Greene’s call for an end to Ukraine aid isn’t about the money


Speeches from Donald Trump’s opposition are notorious for their detailed, carefully considered proposals. That’s not why people go to races in general, of course, much less specific races. People attend the show to show their support for the Republican candidates – and to hear about left-wing politics.

That is the context that we should consider the involvement of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to protest Thursday in Iowa: Her arguments about funding the war in Ukraine are political rhetoric, not analysis. The question, instead, is what political goals he intends to go to.

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Greene’s reference to Ukraine stemmed from a riff about borders. Greene accused Democrats and the media of ignoring “crimes” involving undocumented immigrants, including that there are “drugs smuggled across our borders, including daily dose of fentanyl.” One of the reasons you’ve been hearing about fentanyl over the years is that overdose deaths have been on the rise, according to media reports. Another reason is that Republicans have used the fear of fentanyl as a way to bash Democrats on border policy – although most fentanyl is smuggled through existing border checkpoints, mostly American citizens.

However, that was the setting for his comments about US spending to help Ukraine.

“Freedom has pulled our borders wide open,” he said in Iowa. “But the only border they care about is Ukraine, not America’s southern border. According to the Republicans, no other money will go to Ukraine. Our country comes first.”

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See the logical jump there? From “Democrats care too much about Ukraine’s borders” to “we shouldn’t spend money on Ukraine at all.” It is not clear whether one follows from the other, but the consistency of these things is not how Greene has built his reputation.

While not a major GOP position, Greene’s “not another penny” was met with some praise. That is not surprising, because polls have shown that there is more Republican skepticism about providing assistance to Ukraine in its war against the Russian invaders. As the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake noted on Thursday, nearly half of Republicans now think that the United States has done too much to support Ukraine.

But the United States has done little – especially considering the history of its efforts to contain Russian aggression.

U.S. defense spending has increased dramatically since the end of the Cold War, a period in which the U.S.’s opposition to Russian power was over. That is largely due to the increased spending that followed the 9/11 attacks, including the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But it’s also because spending has increased and because of inflation. Relative to total government spending, defense spending (here meaning Department of Defense outlays) has been fair.

As a percentage of total income, defense spending is now lower than it was during the Cold War. It fell last year, though that’s partly thanks to increased spending to contain the coronavirus.

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Why is this topic important? Because the main purpose of the Cold War-era was to fight Moscow’s expansion (and, more than that, communism). For a small fraction of the federal budget and with less spending on defense, the United States has done a good job in blocking Russian expansionist designs on Ukraine.

According to an analysis by the Congressional Research Service that was updated last month, the United States has committed just under $18 billion to the conflict since Russia attacked Ukraine during the Two months. Here’s how that includes defense spending since the 1960s.

This is not all of the Defense Department spending. It includes funding from the Foreign Military Service of the State Department. It is also not all the spending that is approved. As you may recall from the last time the country focused heavily on Ukraine – during Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 – the government had two steps to spend. There is an appropriation, meaning that Congress clears money for use, and then spends itself. In total, about $28 billion has been appropriated in the budget of 2022 and 2023 (the fiscal year starting at the beginning of October) to help Ukraine.

If we compare the expenses for all 2022 outlays, the budget for Ukraine looks like this.

Look, $28 billion is a lot of money to you or me, really. (Well, I think.) It’s not so much for the US government. It is normal, however, that these numbers will be quoted outside the context of all government spending to make it look like the United States is doing terrible harm. . But that’s a rhetorical point that often focuses less on spending than on focusing on spending — as Greene does here.

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Note that Greene, like others on the right fringe, has expressed sympathy for the Russian position since the beginning of the conflict. In March, he said in a Facebook video that the United States should not help defend Ukraine. He said this is human: Exposing the conflict only means more deaths.

“It is not our responsibility to provide [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky and the Ukrainian people’s false hope of a war that they cannot win,” he said later – an assessment that has certainly aged badly. Then, too, he claimed that the government spent money on Ukraine is not the border and then, too, it is wrong.

That message includes many false claims and criticism of Ukraine. Greene has gone relentlessly against Ukraine’s finances. At one point, Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) unsubtly show that he is parroting Russian propaganda.

The fact is that the United States has given some money (including spending money, that is) on the presence and reduction of Russian aggression. To say that it does so at the expense of other important things, such as borders, is an understatement.

But, again, Greene’s frustration isn’t really how much is being used.


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