Editor’s Note: This is a guest commentary. The opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board.
With talks in Washington mounting over the debt ceiling, U.S. taxpayers should take special notice of how much we spend on the military. For every dollar that you pay in income taxes, roughly 10 cents will go toward military spending. Those 10 cents go on to fund 11 nuclear aircraft carriers, 750 overseas bases, 3,750 nuclear missiles (more than enough to eradicate humanity 40 times over), a global intelligence apparatus, the annual purchase of two billion rounds of ammunition and other hardware, and one million active duty service members. All for the measly price of $1.73 trillion.
With the military pivoting from counter-insurgency to what the military coins “large-scale-combat-operations” against U.S.’ main foreign adversaries — like Russia and China — much of our $1.73 trillion in defense spending will now be earmarked toward countering aggression by the three aforementioned nations.
So what happens when one of those adversaries starts an invasion that takes its military from being one of the most powerful in the world to arguably not even being the strongest in their own backyard? You don’t even flinch at the opportunity to further their demise. Aid to Ukraine is therefore an essential item that cannot be cut out of the budget as fiscal talks increase.
“Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake…”
- Napoleon Bonaparte
Buying Toys For Others is More Cost Effective Than Buying Them For Ourselves
The $75 billion that has been sent to Ukraine is a mere 5% of the U.S.’ total defense spending ($0.015 of every dollar you pay in taxes). This may seem like a lot, but in terms of defense spending, it is pocket change. For reference, this amount is equal to A FIFTH of the amount that it cost taxpayers to produce the $400 billion F35 fighter jet. Unlike the F35, U.S. aid to Ukraine has actually borne fruit.
In the first week of the war, U.S.-provided Javelin missiles aided in the destruction of at least 280 Russian armored vehicles — significantly hampering Russia’s mad dash to Kyiv. Later on in the war, U.S.-donated rocket artillery helped Ukraine reach targets far behind enemy lines. This consequently helped Ukraine liberate Kherson and Kharkiv, according to several National Security specialists in a Hill op-ed.
U.S.-donated “hand-me-downs” have done more than any nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, 5th-generation fighter jet, or overseas base has ever done to counter Russia. All for the cost of 1.53% of your taxes. Ukraine quite possibly is the investment of the century.
Aid to Ukraine is The Marshall Plan 2.0
U.S. aid not only plays a military role but also a humanitarian role. A total of $3.9 billion has gone towards aiding Ukrainian refugees, health care and food support. A quarter of the total aid – $26.4 billion sent by the U.S. — has gone toward uplifting the Ukrainian economy, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. This is a move similar to the Marshall Plan which helped to build a stable bulwark of European democratic allies against communism in the aftermath of World War II.
After our recent defeat in Afghanistan, U.S. residents may be cautious about single-handedly propping up another nation’s economy and government with aid. U.S. residents should look past the dollars that are being spent downrange in Ukraine, and instead look toward the vast natural resources that the country could provide us and our allies in the future. Being the largest landmass in Europe, Ukraine is home to many vital resources: iron, natural gas, salt, oil, titanium and nickel. Today, $75 billion could turn into a trade relationship worth hundreds of billions in the future and U.S. residents shouldn’t discount that.
Bring Down Russia: 50% Off Fire Sale
The U.S. is paying nothing to take down its number one rival. To bring down Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany in World War II, America spent a total of $4.1 trillion in today’s dollars and lost over 400,000 service members. To uphold democracy in Korea, the U.S. spent $400 billion and lost over 36,000 lives, while the failed U.S. attempt to enshrine democracy in South Vietnam cost $1 trillion and 54,000 U.S. lives.
To date, support for Ukraine has cost $75 billion and has led to exactly zero U.S. service members losing their lives. In the process, Ukrainian democracy, and quite possibly democracy in Eastern Europe, has been upheld. The professional Russian military before the war — with thousands of well-trained paratroopers, modern tanks and dozens of state-of-the-art aircrafts — has been reduced to using conscripts, prisoners, ancient T55 tanks and North Korean artillery shells. Regardless of the outcome of the war in Ukraine, Russia will not be a notable threat that the U.S. nor NATO will have to delegate too many resources.
A weak Russia allows the United States to focus on more relevant threats, like China. Fewer threats to worry about means less money needed for defense spending. Less money for defense spending means more money for other things, like healthcare. U.S. aid pays itself off.
There are many objections to U.S. aid to Ukraine. Although some may say that aid to Ukraine is better appropriated to domestic issues, support should not be seen as a cost, but rather an investment that could decrease future spending. Although some may argue that there is a need for aid oversight in Ukraine, it should be noted that Congress is currently evaluating measures to oversee aid. While the war in Ukraine does not seem to have a clear end in sight, a continued war in Ukraine, given U.S. aid, will weaken Russia for as long as it protracts.
From a cost-benefit perspective, U.S. aid to Ukraine has cost taxpayers a relatively small amount. Meanwhile, it has weakened our biggest geopolitical threat and proved to our allies and enemies our dedication to defending democracy. It is the “EVERYTHING MUST GO, 50% OFF” deal of the 21st century.
Landon Le (he/him) is a sophomore Computer Science and Political Science majors from Cornell University. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.