Overall, the Russian invasion of Ukraine isn’t going well for Russia. If reports are correct, the Russian military hasn’t distinguished itself. Poor logistics, bad intelligence, lack of effective air support, and an increasing reliance on brute strength appear to be features of this campaign. Meanwhile, Russia is suffering from debilitating economic sanctions imposed by the West. In sum, Russia is weaker today than it was three weeks ago before the invasion. So why is Pentagon spending set to soar in the coming fiscal years?
A friend sent an article along from the New York Times that sums up this insane moment in Washington. He suggested that I re-post it here and make some comments on it. Here goes (my comments in italics):
War in Ukraine rallies support in Congress for more military spending
The New York Times
WASHINGTON — From his perch as chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., has long lamented what he sees as a Pentagon budget bloated by inefficient spending. When hawkish lawmakers led a successful charge last year to pour nearly $24 billion more into the military’s coffers, he opposed the move.
But last week, as Russian forces continued their assault on Ukraine and he pondered the size of the coming year’s military budget, Mr. Smith sounded a different tone.
“I haven’t picked a number yet,” he said, “but without question, it’s going to have to be bigger than we thought.”
Yes, the Pentagon budget is “bloated” and “inefficient.” You don’t solve that by giving the Pentagon yet more billions!
He added: “The Russian invasion of Ukraine fundamentally altered what our national security posture and what our defense posture needs to be. It made it more complicated, and it made it more expensive.”
No, the invasion hasn’t “fundamentally altered” America’s “defense posture.” If anything, a weakening Russia means we can spend less money on defense, not more.
His shift signals a stark new reality facing President Joe Biden on Capitol Hill, where Democrats had already shown they had little appetite for controlling the defense budget, even as Mr. Biden declared an end to the era of ground wars and indicated he wanted to reimagine the use of American power abroad.
How interesting. I thought “American power” was about “defense.” Why does this have to be “reimagined”?
Now, facing a military onslaught by President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, and rising fears of a protracted war in Europe and an emboldened China, lawmakers in both parties — including some who had resisted in the past — are pressing for vast increases in military spending to address a changed security landscape.
Why are more weapons and more wars always the answer to a “changed security landscape”? What is the sense of “vast increases”?
As images pour out of Ukrainian cities devastated by a relentless and indiscriminate volley of Russian missiles, Democrats and Republicans who have struggled to coalesce behind meaningful legislation to aid the Ukrainian cause are rallying around one of the few substantive tools available to them: sending money and weapons.
The House this week is poised to approve $10 billion in emergency funds to Ukraine, including $4.8 billion to cover the costs of weapons already sent to Ukraine and eastern flank allies, as well as the deployment of U.S. troops. But already on Monday, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the Senate majority leader, suggested lawmakers could approve a $12 billion package, in a sign of how eager lawmakers were to send more aid to Kyiv. The United States alone has deployed more than 15,000 troops to Europe, while committing an additional 12,000 to NATO’s response force if necessary.
$10 billion in “emergency funds” is now more than $13 billion for Ukraine. How come America’s poor and neediest can’t get that level of aid, and that quickly?
Beyond funding immediate needs, the consensus around more generous Pentagon spending previews a dynamic that is likely to drive negotiations around next year’s defense budget, potentially locking in the kind of large increases that Mr. Biden and many Democrats had hoped to end.
This is false. Biden ran for president promising increases in Pentagon spending over and above what Trump had proposed.
“I think people are sort of waking up out of this haze that we were living somehow in a secure world,” said Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., who sits on the Armed Services Committee.
WTF? We live in an insecure world because of wanton spending by the military-industrial-congressional complex.
Ms. Luria added: “I was not satisfied with the budget that came over last year from the White House, especially in regards to China, especially in regards to the Navy or shipbuilding, and I’ll be very disappointed, in light of the new world situation, if they come up with a budget like that again.”
The rapid shift in thinking is a setback for progressives who had hoped that unified Democratic control of the House, the Senate and the White House would translate into a smaller Pentagon budget and a reduced footprint of American troops around the world.
Democrats, as a party, never wanted a smaller Pentagon budget.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said in a brief interview that she believed it was crucial that the United States provide Ukrainians with some defensive weapons, but added: “Do I think that there is a point where it becomes too much? Yes.”
Ms. Omar said she was particularly worried about the prospect of arming an insurgency, especially as civilians from around the world have flocked to Ukraine to help push back against the Russian army.
“We’ve seen what the result of that was in Afghanistan, when we armed so many people to fight against the Russians,” said Ms. Omar, who was born in Somalia. “Many of those people went back to their own countries and caused a lot of havoc, including the one I come from.”
A little bit of sense by Rep. Omar, but she has no support here.
Mr. Biden last weekend authorized a $350 million package of weapons that included Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles as well as small arms and munitions, a shipment that represented the largest single authorized transfer of arms from U.S. military warehouses to another country.
Weapons bought for U.S. troops are being sent for free to Ukraine to be used (in some cases) by neo-Nazi forces. I’m sure nothing bad will come from this.
Many lawmakers want to go further. Several Republican senators have endorsed setting up a separate fund to support the Ukrainian resistance, signaling an appetite to continue arming those in Ukraine willing to fight for an extended period of time, even in the event their government falls.
“I want to see more Javelins,” said Sen. Jim Risch, of Idaho, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee. “I want to see more Stingers.”
Missiles are the answer! More Russian and Ukrainian dead! Hooah!
An emotional virtual meeting on Saturday in which President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, of Ukraine, who has been defiant in the face of continuing Russian attacks, pleaded with senators for additional weapons rallied more support for his cause.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called for Congress to pass an additional military aid emergency spending bill. And Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., suggested that Congress quickly approve funding to reimburse Eastern European allies if they provide Ukraine with planes or surface-to-air missiles.
“We should be signaling to the Poles and Romanians and others that this is something we would want to help them do,” Mr. Malinowski said.
Lawmakers are eyeing long-term solutions, too, in Europe and beyond. At an Armed Services Committee hearing last week, both Republicans and Democrats endorsed increasing the U.S. military presence in the Baltics.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., who is a former Pentagon official, called Mr. Putin’s invasion “a sea change” for “how both the Defense Department and the State Department should think about our presence in Europe.”
“I couldn’t agree more with my colleagues who have talked about putting more force in right now,” Ms. Slotkin said, adding later, “We have to completely re-evaluate deterrence and how we re-establish it.”
What we’re witnessing is the U.S. Congress foaming at the mouth to send more weapons to Ukraine to kill more Russians (and doubtless Ukrainians too), while boosting Pentagon spending against a Russian threat that will be considerably lower, assuming this war doesn’t spiral out of control because of ill-judged and incendiary responses by the U.S.
Readers, what do you think of all this?