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Trump Was Right: Congress Must Seriously Discuss Defense Spending

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After 11 Republican senators and 45 representatives voted against fast-track approval of the $40 billion Ukraine aid package, they are being attacked as “isolationists” by the same media that recently falsely claimed that  Hunter Biden’s computer story was a “Russian frame-up” and that had earlier falsely claimed allegations of business dealings with Russia against Trump – which they now reluctantly admit would have been a Clinton campaign frame-up.

Defense spending is not just about how much is spent but how it is spent. The more urgent and strategic the spending, the more important the how. Washington had already spent about $16 billion in assistance to Ukraine, while the more directly threatened Europe had added between all its nations about $7 billion. In the midst of the Ukrainian crisis Germany, Europe’s largest economy, and the Netherlands continue to debate whether or not they will honor their NATO spending commitments

Senator Rand Paul argued against the fast-track approval of that $40 billion package, that at the very least an inspector general should be appointed to oversee how the funds are spent. Quite reasonable in the wake of reports of countless frauds on taxpayer dollars in the approval and expedited delivery of Covid pandemic relief funds. The nobility and urgency of the cause is no reason to refuse to see that taxpayer money is being spent. If there is no accountability the spending will be diverted into endless opportunities for corruption and fraud that dishonest opportunists will exploit. 

What we should expect from an independent press would be reasonable and responsible coverage of issues of such importance. Just the opposite of what we see in most of the mainstream media today. An old Democratic friend of mine with many years of experience in Washington used to tell me that Democrats used to condition approval of defense spending requested by Republican administrations on spending a dollar on “social spending” for every dollar approved for defense. A quid pro quo that tacitly included never assessing the efficiency of social spending

Washington faces enormous foreign policy challenges in which the Biden administration has failed time and again, giving a dangerous image of ineptitude, disarray and weakness, both to enemies like BeijingTehran and Moscow, which respond ever more aggressively to that weakness, and to allies who see too many reasons to trust Washington less and less.

Now European politicians are talking about NATO’s strength and unity in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine, but there are questions that can no longer be avoided, neither in America nor in Europe, because the future of the free world depends on the answers:

Where were that strength and unity when the European Union’s largest economy, Germany, was the first to refuse to meet its defense spending commitments to NATO and bet on growing energy dependence on Russian gas with policies that combined closing nuclear power plants with investments like the Nord Stream II pipeline? Was Trump right when he demanded that Europeans increase defense spending and reduce their energy dependence on Moscow? Or when he claimed that it was American taxpayers who were paying for the security of allies who refused to do their part?

Why should $40 billion be spent in support of Ukraine without a watchdog to monitor that strategic spending? Why isn’t Biden demanding that European allies bring defense spending to 2% of their GDP? With a federal government on track to spend more than $6 billion by 2022 why should that urgent $40 billion be funded through the appropriation, rather than urgently cutting other less important programs to fund urgent assistance to Ukraine?

Guillermo Rodríguez is a professor of Political Economy in the extension area of the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Universidad Monteávila, in Caracas. A researcher at the Juan de Mariana Center and author of several books // Guillermo es profesor de Economía Política en el área de extensión de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Administrativas de la Universidad Monteávila, en Caracas, investigador en el Centro Juan de Mariana y autor de varios libros

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