US Hawks Are Trying to Increase Military Budget — and Use Ukraine as Excuse

With NATO countries recommitting themselves to the alliance and passing sweeping sanctions against Russia as punishment for Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, is this the dawn of a new Cold War? We speak with William Hartung, a senior researcher at the Quincy Institute. Hartung warns that Washington’s hawks are pushing for an increase in the U.S. defense budget. It is currently at a record $800 billion per year. “There’s a danger that not only will this be a war in Ukraine, but the U.S. will use it as an excuse for a more aggressive policy around the world, arguing that it’s to counter Russia or China or Iran, or whoever the enemy of the moment is.” Hartung also speaks about the Saudi-led war in Yemen, where U.S. support has allowed the conflict to rage for years, killing about 400,000 people. Unlike in Ukraine, where the U.S. has more limited leverage, the Biden administration could “end that killing tomorrow,” Hartung says.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. As we continue to look at the global fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we’re joined by William Hartung of the Quincy Institute, who closely follows the global arms industry and the U.S. military budget. He co-authored an article. articleFor TomDispatch headlined “Washington Should Think Twice Before Launching a New Cold War.”

Bill, welcome back to Democracy Now! Why don’t you take it from there? What is your assessment of what’s happening right now, and who most is profiting?

WILLIAM HARTUNG:Washington’s hawks are trying to increase the military budget while using Ukraine as an excuse. But if you look at the budget — and Biden is going to propose, according to press accounts, a military budget of over $800 billion on Monday. That’s more than was spent at the height of the Korean or Vietnam Wars. It’s $100 billion more than what was spent at the height of the Cold War under Ronald Reagan. This notion that to provide weapons to Ukraine and to send a few thousand more troops to Europe requires increasing the enormous budget is only going benefit weapons contractors as well as members of Congress who get campaign contributions from them. They also use these arguments to get elected.

This discussion of a new Cold War is the underlying theme of all this. And I think people don’t think about this — a lot of people think it’s like the United States spent the Soviet Union into the grave and brought democracy to Eastern Europe and so forth, but they don’t look at what happened all over the world in the name of fighting communism. They don’t look at the Vietnam War. They don’t look at the coups in Guatemala, Iran, Chile. They don’t look at arming of the so-called freedom fighters by Ronald Reagan, including the Afghan mujahideen, some of whom went on to help form al-Qaeda; including the Contras in Nicaragua, who committed unspeakable crimes; including the overthrow of the Allende elected government in Chile, when Henry Kissinger said, “You can’t let a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people,” acknowledging that they were overthrowing a democratic government. So I think there’s a danger that not only will this be a war in Ukraine, but the U.S. will use it as an excuse for a more aggressive policy around the world, arguing that it’s to counter Russia or China or Iran, or whoever the enemy of the moment is.

AMY GOODMAN:Bill Hartung, about recent op-edYou wrote it for Stripes, “US should use its leverage to end the war in Yemen,” I mean, what we’re seeing, perhaps in an unprecedented way right now, is the mainstream U.S. corporate media on the ground, there with the targets of war. It is quite shocking, and the entire world is captivated by what it means to be at war’s end. We don’t see that similarly in Yemen — hosts of global shows standing with the Yemeni people, looking up and seeing planes flying overhead. Can you discuss what that would mean and how the U.S. should use it to end the war in Yemen.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Yes. Well, I think, as you said, you know, the media has underscored the horrors of war by the way they’re covering Ukraine. This is something that people should consider. They haven’t covered the horrors of war on Yemen. If they did, the Saudi-Arab-speaking people would have a better understanding of what happened in Yemen.UAENearly 400,000 people have died in the seven-year anniversary of Saudi intervention. This was due to bombing and a Saudi blockade.

This is why the United States is crucial to this. Through Obama, Trump, Biden, and other U.S. officials, the U.S. has provided weapons worth tens and billions of Dollars to the Saudi and UAERegimes that were used to fuel the war. We could stop the killing by cutting off weapons and spare parts that keep the Saudi war machine running. This would allow us to force the Saudis into a peaceful settlement.

This is why the contrast is so stark. And, you know, in Ukraine, the United States’ leverage is more limited. It’s a complex problem. The people of the United States could make Yemen stop the killings in a matter of minutes. So there’s more agency there. There’s more of an opportunity for people to make a difference. And there’s groups that have been doing so, including the Yemeni diaspora in the United States. Representatives Peter DeFazio & Pramila Jayapal plan to introduce a war powers resolution to stop U.S. support of the Saudi-led invasion.UAE war. I believe this is an area in which people can make a difference, and where the international communities have looked the other way for too long.

AMY GOODMAN:Bill Hartung, thank you so much for being here, national security expert at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. We’re going to link to all of your pieces at

Next up, we’ll speak to the Colombian environment activist Francia Márquez Mina, the new running mate of presidential front-runner Gustavo Petro, who could become Colombia’s first Black female vice president. This exclusive interview will be available to you.