TALLINN – US President Donald Trump has proposed a 25 percent cut to the signature military fund designed to offset Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, U.S. News & World Report reported earlier this week citing Defense Department's budget documents unveiled Monday.
Budget proposals for fiscal 2021 released Monday afternoon call for 4.5 billion US dollars for the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), a fund started by the Obama administration in the aftermath of Russia's 2014 invasion of parts of eastern Ukraine and annexation of the Crimean peninsula. The latest proposal represents a precipitous drop from the 6 billion dollars enacted for the current fiscal year and 6.5 billion dollars the year before. Congress approved funding in line with administration requests for those years, says the report quoted by Postimees.
Trump has repeatedly expressed criticism of US programs like the EDI that provide training, resources and money for governments throughout Europe, calling on other US partners to do more. The president has previously raided this fund as a workaround to pay for a wall along the southern US border after Congress refused to allocate those funds.
The cut would not affect just the EDI, as Trump's wish is to reduce the entire budget of overseas contingency operations from the current 71.3 billion dollars to 69 billion dollars.
The draft document sets out five points that will be followed in pursuing the objectives of the EDI, which are increasing US presence in Europe, additional training exercises with allies and partners, prepositioning of US equipment in Europe, developing infrastructure for increasing readiness, and developing the capabilities of allies and partners, Postimees said.
The proposal released Monday does not represent precisely how the Pentagon will in fact spend money for the coming year as Congress will make significant changes in its appropriations process. Support for countries facing Russian aggression, including Ukraine, has traditionally enjoyed rare bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, though that backing has begun to crack amid the president's outspoken skepticism of such programs.
That amount for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative last year, 250 million dollars, will again be included in the Pentagon budget released Monday, though top White House officials including national security adviser Robert O'Brien have repeatedly said the president remains skeptical of similar foreign assistance.