It is an old Washington trick. If the dollar amount sounds too hard to sell, use percentages, such as percent of GDP or percent of a department's budget etc.
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley tried it during the first GOP debate: "Less than 3.5% of our defense budget has been given to Ukraine." Not $120 billion committed or the $45 billion already spent for military and humanitarian aid, just a small percent number that will appear minuscule.
Utah Senator Mitt Romney made the same point:
By the way, spending the equivalent of about 5% of our defense budget, and in fact, even less than 5% of our annual defense budget, to help Ukrainians is the best defense investment our country has ever made.
Romney and Haley want you to believe that of the existing Pentagon budget, an insignificant portion is being set aside to protect U.S. national security interests. But this assertion is fundamentally dishonest.
On December 27, 2021, President Biden signed the National Defense Authorization Act, budgeting $740 billion for defense for fiscal year 2022 (Oct 1, 2021 - Sep 30, 2022). At the time, America and the West were still in diplomatic discussions with Russia, in Geneva and other capitals, to prevent a Russian attack on Ukraine.
When the discussions did not pan out, Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, receiving universal condemnation, and Kyiv, in turn, got commitments of support from the United States and its Western alliance.
President Biden, supported by a bipartisan majority in Congress, signed a $76 billion increase in the Pentagon budget for 2023. So, while Haley and Romney were right that the money to Ukraine came from the Pentagon's budget, it was not before Washington increased it by a whopping 10.3% to $816.7 billion; nearly all of the new money went to Ukraine. Biden has now submitted an additional $24 billion request in an emergency funding bill. If Congress approves it, the net increase in the Pentagon's budget since the war began would amount to more than $100 billion. In Washington, money does grow on trees.
What does $100 billion get you? Today's non-defense discretionary budget allocates $91 billion to income security when the divide between rich and poor in America continues to be stark. It provides $46 billion for community and regional development, and $44 billion for the environment (including for the EPA). Even allocating $10 billion each to the various non-defense line item agencies would have substantially increased those budgets and helped millions of Americans, up to 25% for some agencies. Recall that during the recent debt limit crisis, the country went through two months of agony when the House GOP insisted that non-defense discretionary spending should not increase by more than 1% for the next ten years.
The President's FY 2024 DoD budget requests $842 billion, knowing that Congress will add at least $30 billion to it. Again, most of the increase is for Ukraine.
When the Pentagon budget is growing so fast primarily to accommodate Ukraine spending, it is dishonest for Haley and Romney to use small percentages to frame the spending as minuscule. Even small percentages amount to tens of billions that America does not have and is currently borrowing.
Ironically, no one has defined how Ukraine funding strengthens American national security. Absent a presidential address to Congress requesting a formal vote on the mission ("as long as it takes" is not a legitimate declaration), every Beltway insider has their own interpretation of what the money is for.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that defending Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity is about "protecting an international order where no nation can redraw the borders of another by force."
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austen has said, "We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can't do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine." Isn't that a quasi-declaration of war against Russia, given that Russia did not attack the United States and Ukraine is not a NATO member?
Romney says we should support Ukraine because America has no human losses in Ukraine, and the Ukrainians are fighting heroically against Russia, whose nuclear weapons are aimed at us:
Thus, we are reducing and destroying the Russian army for a very small amount, compared to what we spend on other defense items. Weak Russia is good. This is the best thing that can be done for America: to make sure that the people with nuclear weapons aimed at us are getting weaker.
When has Russia threatened America, Senator, other than to insist that America's interference in the war could trigger a nuclear conflict? And isn't your position equivalent to saying that American lives are superior to Ukrainian lives?
Former Vice President Mike Pence falsely says Putin will gobble up other NATO countries if we don't stop Putin now. Haley says that Putin is a thug, and for this reason, America is justified.
The worst thing is that despite all these American efforts, it is tough for Ukraine to retake territory. Most officials believe that Ukraine will never go back to the pre-2014 borders when Crimea was still a part of Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has already hinted that he expects America to provide a blanket financial and military shield to Ukraine like America does to Israel. We will, therefore, not fall for the percentage gimmick. If we do, Beltway types will enshrine Ukraine money as a permanent line item in the ever-growing Pentagon budget.
This war is getting out of hand. And we blame the uniparty state for placing America in this mess.
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