Putting Biden’s Whopping
$33 Billion Ukraine Package into Context
Ben Freeman and William Hartung / The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
(April 28, 2022) — Today the Biden administration requested a whopping $33 billion aid package for Ukraine. This is on top of a $14 billion Ukraine aid package enacted last month.
While Russian aggression in Ukraine has been appalling in its violence, this is nonetheless a historically large aid package that is worth putting into context.
For starters, if Congress signs off on this new request the US will have authorized $47 billion in total spending to Ukraine. That’s more than the Biden administration is committing to stopping climate change and almost as much as the entire State Department budget.
The vast majority of this new aid package, $20.4 billion, is for “additional security and military assistance for Ukraine and for US efforts to strengthen European security in cooperation with our NATO allies and other partners in the region,” according to the White House.
This proposal ‘would make Kyiv
the largest yearly recipient of US military aid
of at least the past two decades.’
“Coupled with the $3.7 billion in military assistance already made available to Ukraine since Russia‘s invasion, President Biden’s proposal of an additional $20 billion would make Kyiv the largest yearly recipient of US military aid of at least the past two decades,” explained Elias Yousif, a security assistance expert at the Stimson Center.
“The amount is more than twice the largest yearly total ever provided to Afghanistan — where the US was actively at war — and approximately seven times Israel’s annual military assistance package,” continued Yousif.
This aid package is also more than the US spent on the so-called Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account during the first year of the US conflict in Afghanistan, and more than the total amount of money all but 13 countries in the world spend on their military, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
In addition to Ukrainian fighters, one of the primary beneficiaries of this aid package will be Pentagon contractors, whose CEO’s have explained how the Ukraine conflict is good for business and have seen their stock prices soar since the war began.
According to Taylor Giorno of OpenSecrets, the top five defense contractors spent more than $16 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2022 alone, and their CEO’s met directly with Pentagon leadership earlier this month to discuss Ukraine security assistance.
While Ukrainian fighters will benefit from these arms it’s vitally important for the US to consider the risks of these arms transfers as well, not the least of which is the potential for getting the US into a direct military confrontation with Russia.
As Seth G. Jones of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told the New York Times, “the risk of a widening war is serious right now . . . Russian casualties are continuing to mount, and the US is committed to shipping more powerful weapons that are causing those casualties.”
There is also the possibility that US arms will fall into the hands of US adversaries, as they have in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere.
In addition, there is the direct economic cost to US taxpayers who, ultimately, have to foot the bill for this historic aid package. Part of that cost could come from the kinds of fraud, waste and abuse that groups like the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) have uncovered in other cases where billions of dollars were being shoveled out the door in the name of national security without adequate oversight or coordination.
Helping Ukraine defend itself is one thing, but it should be done with an eye towards limiting the risks of escalation and unintended economic and security consequences. The administration’s latest aid request should be carefully debated and scrutinized before it is allowed to sail through in its current form.
NATO Scrambles Jets to Harrass Russian Planes
(April 29, 2022) — NATO fighter jets stationed in both the Baltic and Black Sea regions scrambled “multiple times over the past four days” to track and intercept Russian aircraft near alliance airspace, according to a statement posted by NATO’s Allied Air Command.
Billions in Weapons, Zero Negotiations,
Reveal Real US Agenda in Ukraine
(April 29, 2022) — Monday. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “One of the US’s goals in Ukraine is to see a weakened Russia.” He also said, “The US is ready to move heaven and earth to help Ukraine win the war against Russia.”
The first statement contains no goal of saving Ukrainian lives. That is because saving Ukrainians is not a major focus of US war aims in Ukraine.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called out America’s disregard of the staggering death and destruction there saying: “There are countries within NATO who want the war to continue. They want Russia to become weaker.”
Apparently “heaven and earth” in the second statement includes billions in weaponry, but not a single pair of US boots on the ground. Nor does it include American war-planes; even a no-fly zone to counter Russian air superiority. That telegraphs America does not consider the Ukraine war critical to America’s national self-interests that risks a single American life. US policy boils down to: Ukraine does the dying; America does the supplying.
The US has never once offered negotiations as a path toward peace. For the US to enter negotiations, they would have to cease denying the provocative history of the US, NATO, and ultra nationalist Ukrainians’ actions toward Russia’s borders, including the killing of 14,000 Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the Donbas.
Refusing to address that long, tortured history makes a negotiated settlement virtually impossible. That leaves endless weaponry provoking even stronger Russian warfare, guaranteeing the killing goes on throughout 2022, per Secretary of State Antony Blinken, or even several years according to Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley.
But endless war and deaths is just one of several calamities facing the world by using weapons, and its less violent policy-mate, sanctions, instead of negotiations.
Worldwide recession may be now more likely than not. Flowing from worldwide recession, and sanctions crippling supply chains, millions in poor countries may be doomed to starvation and death from policies proclaimed as life-savers.
But the worst possible consequence of proxy war by the US and NATO against Russia is all-out nuclear war between the two major nuclear powers possessing over 13,000 nuclear weapons. Sixty-four days into war, every day brings new potential for miscalculation, blunder, simple misunderstanding, to trigger warfare not seen since World War II, 77 years ago. If that happens, the catastrophe will not be limited to two Japanese cities.
It is counterproductive for the US
to substitute weapons and sanctions
It is counterproductive for the US to substitute weapons and sanctions for diplomacy if it is truly interested in peace. Last week Blinken counselor Derek Chollet advised that Blinken’s negotiating team refused to even consider Russia’s security concerns regarding NATO’s membership for Ukraine, a red line to Russia they’ve been warning us about for two decades. Chollet spilled the beans on Blinken saying: “We made clear to the Russians that we were willing to talk to them on issues that we thought were genuine concerns to them in some way. But the future of Ukraine was a non-issue.”
As a result, Secretary of State Blinken hasn’t spoken to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov since February 15, nine days before war began. That abrogation of simple diplomacy that could have avoided war was inexcusable and unacceptable.
America and its fervent media supporters should be supporting — demanding even — that our government use negotiations, the only means of bringing this horrific war to a prompt conclusion. Endless demonizing of Russian President Putin also makes even starting such necessary negotiations difficult, if not impossible.
That leads to a fair question many in the peace movement and others are asking: Is the US supplying endless weapons but no negotiations simply to wage proxy war fought by Ukrainians, primarily to isolate, weaken, even effect regime change in Russia, rather than to save Ukrainian lives?
We need every media organization in America to begin asking the tough questions that could provide an off-ramp from endless war, worldwide recession and starvation and, most importantly, possible nuclear war.
Walt Zlotow became involved in antiwar activities upon entering University of Chicago in 1963. He is current president of the West Suburban Peace Coalition based in the Chicago western suburbs. He blogs daily on antiwar and other issues at www.heartlandprogressive.blogspot.com.
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