The hawks are already trying to exploit the Russian invasion, saying a shortfall in spending is leaving us vulnerable. Not true.

By William Hartung, Responsible Statecraft

In response to Russia’s  invasion of Ukraine, a growing chorus of pundits and policy analysts have been advocating for large increases in America’s enormous budget for national defense, on top of the $778 billion Congress has authorized for Fiscal Year 2022. These calls are both misguided and counterproductive.

Before adding even more spending to the Pentagon’s already bloated budget, it’s important to understand just how large it is already and how much capability the U.S. military already has in Europe. In real, inflation-adjusted terms, the current Pentagon budget is substantially higher than the department’s budget was at the peaks of the Korean or Vietnam Wars or the height of the Cold War. And much of it is being wasted due to an outmoded, “cover the globe” military strategy and a dysfunctional budget process that favors special interests over the national interest.

An F-18 Hornet takes flight after a catapult launch from an aircraft carrier

Any calls for increased U.S. troop presence in Europe should first recognize what the U.S. military already has in Europe, namely more than 90,000 U.S. service personnel stationed across the continent. This is more than enough to provide U.S. support for the defense of Europe, backed by the U.S. and NATO’s nuclear deterrent. Any proposal to increase U.S. troop levels beyond that should be subject to debate in Congress and among the general public. This must be coupled with setting clearer priorities and managing existing funds more effectively, not by blindly throwing more money at the Pentagon. And any decision to increase NATO’s troop presence should rely heavily on our European NATO allies, which together have economies more than 10 times the size of Russia’s and taken together spend three times as much on their militaries. They can afford to do more as needed.

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