Defense contractors biggest winners of new Pentagon budget. Putin suggests possibility of settlement to end war in Ukraine.
House overwhelmingly passes record $858 billion defense budget
In a 350-80 vote, the House of Representatives far exceeded the necessary two-thirds majority to pass the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which sets out defense spending for the next year. The 2023 NDAA foresees $858 billion in defense spending. This is the largest ever yearly Pentagon budget and exceeds the amount President Biden requested by $45 billion. It’s not unusual for Congress to exceed the White House’s request when it comes to military budgets.
This amount also far exceeds the 2022 NDAA’s eye-popping $777.7 billion budget. Even accounting for inflation, it exceeds the $533 billion budget in 2005 by nearly $100 billion ($533 billion in 2005 is about $765 billion in 2022 terms). In 2005, we were fully engaged in Afghanistan and also fighting the so-called “insurgency” in Iraq.
The current 2023 NDAA legislation gives a 4.6% pay increase for the troops. It also includes about $800 million more aid for Ukraine on top of the more than $60 billion already approved. The bill also pledges $10 billion to Taiwan from 2023-2027 as the island faces increasing aggression from China.
Defense contractor “bonanza”
By far the biggest winners are defense contractors Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman. All of them will be receiving no-bid multi-year multi-billion dollar contracts in weapons purchases and funding to develop new ones.
To highlight just one of these programs, Northrup Grumman has rolled out its new B-21 Raider. The sleek craft is capable of manned and unmanned flight and carrying both nuclear and conventional weapon payloads. The Air Force says it “will form the backbone of the future Air Force bomber force.” The planes are about $700 million each (though some sources price it at nearly $1 billion. The Pentagon hopes to build about 100 of these planes at an estimated cost of $32 billion, including research and development, through 2027.
Putin suggests possibility of settlement to end Ukraine war
Speaking in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek, Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the possibility of a “settlement” that could end hostilities in Ukraine. However, his other comments suggest that he’s not yet ready to negotiate on certain demands of his considered out-of-bounds by Ukraine and most of its Western allies.
“The settlement process as a whole, yes, it will probably be difficult and will take some time,” Putin said. “But one way or another, all participants in this process will have to agree with the realities that are taking shape on the ground”. It’s not very hopeful but still one of the few times Putin has admitted that an unqualified victory might not be on the cards for him in Ukraine. At the moment, the realities taking shape on the ground are decidedly not in Putin’s favor.
During his remarks in Bishkek, Putin repeated his belief that the war was going to plan. “Everything is stable,” Putin said “There are no questions or problems there”. This is despite the fact that Russian forces are in retreat, poorly-equipped and under-supplied all across the Ukrainian field. Yesterday, Putin voiced a rare acknowledgment of these unforeseen “setbacks”. He warned that the war was likely to be “a long-term process”.
Putin has recently reiterated that he considers Russian possession of Ukrainian territories non-negotiable. This includes Crimea as well as four other Ukrainian regions where Russia recently conducted referendums, universally rejected as “shams” by the West. The Kremlin recently stated that Russian possession of these provinces must be unconditionally agreed to by the West before they even sit down at the negotiation table.
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