New US Defense Bill Not Only Upsetting Russia, But Also China – Ex-DOD Analyst

© AP PhotoThis is an aerial view of the five-sided Pentagon building, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, in Arlington, Va., in 1975
This is an aerial view of the five-sided Pentagon building, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, in Arlington, Va., in 1975 - Sputnik International
US President Donald Trump signed a $717 billion defense bill on Monday calling it “the most significant investment in our military and our war-fighters in modern history.” Sputnik has discussed this with Michael Maloof, former senior security policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Sputnik: So what is your take on this NDAA, it is a huge military budget and I think it was superseded by only the budget during the most active part of the Iraq war…

Michael Maloof: The largest spending bill that we passed in recent memory, probably ever. It is highly controversial in many respects, not only upsetting Russia but also China. It does provide increases, as you point out, to the military, putting reporting requirements on the Defense Department, basically, to tighten up in the Chinese sphere because Congress feels that the administration hasn't done as much as they could to challenge China and its supremacy in the South and East China seas. What’s interesting now is that a statement that President Trump made upon signing is significant, he basically said in that statement that he will pick and choose what he will and will not implement which will include sanctions, which will include the recognition of Russian "annexation" of Crimea and whether to impose sanctions even though the law stipulates he shall; but increasingly we're seeing that the president in those statements upon signing the legislation giving emphasis or guidance to their administration on what they will or will not do. So it’s a very complicated bill. It gave him more than he really requested and so it’s going to be controversial, it’s basically a budget buster as well I might add, but it also increases the military and replenishes their capabilities as a result of 16-17 years of war, so it’s quite a large piece of legislation.

This bill is only an authorization bill it’s not an appropriation bill. It authorizes the spending of money, how much money will actually be allocated and appropriated by Congress is a separate exercise, and we don’t know what the Congress will ultimately do there. It may even give him more or even less than what is authorized, but they are authorized to spend up to those amounts. For example, up to 2.6% for pay increases. That authorizes the president to but he may or may not implement it, I’m sure he will, but other factors, the limitations that are imposed upon him, for example, with the F35's to Turkey in response to them wanting to buy the S-400s from Russia. He may or may not impose sanctions depending upon his national security prerogatives as commander in chief. What he’s doing is basically going back to the fact that, I am the commander in chief and  I will decide what’s best in the conduct of US foreign policy.

READ MORE: McCain 2019 Defense Bill 'Whips' Turkey for S-400 Deal, Targets Russia, China

Sputnik: What then can you say are the biggest changes, other than the actual numbers that were approved, that we will see as a result of the NDAA that was just signed?

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., listens as Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham speaks defending McCain's military record during a town hall meeting at the 3 West Club to launch Graham's “No Nukes for Iran” tour Monday, July 20, 2015, in New York - Sputnik International
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Michael Maloof: You’re going to see another aircraft carrier, a larger navy, you're going to see a larger Air Force, and again, this is new because it’s in response to the defense strategic initiative of looking upon Russia, China, Iran as adversaries if you’ll recall. It diminishes the importance of fighting terrorism. There is a $69 billion contingency fund that was allowed and that’s where a lot of the spending for special operations against ISIS [Daesh*] and Al-Qaeda take place, and that remains relatively at the same level approximately $68-69 billion, but the larger amounts are for capital spending, more aircraft, another aircraft carrier which means you're going to have another carrier strike force out there. We already have twelve.

READ MORE: ‘Cold War Thinking’: Beijing Says New US Defense Bill Meddles in Chinese Affairs

Sputnik: If we talk about changes that we might see in foreign policy, of course, Donald Trump is very unpredictable in many ways, but what are your thoughts about what kind of changes we might see after the signing of this?

Michael Maloof: I think he’s going to show that, notwithstanding what Congress has dictated in the legislation, he’s going to basically pick and choose what he will and will not implement. He has made it very clear that while the legislation is very punitive, not only towards China but also towards Russia, he’s also stated, continuously and consistently, that he wants to have better relations with both countries and especially with Moscow. And he may waive the implementation of sanctions that are in the legislation and citing a waiver for national security reasons and as commander in chief. So I see him doing that a lot more than other presidents have in the past.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik's position.

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