s. Papandreou indicated that the aid shift could affect current negotiations on the future of U.S. bases in his country, sources in Athens said.
Although Greek officials frequently have said that the United States has committed itself to maintaining a ratio of $7 of aid to Greece for every $10 of aid to Turkey, a State Department official yesterday denied that any such commitment exists.
Since the neighboring NATO allies clashed over Cyprus in 1974, both countries have carefully scrutinized annual U.S. military aid programs for evidence of American favoritism.
For 1984, the administration proposes increasing assistance to Greece by only $500,000, to $281.7 million.
A Pentagon official said yesterday that the Turkish military was in "desperate need of modernization," while the United States saw no need to raise aid to Greece at the moment.
Turkey last year began a military modernization program that concentrated on tanks, naval equipment and helicopters. Pentagon officials anticipate that air defense, needed to protect NATO's eastern flank, will get priority in 1984.
Turkey also has expressed interest in purchasing both the Air Force's F16 fighter and the Navy's F18 fighter-bomber, and officials said the new aid could make it more attractive for Turkey to "buy American."
Besides the additional military aid, Turkey would also be allocated $175 million in economic support to promote "stability," while Greece would receive none.
In both El Salvador and Honduras, the administration proposal would put more emphasis on military aid than in 1983. Military assistance to El Salvador would grow from $26.3 million to $86.3 million. In Honduras, where U.S. advisers are involved in a continuing action to counter an alleged threat from Nicaragua, aid would double from $20.3 milion to $41 million.
Included in those figures are funds for military education and training programs with a "high return" on investment, according to a State Department official.
Also earmarked for a relatively large increase in aid, from $5 million to $15 million, is North Yemen, a country strategically positioned along the sea lanes to Persian Gulf oil supplies.
Under the proposed aid package, countries would be given considerably more military help in 1984 in the form of loans guaranteed by the U.S. Treasury. The Reagan plan calls for a slight decline in outright military grants, which countries do not have to repay.
In a report issued last month, the General Accounting Office criticized the loan program on grounds that some countries, such as Turkey and Egypt, were building up large future financial obligations that they would have difficulty repaying. The bulk of the new money for Turkey in 1984, some $525 million of it, would be given under this loan program and would have to be repaid in 12 years.
According to the GAO, Turkey has not paid debts incurred under the military aid loan program since 1978, and these debts have now been rescheduled four times.