A dispute erupted yesterday between U.S. and allied officials over just how much the allied nations have underwritten the American buildup against Iraq, following a Pentagon report that only Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have delivered fully on their pledges of assistance.
Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams said in a news briefing Tuesday that Germany and Japan, economic giants that cite postwar constitutional limits on direct military participation, have thus far delivered only small fractions of the money and materials they promised to support U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf.
Germany, which pledged $1.1 billion in cash and in-kind contributions during this calendar year, had paid $337 million by Oct. 31, Williams said. Japan, which pledged $2 billion to be paid by the end of March, had delivered $376 million, he said. Other contributions might be on their way, Williams said, but "we don't score it until we actually receive it."
The German government responded angrily yesterday to the accounting.
"That's nonsense, what Williams said," Juergen Chrobog, chief spokesman for the German foreign ministry, told The Washington Post. "It is not true."
Chrobog said Germany already has paid 1 billion marks, or $685 million, to Washington. The balance, he said, "is in the pipeline and can go any time."
A call to the Japanese Embassy in Washington was not returned.
Kuwait, with by far the most direct interest in the confrontation's outcome, has delivered fully on its $2.5 billion pledge, according to the Pentagon's accounting. Saudi Arabia, which has reaped windfall oil revenues from the crisis, has honored an open-ended commitment to provide the food, fuel, water, local transport and facilities for American forces in Saudi Arabia and surrounding waters, Williams said. The value of Saudi contributions through Oct. 31 was $987 million.
The two largest remaining pledges, $1 billion from the United Arab Emirates and $95 million from South Korea, have resulted thus far in contributions of $250 million and $4 million, respectively, Williams said.
Yesterday's squabble with Germany underlined the general sensitivity to the costs of resisting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's annexation of Kuwait. The Bush administration has come under strong pressure from Congress to seek increased support -- in cash, materials and combat personnel -- from allies who stand to benefit from the American-led deployment in the gulf.
"If there's combat we'll see about 90 percent of the combat," Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) said yesterday. Germany and Japan "are far more dependent on Mideast oil than we are, and with their economic conditions they could contribute considerably more than they are without violating their constitutions or their national sensitivities."
U.S. Embassy officials in Bonn sought to smooth frictions between the two governments, saying Germany is "on target" in reaching its pledge. But Pentagon officials declined to make a similar expression of confidence.
"It's just too premature at this point to give an assessment whether those commitments are coming in and will meet their end-of-year deadline," said Defense Department spokesman Ken Satterfield.
U.S. officials denied that they intended any criticism of any ally. Satterfield said that Williams had made no attempt to "characterize the performance" of allied governments, and "we've appreciated the support we've gotten."
Still, officials said they intend to ask for more. Williams said "we probably will" seek additional pledges of cash from allied nations, but "I don't know when." Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney used a trip last week to Brussels to tell NATO defense ministers that the United States would welcome additional support in the form of armed forces and equipment, according to senior diplomats.
For Germany's part, according to Chrobog, the financial demands of unification as well as promised aid to the Soviet Union will leave little room for further subsidy to American troops.
"It would be very wise if the United States would recognize that there are many kinds of efforts for security," he said. "It's more important for us to pay for stability in the East, rather than getting more involved in the gulf." Staff writer Marc Fisher in Bonn contributed to this report.