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Kerry's spending trip

China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-05 07:55

US Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up the sixth leg of his nine-nation tour in Egypt on Sunday. It is too early to evaluate whether he has attained the objectives of his first overseas trip, but he was certainly spreading money around.

Kerry announced on Thursday in Rome that the United States would provide aid in food and medical supplies as well as an extra $60 million in nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposition coalition. On Sunday in Cairo, Kerry continued his spending spree by pledging to provide $250 million in aid to the Middle East country.

Given the spending cuts that will come into effect in the US at the start of this month, everyone knows the US is not giving away money for nothing. Even Kerry himself cannot deny the political motivation of such assistance.

Four days before the trip, Kerry defended the need for foreign aid in the face of budgetary pressures. "Foreign assistance is not a giveaway; it is not charity. It's an investment in a strong America and a free world," he said.

While the expansion in the scale of US aid to the opposition in Syria drives home the message that Washington is accelerating its steps to realize a regime change in Syria, the US assistance to Egypt is apparently pegged to the projection of US power in the region through a stronger Egypt.

Kerry sent a clear signal during his visit to Egypt that the US wants the different forces in Egypt to realize reconciliation and maintain political stability and economic health. Any of which could prove very challenging for the Middle East country as it is facing deep-rooted hurdles.

In the Hosni Mubarak era, Washington's military and economic aid to the country stood at about $2 billion a year. So the prospects for reviving the faltering economy in Egypt with a meager $250 million, as promised by Kerry, are not at all promising.

Yet whether for the purpose of forging stronger relations with Egypt or exerting US influence in the region, Washington, even with a strapped budget, will have to open its purse once again.

(China Daily 03/05/2013 page9)

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