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US budget seeks $6.9bn to aid Ukraine, bolster NATO

WASHINGTON, US: US President Joe Biden (right) announces his Budget for Fiscal Year 2023 as Acting Office of Management and Budget director Shalanda Young listens in the State Dinning Room of the White House in Washington, DC on March 28, 2022. – AFP

WASHINGTON: The United States would spend $6.9 billion to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion and support NATO member countries under a budget proposal released Monday by President Joe Biden’s administration. The funds would represent Washington’s latest allocation of aid following the shock invasion last month, and be used to “enhance the capabilities and readiness of US forces, NATO allies, and regional partners in the face of Russian aggression,” the White House said.

The proposal also outlines spending of nearly $1 billion for the departments of defense and state as well as USAID “to counter Russian malign influence and to meet emerging needs related to security, energy, cyber security issues, disinformation, macroeconomic stabilization, and civil society resilience.” The money was included in Biden’s 2023 budget proposal, which funds the administration’s priorities for the year and is subject to modification and approval by Congress, where the president’s Democratic Party narrowly controls both chambers.

Washington has stepped up aid for Ukraine following the invasion, including with $2 billion in security assistance and new equipment, and $1 billion in humanitarian aid the White House announced last week. The weaponry-including shipments that arrived before the war started-has helped Kyiv mount an unexpectedly tough resistance to Russia’s army, which had been predicted to rapidly overpower the Ukrainian government. Instead, Russia has faced determined resistance from Ukrainian fighters and lost several generals and senior military figures, while NATO estimates deaths among its troops could be as high as 15,000.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pressed NATO countries to flood more weapons into Ukraine, including advanced fighter jets, missile defense systems, tanks, armored vehicles and anti-ship missiles. NATO members have supplied a steady stream of weapons including anti-tank rockets, which have helped to stall Russia’s advance. But these are seen as essentially defensive. The United States has thus far ruled out sending airplanes or other large weapons systems to Ukraine. Biden says he does not want to cross a line into what he says could become “World War III,” pitting nuclear-armed Russia against NATO.

Taxing the wealthiest

The wealthiest American taxpayers would pay a minimum tax on their income each year under a budget proposal unveiled by President Joe Biden’s administration on Monday. “This minimum tax would apply only to the wealthiest 0.01 percent of households-those with more than $100 million-and over half the revenue would come from billionaires alone,” the White House said in a statement. “It would ensure that, in any given year, they pay at least 20 percent of their total income in federal income taxes.” The provision in the annual budget proposal satisfies a demand of progressive lawmakers in Biden’s Democratic party, who have called for measures to increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans as a way of addressing inequality.

Similar proposals were discussed last year during negotiations over Build Back Better, a massive spending bill Biden proposed to revamp the country’s social services and fight climate change, but which has stalled due to divisions among Democrats in Congress. The budget would also raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, reversing legislation passed under Biden’s Republican predecessor Donald Trump in 2017 that lowered it to 21 percent. “While their profits have soared, their investment in our economy did not: the tax breaks did not trickle down to workers or consumers,” the White House said, noting the new rate is “still the lowest tax rate faced by corporations since World War II except in the years after the 2017 tax cut.”

Washington has backed a deal negotiated under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that would put a 15 percent minimum tax on corporations globally. The White House said the budget proposal “contains additional measures to ensure that multinationals operating in the United States cannot use tax havens to undercut the global minimum tax.” – AFP

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