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US President Donald Trump may have found a way to get Democrats in the House to approve all of the State Department funding in his proposed $4.7 trillion budget for 2020: by labeling all sorts of things as “countering Russia.”
The budget request, published on Monday, says its State Department funding is “$12.3 billion or 23-percent decrease from the 2019 estimate.” Yet the same document also says the US government will allocate $661 million to “counter Russian malign influence” in Europe and Eurasia – nearly double the numbers for fiscal year 2019.
A closer look at some of the numbers contained in the document suggests both of those numbers are subject to accounting logic and fuzzy math. Rebranding some of the programs as “countering Russia” seems mostly intended to get approval from Russiagate-obsessed Democrats who currently control the House of Representatives and, therefore, the purse.
First off, the 23-percent reduction refers to the 2019 estimate, not the request – because that one asked for $37.8 billion, or $2.2 billion less than the 2020 proposal. Furthermore, according to the US Agency for International Development, the actual budget for fiscal 2019 was $39.3 billion in total, meaning that the proposal actually increases State Department funding from current levels.
Now that this is perfectly confusing, what about the $661 million for “countering Russia”? That number is used in the State Department fact sheet published on Monday. The budget justification contains 13 mentions of “Russia,” across several programs, compared to only eight in the 2019 document. RT went and crunched some numbers so you don’t have to.
It is unclear how much of the budget for the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) – formerly the Broadcasting Board of Governors – will be dedicated to Russian-language programming, but the budget calls for “doubling the weekly audience” as a goal in 2020.
Then there is the $308.8 million requested for Europe and Eurasia under the Economic Support and Development Fund (ESDF), up from $306.6 million last year. This is intended to “counter Russian malign influence” by “supporting the security of countries on Europe’s eastern and southern frontiers” and encouraging them to join NATO, but also “strengthening and balancing the transatlantic trade and investment relationship.”
Then there is $26.4 million under the International Military Education and Training (IMET), and a portion of $75 million earmarked for Europe and Eurasia under Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to “incentivize” countries that want to get rid of their Russian armaments and buy American instead.
Some unspecified portion of the $206.4 million allocated to Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining and Related Programs would go to cleaning up minefields in Ukraine and “improving physical security and management of Ukraine’s munitions storage facilities,” which have been prone to exploding in recent years.
Another unspecified portion of the $150 million in equity funding for the Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is supposed to counter Russia by “strengthening energy security and economic resilience through energy diversification” – meaning, bribing countries into buying US liquid natural gas rather than the cheaper Russian alternative.
Finally, the amount set aside for “countering Russia” under the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement initiative – whatever that actually entails – remains unchanged, at $36 million.
Now that everyone’s eyes have glazed over from all these numbers, the only thing that seems clear is that not much has changed in State Department funding. For all its fussing about deficits and fiscal discipline, Congress is likely to give Foggy Bottom far more funding than the White House asked for, just as it has for the past two years.