Defense

Democrats blast ‘blatant misuse’ of Russia deterrence funding on border wall

Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee are calling on the Trump administration to “immediately” stop funding President Trump’s border wall with money meant to deter Russian aggression in Europe.

“This is a blatant misuse of appropriated funds intended to bolster security and support for our European allies,” the lawmakers wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper in a letter released Monday. “We urge you to respect Congress’ authority and immediately cease the use of these critical funds to prop up President Trump’s failed border wall initiative.”

The letter was organized by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.), chairman of the panel’s subcommittee on Europe, and was co-signed by 17 Democratic committee members.

Late last month, the Pentagon notified Congress it was shuffling around about $545.5 million to fund 22 stateside projects that had been delayed because money was reallocated to Trump’s wall on the southern border.

Instead of the U.S. projects, wall money will now come from 19 mostly overseas military construction projects, according to a memo. Ten of those projects are listed as being part of the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), a fund created in 2014 to reassure U.S. allies shaken by a resurgent Russia.

The projects include infrastructure to support weapons storage, aircraft, fuel storage, information systems and more in Germany, Spain, Norway and unspecified locations

The Pentagon has stressed the overseas projects “have not been cancelled but deferred because the projects will not be awarded until FY 2021 or later.”

The funding is part of the $3.6 billion the Pentagon took last year from military construction projects to build 175 miles of wall.

The Pentagon has tapped military construction funding for the border wall as part of the national emergency Trump declared last year when Congress did not approve as much money for border security as he requested.

“President Trump’s inability to secure funding for his border wall is not a reasonable justification to circumvent the Congress’ constitutional authority to appropriate funds,” the Democrats wrote in their letter. “While the president concocts a misleading narrative about a national emergency on the southern border in order to divert funds to the wall, the threat of Russian aggression to the United States and to our allies and partners in Europe is tangible.”

The lawmakers cited Russian interference in the 2016 and 2018 elections, as well as a “non-stop disinformation war” against the United States and its allies that continues “even now, in the midst of a major global health crisis.”

The Democrats argued using EDI funding “undermines” U.S. security by “reneging” on commitments to allies and “signaling to Russia that funds meant for Europe are at risk of being hijacked for other purposes.”

“This sends the wrong message to allies and partners and denies funding critical to our forces at a time when relations between the United States and Russia are at an all-time low and when Russia continues to threaten the United States and our allies,” they wrote. “Furthermore, these ill-conceived cuts to our deterrent in Europe directly contradict the administration’s own National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, which call for bolstering our NATO allies and strengthening our deterrent.”

Tags Bill Keating Donald Trump Eliot Engel Mark Esper Mike Pompeo

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