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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, with his father, King Salman, at a meeting in Riyadh, December 9, 2018. Saudi Press Agency
The United States spends approximately $38 billion on foreign aid for economic and military assistance to various nations worldwide. The support is meant to enhance partnerships and cohesion between countries, but ever since Russia fully invaded Ukraine, this has now been questioned.
Taking advantage of Russia’s aggression to coerce an exhausted US government dealing with multiple conflicts in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and East Asia, some allies look to get concessions out of Washington by threatening closer ties with geopolitical rivals despite the annual aid.
What Is Foreign Aid?
Foreign aid can include technical, economic, military, and humanitarian assistance to any nation that supports a common interest with the United States. According to a Brookings Institute article, it only accounts for less than 1% of the overall federal budget. This is because the US is vastly more economically wealthy than most other nations and sees a return on investment in its aid.
Though America is by far the most significant contributor to foreign aid money-wise, the monetary value is broken down by Gross National Product (GNP). Wealthy nations akin to the US contribute close to 0.7% of their GNP to assist developing nations. These countries include Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.
Geopolitical Shift Over the Last Few Years
The United States is a constitutional federal republic, and throughout its history, the legislative and executive branches have changed hands between the two main parties. Coming together for geopolitical and existential threats, as seen in World War Two and now the emerging China, both parties have favored foreign aid.
Countries that receive ample foreign aid have had a great rapport with certain political parties, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with Republican Presidents over the past two decades. In contrast, Democrats have built a continued NATO enhancement for European partners. With a geopolitical shift now that other major players such as Russia and China are on a war footing, some of these countries look to extort as much aid or weaponry out of the United States as much as possible.
Examples of Aid That Should Be Reviewed: Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia, a once close ally of the United States, has reassessed relations since 2015. During their air campaign in Yemen, the then-Obama Administration criticized the inhumane bombings, despite assisting Riyadh. Relations would again become close under the Trump Administration, but this has again been in hot water under the current Biden Administration.
Reassessing relations instead of the Jamal Khashoggi murder, President Biden called the kingdom a ‘pariah.’ The ruling monarchy did not take this lightly, and simultaneously wanting nuclear ambitions, Riyadh has gone on a tit-for-tat against Washington.
Collaborating with Russia by cutting OPEC production along with seemingly growing ties with China and Iran, the Saudis look to coerce America into giving in to their demands. These include help for their nuclear program and a continued multibillion-dollar military aid package throughout several decades.
Examples of Aid That Should Be Reviewed: UAE
The United States has a major partnership with the United Arab Emirates. The country routinely conducts joint military exercises with the US Armed Forces, receives ample military aid and protection from Iran, and hosts one of the sophisticated THAAD systems.
The United Arab Emirates, much like Saudi Arabia, has collaborated with the Russian Federation and has become a major haven for Putin’s inner circle and oligarchs. Moscow’s elite has used cities such as Dubai as a bypass for sanctions, and the Emirates have also agreed with Riyadh on the cuts in OPEC production.
Examples of Aid That Should Be Reviewed: Egypt
Classified documents leaked from the Pentagon files showed Egypt, a nation that has received billions in economic and foreign aid from the United States, planned on secretly arming Russia with weaponry in their brutal war in Ukraine. It was also revealed Egypt changed its course once American diplomats had confronted Cairo over the leaks.
Egypt, which is going through an economic recession and an ever-booming population, could look to extort more aid for its foreign reserves. The nation is also in conflict with Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and perhaps is trying to force Washington into backing its claims instead of being a neutral mediator.
There are many other examples of nations past the development threshold whose interests haven’t aligned with the United States despite being a beneficiary of foreign aid. Despite accounting for only 1% of the federal budget, the State Department’s foreign aid program will continue to raise more questions than answers, especially as so-called ‘allies have constructed deals detrimental to US interests and security.
Whereas you can argue for developing nations to receive aid when it could benefit the country, there will be even more concerns as certain allies who reap the benefits of our lucrative partnerships take advantage of America’s kindness for weakness.
Want to learn more about US foreign aid? Click here.
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