Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, just back from a nearly weeklong trip to nations in Africa and Europe, is concerned the United States may not do its part to stop Russia and China from exerting influence on vulnerable nations there. Accompanying Inhofe were two other Republicans, Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Mississippi congressman Trent Kelly.
The first stop was Romania where Inhofe met with U.S. troops on rotation there, including soldiers from Oklahoma. He also met with Romanian military officials, whom he praised for being willing to stand up to Russia.
"They are maintaining their commitment to us, they are a little disturbed that we may not be maintaining our commitment to them," Inhofe said in an interview Thursday.
What Inhofe is referring to is overall spending on defense. Romania was one of the first NATO allies to bump its defense spending up to 2% of GDP, which former President Trump urged all member nations to do.
"Yet, they’re looking at us actually reducing our funding, and I’d just like to have you comment on what kind of impact that might have," Inhofe remarked during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
The question was directed at Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who replied that President Biden's proposed budget is sufficient and gives him the right mix of capabilities and flexibility "to deter China going forward and Russia or anyone else who wants to take us on," Autsin said.
Inhofe's trip also included stops in the African nations of Rwanda, Ethiopia, and the United Arab Emirates, where he also met with military and political leaders. He said a common thread in that part of the world is Chinese investment. Inhofe said China is very quick to offer material and monetary support.
"They’re aggressive all over, as far south as southern Tanzania...and on both coasts of Africa right now, so it is a moving target, it’s an aggressive opponent, it’s our most serious challenge that we have out there," Inhofe said.
Inhofe is hopeful the defense budget will get bumped up as it goes through the committee process, and well before it gets to President Biden's desk.