Just shy of a year ago, there were reports that Russia was amassing troops on its borders with Ukraine. There were other reports that China had sent its largest aerial incursion to that date into Taiwan’s air -defense zone. This was the moment President Biden chose to announce his decreased defense budget proposal for fiscal year 2022.
It came in at $715 billion, a hefty sum, but nonetheless a definite decrease from previoius budgets after accounting for inflation, which, a year ago wasn’t the devouring Pac Man monster it is now.
Why would the President decrease his defense budget at such a perilous time? And, of course, neither he nor anyone in his Administration was ready for the horrible war that was to come and that, all those months ago, was not entirely unforeseen (why else would troops be massing on Ukraine’s border?) Now, in these early April hours of 2022, the world is witnessing war’s atrocious outrages being perpetrated on innocent civilians by Russian soldiers, following days of massive death, destruction and persisent fears that World War III is at hand.
It’s likely, as with anything President Biden does, that he was trying to placade his Party’s Left Wing base which had been lobbying for steep military cuts in order to leave more money for their social agenda. As always happens when Presidents try to quiet a noisy flank of their own Party, Progressives weren’t satisfied. The cuts weren’t deep enough to their mind. Of course not.
At the same time, the final military budget figure contradicted recommendations of a 2018 panel to steadily rachet up defense spending. It was calling for annual increases 3 to 5 per cent above inflation.
Among those serving on that panel was Biden’s deputy secretary of defense, Kathleen Hicks. At the time, she and other experts had issued an ominous warning to Biden: if he failed adequatly to fund national defense, it would “be measured in American lives, American treasure, and American security and prosperity lost.”
I’d add that, combined with the manner of our appalling and shameful exit from Afghanistan, a reduction in U.S. military spending at that hour was sending the wrong message to NATO leaders and to Vladimir Putin, the man Biden and I and much of the world now feel comfortable calling a 21st Century war criminal.
Putin’s genocidal global confrere and war criminal-in-waiting, Xi Jinping, was watching and waiting, too. And he still has his eye on Taiwan.