Thornberry: Russia making the case for more defense spending

Russia’s recent aggressive behavior toward its neighbors has “enlightened” isolationist House members about the importance of increased defense spending, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said on Wednesday.

“I think Mr. Putin and others are helping remind everyone that the world is dangerous and that the first job of the federal government is to defend the country,” he said in reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Relations between Washington and Moscow have soured since the Kremlin’s annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea earlier this year, as well as continued efforts by pro-Russian separatists in the eastern and southern sections of the country.

On the same day that President Obama laid out a foreign policy that could define the rest of his second term, Thornberry charged the White House with making a “straw man” argument that GOP lawmakers are in favor of either isolationism or military intervention around the globe.

“I think the actual number of isolationists in the Republican Party is very small,” Thornberry said after Obama’s speech.

Thornberry added that even members tied to the fiscally conservative Tea Party are showing more enthusiasm to fund Pentagon programs.

“I have seen a change, even in the last year or two, towards a greater willingness to look at increased defense spending,” he told the audience.

Thornberry, who could chair the House Armed Services Committee next year, touted ongoing efforts at defense acquisition reform.

“One way we shore up support for defense spending is to make the reforms necessary so that each dollar is spent as wisely as possible and fewer dollars are spent on overhead and unnecessary things,” he said.