Perhaps the starting point for any objective assessment of U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration’s performance during his first year in office, in my opinion, is the military budget. Neither domestic nor foreign policy can be analyzed without taking it into account.
Congress approved the administration’s request for a military budget of $768 billion, which equals half the U.S. federal budget. This implies financing the rest of the U.S.’ priorities — with all relevant issues — with the other half. In America, there are two types of federal spending. The first one is called “entitlements”: social programs that entitle participants to access lifetime benefits, such as pension and health-care programs for the elderly. The state has no control over the high cost of such programs, which eat up the bulk of the federal budget. As for the second type of spending, which the state has more discretion to change, more than half of it is consumed by the steadily increasing military budget.
Ironically, those that are most supportive of the military budget are the ones who oppose the huge domestic spending that the country needs, and that Biden presented to Congress. It is that military spending, requested by Biden himself, that limits his ability to maneuver his domestic projects when his opponents oppose him and demand a reduction in their costs.
So much time was spent in that controversy that it is too late for Biden to work on his projects. As a result, it became easy for the president’s opponents to stop him from enacting two voting rights bills that are crucial for the future of his party. Restricting the right of minorities to vote by Republicans would prevent the Democrats from winning the November legislative elections, and indeed any subsequent federal elections, congressional or presidential.
The military budget also gives a more accurate picture of Biden’s foreign policy: It still represents continuity, not change. It is true that the United States withdrew from Afghanistan, but it imposed harsh sanctions on the country in the midst of a real humanitarian catastrophe. The U.S. is also planning to withdraw from the Middle East, which does not necessarily mean ending the imperial character or the militarization of its foreign policy. In a frantic race between two poles, America is building for itself a strong military presence in Asia to encircle China, prompting the country to increase its military budget. American policy in Europe is no exception in this regard.
The tense situation on the border between Russia and Ukraine is caused by the United States’ breach of its pledge to Mikhail Gorbachev, on the eve of the Soviet Union collapse, to refrain from military expansion eastward through NATO. Western militarism has expanded in Eastern Europe, reaching the borders of Russia with Romania and even Ukraine, which America is supporting against Russia, even announcing an increase in military aid a few days ago.
Hence, Russia says that its intense military presence on the border was essential for its national security, and it demands security guarantees against the expansion of NATO, which the alliance rejects. In the midst of the current crisis, Russia recently requested from America a written statement on the status and position of NATO. The United States agreed to submit a response “after extensive consultation with allies.”
As the U.S. congressional elections are approaching, while Republicans insist on sabotaging all Biden’s domestic projects, the question remains: Will he devote his efforts to saving the projects that can be saved before the election, or will he devote his time to making tangible progress in foreign policy? I would say that it is more likely that Biden would favor the first option.