Category National Security Policy

Dueling Defense Budgets

The cold hard reality is that in the long run $$$ = combat power. This is a obvious little relationship that is often ignored. This was demonstrated in spades when Japan attacked a country in 1941 that had an economy more than ten times their size. Good luck with that one. It was also ignored by the leader of Germany, who somehow or the other believed that superior willpower go overcome the overwhelming coalition arrayed against them. He could not. In the long run, warfare is decided by the golden rule: he who has the gold – rules. So, let us take a moment and look at the defense budget of Russia vs Ukraine. 

Russia defense budget in 2023, according to Wikipedia, was $86.4B. Source was the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), from back in the days when Sweden was neutral. Now maybe this should be adjusted by PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) to account for lower labor costs, lower food costs, etc.  The PPP multiplier for the GDP is 2.66. Meaning that their real value of the budget is somewhere between 86.4 to 229.8. Hard to say how much of military expenditures should be under PPP, especially when one is talking about all the high-tech equipment that makes up a modern army. The 2024 budget is higher, that is discussed below. Their 2023 budget only make of 4.1% of the GDP, so there is room to grow. Russia is receiving no significant outside aid to support this war (they have to pay for the material from Iran, China and North Korea). 

Ukraine on the other hand is receiving lots of outside aid. At least $110B a year. This includes over $50 billion from the EU & UK, and at least $61B from the U.S. Much of this is spent in their home countries for equipment, so is not directly comparable to the PPP adjusted Russian figures. On the other hand, in 2024 Ukraine is spending $66.2 billion of its own money on the war (source: Ministry of Finance of Ukraine). This is 18% of their GDP. Sort of gives you some idea of what Russia might be capable of if the political will was there (so I guess willpower does matter). One of course, has to ask, why is the political will not there? What is the dynamics where Ukraine has spent 18% of their national income on the war while Russia, which initiated this war, is only spending 4%. What is the Kremlin afraid of? Their own people?

Anyhow, $66B that Ukraine is spending also needs to be adjusted by PPP. Their multiplier is 2.73. So that $66B turns into $180.2. So 180 vs 230. 1-to-1.28 ratio of expenditures. But to that Ukraine adds a least $111B in Western money. So, 181 + 111 vs 230 or a 1.27-to-1. This is of course assuming that PPP is a fully valid measurement and none of the western aid is influenced by PPP. Neither of these are quite the case. If it was a simple nominal expense comparison it would be 66 + 111 vs 86 or a ratio of 2.06-to-1.

From a practical point of view, it appears that Ukraine with western aid is outspending Russian by at least 50%. Of course, I am comparing here Ukrainian 2024 figures to Russian 2023 figures. In the long run, that means that Ukraine will win. More than likely, it will force Russia to increase it defenses expenditures by at least 50%, up to 6% or more of GDP. This is sustainable. 

Now, the linked article below shows that Russia’s 2024 defense expenditure is 40% (or 39% in another article) of their national budget, which 391.2 x .4 = 156.48. They say it is a 70% increase from 2023 (86.4 x 1.7 = 146.88). Anyhow, they are having to increase their budget significantly. See: Putin approves big military spending hikes for Russia’s budget | Reuters

So, 146.88 x 2.66 (PPP multiplier) = 391. So 181 + 111 vs 391 is a 1-to1.34 ratio based upon PPP for both Russia and Ukraine. Or… 66 + 111 vs 147 is a 1.20-to-1 ratio in favor of Ukraine based upon nominal costs. So it does appear that for 2024 the two sides expenditures appear to be roughly equal. This would imply that a rough stalemate is going to be the outcome in 2024.

Now, this is a rough back-of-the-envelope calculation banged out this morning. Something more rigorous could be developed by someone. I am not sure it would tell a different story.

The House passed the aid bill for Ukraine

The House passed the aid bill for Ukraine. This was the hold up. It will now go to the Senate, which will approve and then to the President who will sign it. I assume it will be a done deal next week.

The final vote was 311-112 (7 not voting and five unfilled seats). So ,72% voted for it. Of those 210 were Democrats and 112 were Republicans. The House current sits 217 Republicans and 213 Democrats. So, this ends up being a bi-partisan foreign aid bill.

So, 99% of the House Democrats and 52% of the House Republicans voted for it. Note that the foreign aid bill advanced yesterday with 165 Democratic votes and 151 Republican votes. That is 70% of the House Republicans advancing the bill. 

The total bill was for $95.3 Billion, or which $61 billion was for Ukraine. Around $16 B was aid to Israel and over $9 B was humanitarian assistance for Gaza. Another $8 B was for the Indo-Pacific region.

Related post: Size of aid bill versus Russian defense budget | Mystics & Statistics (


Size of aid bill versus Russian defense budget

The military aid bill currently languishing in the House is $61 billion for Ukraine.

It is reported (via Wikipedia) that the Russian defense budget in 2023 was only $86.4 billion. Now, I am not sure how accurate that figure is and whether it has gone up in 2024 (I assume it has). Also Russian labor costs are lower, so it is hard to directly compare with western defense budgets. The 2024 Military Balance puts the Russian budget at $294.6 billion based upon PPP (Purchasing Power Parity).

Still, the Russian “defense” budget only makes up 4.1% of its GDP in 2023. This is surprisingly low for a country at war. In comparison, the U.S. defense budget as a percent of GDP was 3.47%. in 2022. The budget was $816.7 billion in 2023.

In contrast, Ukraine is spending 18% of its GDP on defense in 2024 with a budget of $45 billion (based on nominal figures… PPP figures will be higher as their labor costs are lower than Russia’s).

It is clear that the western power needs to provide at least 100-120 billion a year in military aid to Ukraine. Our European partners are providing half of that.

Updated calendar for the Republican nomination

The calendar for the Republican Party nomination:

1) Four Republican primary debates have been completed, the field is pretty settled now (Trump, Haley and Desantis). Three more debates are scheduled for 10, 18 and 21 January. Trump has yet to attend one.
2) Donald Trump currently leads the polling for the Republican Party presidential nomination by significant margins.
3) He is currently in a civil trial in New York concerning his businesses. A summary judgment was issued on 26 September that his companies had committed fraud. We expect the final verdicts related to results and penalties to be completed by the end of January.
4) the Iowa caucuses will be on 15 January 2024,
5) the New Hampshire primary will be on 23 January 2024,
6) the Nevada primary will be on 6 February 2024,
7) 24 February is SC primary, then MI,
8.) The date for the DOJ Special Council criminal trial for charges related to the 6 January incidents in now scheduled for 4 March. We gather Trump’s former chief of staff has taken a partial immunity deal with the government and will be providing testimony,
9) on 5 March 14 states will hold their primaries and between 9 – 23 March another 15 states/territories will hold their primaries. The Republican nominee could be decided by then,
10) 25 March is the trial date for Donald Trump’s New York Stormy Daniel’s related case,
11) 20 May is the trial date for Donald Trump’s classified documents case. This one is kind of a guaranteed conviction.
12) last Republican primary is 4 June 2024. I actually do think this is war related news as the currently three of the five leading Republican presidential candidates do not support Ukraine.
13) 15-18 July: Republican National Convention held in Milwaukee
14) 5 August is the start date for the Fulton County Georgia case. Four of the defendants have already pleaded guilty under a plea agreement. The other 15 defendants, including Donald Trump, will be going to trial.
15) The U.S. presidential, senate and congressional election is on Tuesday, 5 November, 2024.

So, there seems to be a race between whether Trump can get the Republican nomination before he gets too tangled up in his legal troubles.

The U.S. Defense Budget for FY 2024 has passed

By the way, on 14 December, the U.S. Congress did pass the defense budget for FY 2024. Fiscal Year 2024 begins in October 2023. It is expected to be signed by the president.

The total budget was $886.3 Billion. The Senate voted 87-13 for it and the House voted 310-118. The majority of the opposing votes were from the Republican Party. In the Senate opposed were 6 Republicans, 6 Democrats and one Independent (Bernie Sanders). In the House opposed 73 Republicans and 45 Democrats. It did include a provision that would require an act of Congress or 2/3rds Senate approval if the president wanted to leave NATO. This provision appeared to be in response to previous comments made by Donald Trump. The bill also extended a military aid program to Ukraine, allowing for the gradual release of $300 million to Kyiv. 

The previous year’s defense budget (FY2023) was 813.3 billion. Back for FY 2016 the defense budget was 580.3. There has been a steady increase in the annual defense appropriations since then. In FY 2022, the U.S. defense budget made up 3.47% of the GDP. 

In contrast, the defense budget of Russia for 2023 is $86.4 billion making up 4.1% of GDP. I gather it will be higher now for 2024. The defense budget of China for 2022 was $293 billion, making up 1.7% of GDP. The defense budget of Ukraine for 2023 was $46.8 billion making up 18.2% of GDP. They also received over $100 billion in foreign military aid.

There is also a combined bill in development of $105 billion for aid to Israel and Ukraine. This currently includes $61.4 billion for Ukraine. It also includes $14.3 billion for Israel, $10 billion for humanitarian assistance (including Gaza), 7.4 billion for Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific region and 13.6 billion for border security. This may not be the final figures. It has not been passed and is currently being negotiated in the Senate in exchange for tighter U.S. border controls. The House has already gone home for Christmas. I believe a version of this bill will pass in early January.

The American Political Scene and Aid to Ukraine

My bias on this blog is to stay away from politics, but sometimes it can’t be helped. The U..S. is providing about half the international aid to Ukraine. I have not done the exact math on this comparing U.S. military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine as compared to our NATO allies, plus the EU aid (which is sometimes left out of people’s calculations), plus aid outside of NATO/EU (like Japan, South Korea and Australia). So, haven’t done the exact math in a while, but I gather the U.S, portion is around half. Therefore, what is going on in the House of Representatives and the 2024 U.S. presidential election is worth noting. If Ukraine losses half of its military and humanitarian aid, this does affect its ability to conduct on this war.

First, while the current president supports aid to Ukraine, as do the leaders of both parties in the Senate, the current Republican Speaker of the House does not (although he does support aid for Israel). His latest statement on the subject was that it was not an “urgent need” compared to aid for Israel. Furthermore, three of the top four Republican candidates for President do not support additional aid to Ukraine.

It is uncertain to what extent the Republican controlled House opposes aid to Ukraine. There are currently 212 seats held by Democrats (who mostly support aid to Ukraine) and 221 seats held by the Republicans (and 2 vacant). The total amount of support committed by the U.S. to Ukraine is at least $133 Billion. 

In January the Gallup poll (3-22 January) says that 65% of Americans support the war in Ukraine. 31% clearly do not. This is pretty much the same figures as in August 2022 (66% vs 31%). Among self-identified Democrats the split was 81% to 16%, among independents it was 59% to 38% and among Republicans it was 53% to 41%. So, according to the Gallup poll, the majority of Republicans support Ukraine. On the other hand, 47% of the Republicans polled said that the U.S. is doing too much to help UkrainePrevious polling from Washington Post shows that 52% of Republicans want to reduce aid to Ukraine or “…want their member of congress to opposed additional funding.” 

The leading two contenders for the Republican presidential nomination are both opposed to extensive aid for Ukraine. Ron Desantis said that it was a not a “vital” U.S. interest. He got immediate pushback from six U.S. Republican senators, but it is clear that there is a very definite split in the Republican Party on this issue. It is a long way until November 2024. We will have to see how this develops.

Eleven Republican members of the House did propose in February a resolution (“Ukraine Fatigue Resolution”) to cut aid to Ukraine. There is a clearly a vocal minority that is opposed to supporting Ukraine, along with both leading Republican presidential candidates. The “Ukraine Fatigue Resolution” is worth a read. It is here: Text – H.Res.113 – 118th Congress (2023-2024): Ukraine Fatigue Resolution | | Library of Congress.

A letter was issued on 20 April (Hitler’s birthday) calling for an end to unrestrained U.S. aid to Ukraine. It was signed by three senators (out of 100) and 16 members of the house (out of 435). There is a vocal minority opposed to this war, but it is clearly a minority. 

Meanwhile, a Republican House member submitted a resolution in April recognizing the borders of Ukraine as being the 1991 borders. This was supported by 13 Democrats and 5 other Republicans. 

On 13 July, the House took a vote on cutting off aid to Ukraine. The vote was 358-70 rejecting the amendment. All 70 opposed votes were Republican. See: Here are the 70 House Republicans who voted to cut off all US military aid to Ukraine (

The U.S. resolved its “debt crisis” in June with the debt limit being suspended until 2025. Defense spending is capped at $886 billion, or 3.5% increase over the previous year. This matches the current administrations budget request. Spending on defense is limited to a 1% growth in 2025, or up to $895 billion. 

In September, a shutdown of U.S. government was delayed for 45 days (until mid-November), then the Republican Speaker of the House was thrown out of office for the first time in the U.S. history and a new speaker has finally been appointed, although house business was shut down for three weeks (did anyone actually miss them?). New additional aid for Ukraine has not been passed.

The second Republican primary debate occurred on 27 September. Four candidates clearly and strongly indicated that they support Ukraine (Christie, Haley, Pence and Scott). The Republican Party seems to split on this issue. Recent polling shows the majority of Americans still support Ukraine.

A few dates to keep in mind for the American political campaigns: 1) the third Republican primary debate is scheduled for 8 November, 2) Donald Trump currently leads the polling for the Republican Party presidential nomination by significant margins. He is currently in a civil trial in New York concerning his businesses. A summary judgment was issued on 26 September that his companies had committed fraud, 3) no start date has been set for the Fulton County Georgia case, but four of the defendants have pleaded guilty under a plea agreement. The other 15 defendants, including Donald Trump, will be going to trial soon, 4) the Iowa caucuses will be on 15 January 2024, 5) the Nevada primary will be on 6 February 2024, 6) the New Hampshire primary is scheduled for 13 February 2024, 7) 24 February is SC primary, then MI, 8) The date for the DOJ Special Council criminal trial for charges related to the 6 January incidents in now scheduled for 4 March. We gather Trump’s former chief of staff has taken a partial immunity deal with the government and will be providing testimony, 9) on 5 March 14 states will hold their primaries and between 9 – 23 March another 15 states/territories will hold their primaries. The Republican nominee could be decided by then, 10) 25 March is the trial date for Donald Trump’s New York Stormy Daniel’s related case, 11) 20 May is the trial date for Donald Trump’s classified documents case, 12) last Republican primary is 4 June 2024. I actually do think this is war related news as the currently the three of the four leading Republican presidential candidates do not support Ukraine.

Former VP and Republican presidential candidate Mike Pence was in Ukraine in July. He fully supports the war effort. A couple of days ago, he suspended his campaign. There are for practical purposes, only 6 real contenders are left, and two of them may not yet make the stage in Florida come 8 November.

“The Games the Marine Corps Plays”

An associate strongly recommended I look at this article. I would recommend the same to our readership: The Games the Marine Corps Plays |

It is written by Gary Anderson of GWU, who I do not know. But, to quote a few lines from the article:

  1. “You do not want prying eyes on your work that might question its rigor or validity.”
  2. “Since the Marines would be hundreds of miles away and irrelevant, they could be safely ignored.”
  3. “First, the Corps hired the most incompetent red team in the history of war-gaming, or their analysts cooked the books” (this sounds like a familiar problem, see:  Wargaming 101 – Sayers vs. The U.S. Navy | Mystics & Statistics (

Anyhow, it is not a long article. Recommend reading it.

A story about planning for Desert Storm (1991)

In an email exchange with retired DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) analyst, William (Chip) Sayers, he sent me this account. I asked him if we could publish it, as I think it is a wonderfully unfiltered account. He agreed, although pointed out that he would also be covering some of this in his presentation this fall. It is on Day 2 of HAAC and is on “The Combat Assessment Technique.” See: Schedule for the Historical Analysis Annual Conference (HAAC), 27-29 September 2022 – update 4 | Mystics & Statistics (

In early 1989, I went to work at an office at DIA that specialized at looking at the world through the eyes of the Soviet General Staff. In particular, we used the Soviet’s Correlation of Forces Methodology. However, we only partially understood it and needed some data to close gaps for us. I cast around for something that would plug these holes and settled on the QJM as the best candidate. It was my belief that both models had approached the subject from the same standpoint and therefore the one could help inform the other.

This paid off — to an extent — in the run up to the ground campaign of Operation DESERT STORM. Gen. Schwarzkopf desperately wanted to know at what point he should let loose his ground forces and so had his staff casting about for a methodology that would give him a way to measure the success of the air campaign in softening up the Iraqis. You would think that after the years we put into WEI/WUVs and all the various models that J-8 and others used, we would have had a good basis for solving his problem. Well, you’d be wrong. Very wrong. As an illustration, Schwarzkopf claimed after the war that, in the summer of 1990, CENTCOM had gamed out the exact scenario that actually occurred and got the exact same results. Schwarzkopf was channeling his inner Nimitz, but I guarantee you that was impossible. I spent several years in the bowels of the Pentagon gaming the Soviet problem with J-8 using the same model and I can truly say that the model itself was geared toward making it absolutely impossible for the attacker to win. I promise you, there was no possible way that Schwarzkopf’s troops got the results he claimed unless he disregarded the output and simply directed the outcomes, himself.

In any event, in the weeks running up to the ground campaign, he didn’t have anything — much less a full-scale model — that could answer his question. I saw a bunch of Majors and LTCOLs running around like chickens with their heads cut off, without coming to any useful conclusions. We ran through exceptionally complex pseudo-science formulae and we saw some so simplistic, my third-grader grandson could have done better. None of it, however, satisfied Schwarzkopf because no one could agree on an approach. In the end, Schwarzkopf threw up his hands and directed that we simply let him know when the air forces had attritted the Iraqis by 50%, and then he’d send in the ground troops. My job at that moment, was to pretty much figure this out for DIA, and given my possession of the QJM and my hybrid methodology, I felt I could be very confident in making the call that CINCCENT needed. Unfortunately, we were on opposite sides of the impenetrable G2/G3 no-go zone, so they weren’t interested in listening to my opinions.

I knew from my historical studies that 50% attrition was massive overkill and that we could go long before we reached that lofty — and probably unobtainable — goal. What Schwarzkopf didn’t know, and I did, was that the agreements set out to decide who did what to whom did not allow DIA access to the data collected by our tactical recce jets. In other words, DIA was going to have to do all its BDA analysis using less useful means. There was simply no way our guys could see a small hole punched through the top armor of a tank from the means we had at hand. Thus began the great BDA war between CENTCOM and Washington. We knew that we didn’t have the proper resources to do the job right, but were told to get on with it, anyway. On the other hand, CENTCOM had a formula of how many “kills” to award according to the in-flight pilot reports given the type of airframe flown. F-16s were heavily discounted, while A-10s were believed as though their claims were coming down from Mt. Sinai on stone tablets. I’m a former USAF pilot and I know that the last guy to ask is the one who just came through the gauntlet.

I vividly remember running my final calculations on Friday night before the attack kicked off the next day (Washington time) and being very satisfied that Schwarzkopf could go at any time he wanted. Interestingly enough, none of this had any input into his decision to go. Few people remember it, but Gorbachev was negotiating with Saddam and had successfully convinced him to pull out of Kuwait. The agreement they came up with would give the Iraqis three weeks to pull out. At this point, it had become a major goal to eliminate the Republican Guard and we didn’t want them to pull their head out of the noose, so President Bush turned down the compromise and ordered the ground forces in.

Ok, so here’s the point: Despite all the big talk and incredible claims, when push came to shove, the Army had nothing/NOTHING to use as a basis for planning. Lord knows we threw enough time and money at the problem, but in the end, Schwarzkopf just had to pray that we had enough combat power when our troops rolled across the line. He would have given anything up to half his kingdom for the QJM at that moment. He had a lot of opinions to choose from, but nothing solidly based on history. And frankly, I don’t think the situation has changed in the intervening 30 years. Now that the chips are down, people aren’t likely to care WEI/WUVs were developed by the opinions of various branch influence groups. But a model with an historical basis would be worth its weight in gold.


QJM = Quantified Judgment Model, Trevor Dupuy’s earlier combat model. The TNDM (Tactical Numerical Deterministic Model) is Trevor Dupuy’s update of the QJM.

WEI/WUVs = a weapon scoring system developed by CAA and used by RAND.

This email exchange was part of a discussion of what TDI could be doing, if properly budgeted. 

U.S. Defense Budget for 2022

The U.S. Defense budget was signed into law on Monday. A few things that caught my attention:

  1. Increase of 5% (I guess we have to replace all that equipment left behind in Afghanistan).
  2. 2.7% pay raise (which I gather makes up around 2% or so of that 5% increase).
  3. Seems to be focused on keeping “pace militarily with China and Russia.”
  4. “The bill includes $7.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and a statement of congressional support for the defense of Taiwan, measures intended to counteract China’s influence in the region.”
  5. “It also includes $300 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, a show of support in the face of Russian aggression, as well as $4 billion for the European Defense Initiative.”

Let’s look at what keeping “pace militarily with China and Russia” looks like in dollars and sense:

U.S. Budget: $768.2 billion (2022) or 3.42% of GDP in 2019.

Chinese (PRC) Defense Budget: $209.4 billion (2021) or 1.3% of GDP (2021)

Russian Defense Budget: 61.7 billion (2020-21) or 4.3% of GDP (2019).



Things related to our discussion on invading Taiwan

Over the last month, we did something like eleven posts analyzing the possibilities and the ability of China to invade and occupy Taiwan. The summery post is here:
Will China invade Taiwan in the next 20 years? Summation: | Mystics & Statistics (

Just spotted a CNN article that is related: US Air Force to send dozens of F-22 fighter jets to the Pacific amid tensions with China

A few highlights:

  1. We are sending 25 F-22s to Guam and Tinian Islands (Northern Marianas).
  2. F-22’s are fifth-generation combat jets. China has 20-24. We have 180 F-22s (and then there are F-35s).
  3. Only about half of the F-22s “…are mission capable at any one time due to maintenance requirements.”
  4. 10 F-15s and 2 C-130Js are also deploying.

I copied the cover picture from the article.