With Democrats and Republicans holding narrow majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, it is no surprise that deals on major funding priorities are difficult to achieve. But the lingering and growing outbreak of global crises, and our border crisis here at home, underscore the need for both parties to quickly advance funding for our national security, diplomatic and humanitarian priorities.
The recent deaths of three American servicemembers in Jordan by Iranian-backed proxies is yet another devastating example of how enemies of the democratic world — including Iran, Russia, China and North Korea — are increasingly united in their goals and actions against America and its allies.
Just weeks after Hamas’s deadly terrorist attack in Israel, Russia and China met and agreed to closer “foreign policy coordination,” and already we are witnessing the devastating results.
As the Iranian-aligned Houthis in Yemen attack and disrupt global shipping and supply chains, Russia continues its assault on Ukraine. While Russian President Vladimir Putin lends vocal support to Iranian-backed Hamas, he welcomes Iranian and North Korean leaders to Russia. Now, Iran is providing deadly drones to Putin while Kim Jong Un supplies Russia with short-range missiles. Just recently, the North Korean leader visited Russia’s weapons factories and is testing new cruise missiles on the Korean peninsula.
These events may appear isolated, but they’re not. We cannot ignore these global threats, just as we cannot ignore the gaping holes along America’s borders. America’s leaders must put politics aside and work together to thwart these widespread threats against our national security.
But despite this urgency, an emergency supplemental bill for national security priorities has been held up in Congress since October while an agreement on a broader bill to set fiscal 2024 funding levels for international affairs programs remains elusive.
To be clear, this effort is not “globalism,” nor is it intended to put us on a glide path to foreign adventures. Instead, it is a call to defend America by making wise choices to halt the ambitions of adversaries working to undermine our interests. Congressional action today prevents escalation abroad while keeping our servicemembers out of harm’s way.
While many Americans may view congressional inaction as simply par for the course (or even preferable) these days, our nation’s adversaries see it differently. Amid global disruption and conflict, American political infighting provides an opening to attack, leading to chaos and greater uncertainty. Times like these also enable our enemies to make greater inroads into fragile but strategically important places like Africa and Latin America.
This is already happening. According to one recent analysis, China’s global development investments have increased more than 500 percent over the past 15 years. This has commercial and military consequences. As just one example, China now owns or operates ports or terminals in more than 50 countries, spanning every continent and important trading route. As a result, China has become the top trading partner to more than 120 countries worldwide.
American military leaders, current and former, understand the need for the United States to provide credible alternatives to Chinese financing. In a recent letter to Congress, 110 retired three- and four-star generals and admirals wrote, “U.S. civilian diplomacy and development tools are central to a comprehensive American strategy to compete with China and protect U.S. national security interests.”
The emergency supplemental bill includes funding to invest in nations that might otherwise rely on China. This would open up new markets to American business and solidify relationships in critical places like Africa, the fastest-growing population in the world.
It also includes assistance for the Ukrainian people to make sure they can continue defending their homeland and stop Russian aggression from spilling into NATO territory. With Putin’s invasion threatening their own borders next, Europeans must continue to do their part, which is why it’s promising to see that Europe accounts for more than double the U.S. amount of aid to Ukraine, with an additional commitment of $54 billion just last week.
In addition, Congress needs to pass its fiscal year 2024 appropriations package with full funding for our diplomatic agencies that are lending assistance overseas while ensuring greater transparency and accountability of that funding.
Throughout our nation’s history and including today, voices have argued that the U.S. should not involve itself abroad. But U.S. isolationism is not a sign of neutrality or self-preservation, it is a sign of surrender. Avoidance signals to our adversaries that they can act with malicious impunity, and a signal to developing nations that they have no choice but to align themselves with authoritarian regimes.
Congress needs to reject American capitulation and commit to supporting our allies while at the same time taking action to protect our own borders.
Heather Nauert served at the U.S. Department of State as spokesperson from 2017 to 2019 and as acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs from 2018 to 2019. She previously spent nearly 20 years as an anchor and reporter at Fox News and ABC News.
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