This round-up by Florian Rötzer for TELEPOLIS is better and more comprehensive than anything in the US press, so here we go — translator
The compromise reached between the Senate and the House of Representatives includes making tactical nuclear weapons, committing to NATO and increasing the European Deterrence Initiative to almost 7.5 billion.
The struggle over the Pentagon’s budget has been a long one. The Republicans were able to remove some important brakes on the merger that were in the Democrat-dominated House version.
Now the Budget Act (NDAA 2020) will go to the House of Representatives and the Senate again before being presented to Trump.
Behind the impeachment turmoil, little attention was paid to the course set in this legislation. In any case, Trump was thrilled and, after the compromise, said he would sign the budget law immediately:
“Wow! All of our priorities have made it into the final NDAA: Pay Raise for our Troops, Rebuilding our Military, Paid Parental Leave, Border Security, and Space Force! Congress – don’t delay this anymore! I will sign this historic defense legislation immediately!” — Donald Trump
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren sees the budget law as a “738 billion Christmas present to the major defense companies.”
Democratic Senator Charles Schumer and spokesman for the minority said that much was missing, and there was only one good thing, the introduction of parental leave.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, together with Congressman Ro Khanna, condemned the bill as a “law of amazing moral cowardice”. “Our endless wars” could have been stopped: “Instead, the law does nothing to limit out of control military spending, to prevent the unconstitutional war with Iran, to reduce the poisoning of American drinking water, or to end the obscenity that innocent children in Yemen are killed with American bombs.”
The Democrats caved
The law, which seeks to ensure the superiority of the U.S. armed forces over opponents Russia and China, provides for a budget of $738 billion for 2020, $ 22 billion more than in the previous fiscal year. The Pentagon had sought 750 billion. Of these, 71.5 billion are still earmarked for foreign assignments. In addition, there will be 5.3 billion for emergency recovery measures in the event of extreme weather events or earthquakes, so that the expenditure is actually over 140 billion.
The Democrats were torn and probably did not want to risk further blocking the budget law during the impeachment process and before the imminent shutdown, thus preventing them from being accused of endangering national security or being unable to govern. It is unlikely that the compromise will be rejected. They point out that the most important point for them was the 12-week paid and “gender neutral” parental leave, along with the end of the military “widow’s tax,” improvements in house building for soldiers and their families, the demand for minimum living standards or a half-hearted ban on the use of perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS). They also did not want to be left behind about increasing the pay by 3.1 percent. For this, important restrictions were sacrificed, which were provided for in the draft House of Representatives. For example, a ban on using funds from the military budget to build the Trump Wall was removed. There is also no ban on military support for Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war, apart from a ban on refueling Saudi airplanes in the air or a ban on the president from waging a war against Iran without Congress approval. But it includes the establishment of the space command, lavish arms purchases and, in addition to the production of 80 plutonium nuclei for atomic bombs every year, the development and use of miniature atomic bombs. They are intended to undermine the threshold for entry into a nuclear war, and to increase deterrence. Critics see this as an increased risk of the outbreak of a nuclear war.
After all, Congress should be notified if Trump wants to exit the New START agreement and the Open Skies agreement. But that’s actually only symbolic. Guantanamo must not be shut down, nor its prisoners brought to the territory of the United States and other allies, nor prison buildings built in the United States. Apparently, the problem is to be spread out further and perhaps the Cuba prison camp is to be kept open for future options.
Build-up against Russia and China
On the other hand, the bill emphasizes how important NATO and other allies such as Japan and South Korea are to the United States. Congress is in favor of the United States’ commitment to NATO. This also applies to South Korea and Japan, and cooperation with the Philippines and Vietnam is to be strengthened. The strength of the troops stationed in South Korea must not fall below 18,500. At NATO, Congress continues to prohibit the US from withdrawing from the alliance, which Trump has threatened. However, it should also be checked whether the NATO partners meet their obligations. Congress supports the expansion of the Joint Force Command Norfolk to “secure shipping routes in the Atlantic Ocean.” “Security support” for the Baltic States is to be strengthened. This is already designed to ward off “Russian aggression.” The European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), started under Obama and continued with more money under Trump, will be upped $ 734 million from $ 6.534 billion to $ 7.468 billion, well above the $ 5.9 billion the Pentagon requested. Trump tapped 770 million from the EDI in 2019 to fund the wall.
Are there any other plans in Europe apart from the large military exercise Defender-Europe 20 (USA and NATO are waging war with Russia with Defender-Europe 20)?
$300 million is earmarked for Ukraine to purchase weapons. The bill prohibits any military cooperation with Russia and recognition of the annexation of Crimea.
An update and expansion of the “Strategy to ward off malicious interference by Russia, China and other countries” is required. Congress is also using the defense budget to sanction the Russian Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream pipelines. The transfer of F35 fighter jets to Turkey is also prohibited. Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system is a serious violation of the Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act (CAATSA), so Trump is asked to impose sanctions here too.
Washington dropped out of the INF treaty signed between Reagan and Gorbachev on August 2, 1987, allegedly because Russia developed a land-based missile that violated the treaty. Land-based missiles with a range of 500-5000 km were banned under the treaty, which served the security of Europe. After the US exit, Russia immediately followed suit, with the compaint that the Aegis land-based missile defense system had had already done it. One can assume that the United States – and NATO in its wake – wanted to push the buck onto Russia, but the primary goal of the exit was to have their hands — or rockets — free for China. After Russia, NATO had well declared China to be the new transatlantic enemy. The Pentagon already carried out a flight test on December 12 of a land-based ballistic medium-range missile with a range of over 500 km, which would have violated the INF treaty. However, the NDAA 2020 still bans the procurement and use of new land-based medium-range missiles with a range that is prohibited by the former INF agreement.