President Trump’s pragmatic foreign policy agenda is rooted in pure realism, but the Democrats and the press are deliberately distorting his views to make it seem like the White House is flip-flopping on defense.
In headline after headline, the mainstream media recently mischaracterized the president's position on defense spending, interpreting his criticism of the ongoing security competition with Russia and China as a call to tighten the Pentagon’s wallet.
While President Trump did call the size of the defense budget “crazy” in a recent tweet, he was talking about the expense of keeping pace with the military buildup of our main rivals, not endorsing the long-standing liberal dream of unilaterally disarming America.
“I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race,” he tweeted. “The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!”
President Trump is right — when his predecessor refused to invest in our military, Russia and China saw an opportunity to challenge American hegemony and tip the existing strategic balance in their favor. As a result, President Trump has been forced to increase military spending in order to keep pace with the aggressive ambitions of our greatest rivals.
China, for example, has invested heavily in upgrading its strategic capabilities, commissioning its first domestic-made aircraft carrier, building a cutting-edge guided-missile destroyer, deploying a new generation of stealth fighters, and more.
Likewise, China is not a party to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the U.S. and Russia, allowing it to build and test missile systems that are prohibited by the agreement. Russia, meanwhile, has consistently violated the terms of the INF Treaty, prompting President Trump to signal his intent to withdraw the U.S. from the treaty earlier this year.
Even though Russia’s economy is far weaker than China’s, Moscow has also invested heavily in military modernization, even claiming to have developed an “invincible” nuke that can’t be detected or intercepted by existing missile defense systems.
Despite these bothersome developments, the Democrats will argue, as they always do, that increasing our military budget is unnecessary because America already spends far more money on defense than either Russia or China — but that’s a dangerously simplistic view.
As explained by Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley, Washington spends more money on its military than do other countries, largely because it pays its soldiers much high wages.
"I've seen comparative numbers of U.S. defense budget versus China, U.S. defense budget versus Russia," Gen. Milley told the Senate earlier this year. "What is not often commented on is the cost of labor. We’re the best-paid military in the world by a long shot. The cost of Russian soldiers or Chinese soldiers is a tiny fraction."
In fact, when the defense budgets of all three countries are adjusted for various economic factors, the gap between them shrinks significantly.
Most importantly, however, America has to spend more on defense because our superpower status is fueled by a superpower economy that depends on our military maintaining order all over the world. Great powers that don’t seize every opportunity to strengthen their position do not remain great powers for long.
As it stands today, Washington serves as the backbone of NATO, and also provides security guarantees to our allies in Asia and the Middle East. By pressuring these countries to pay their fair share for security, President Trump is seeking to lower the burden on the U.S. taxpayer without sacrificing America’s strategic advantage.
Slashing our defense budget in the hope that Russia and China will do the same is dangerously naive. As President Trump pointed out, though, the three countries could negotiate arms control agreements that end, or at least curtail, the ongoing arms race.
Rest assured, President Trump is not changing his stance on defense. He’s still committed to rebuilding the dominance of the American military — and using it as leverage to change the world into a more peaceful and prosperous place.
Christopher Neiweem is the Founder of Neiweem Group, an Iraq War Veteran, and Political Strategist. He has testified in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate as an expert witness numerous times in front many congressional committees. These topics range from defense, veterans, commerce, education, and military personnel. He regularly appears on Fox News Channel and other news shows as a guest commentator and has worked on several political campaigns. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.