Posts Tagged ‘military spending’

The 30 Republicans Holding Up Tax Reform

September 14, 2017

The Freedom Caucus threatens to side with Democrats and block the GOP majority.

By Karl Rove
The Wall Street Journal
Sept. 13, 2017 6:53 p.m. ET

No matter how persuasive President Trump is, it’s unlikely he can round up enough Democrats to get 60 votes in the Senate for tax reform. That means Republicans will need to use the Senate’s reconciliation process, which avoids the filibuster, to pass their plan with 51 votes. But first the House and Senate must pass a budget resolution—and soon.

A budget resolution sets spending levels and authorizes congressional committees to prepare bills fulfilling the blueprint. With the reconciliation plan in mind, this year’s resolution would set the size of the tax reform and then instruct the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to flesh out the provisions.

Gaining agreement on a budget resolution is always tough. No more than a handful of lawmakers from the opposition party ever vote for the majority’s resolution. It helps that Republicans control both the House and Senate, but the GOP must still resolve its internal philosophical disagreements.

House Republicans tend to insist on resolutions that balance the budget within 10 years. This means resolutions that pledge to slow substantially the growth of entitlement spending. Such promises are rarely fulfilled. But putting them in the budget blueprint fuels Democratic ads claiming Republicans will throw grandma off the cliff and deprive poor children of free school lunches. Knowing this, Senate Republicans tend to want resolutions that reach balance after 10 years. Another GOP tension is between defense hawks, who want increased military spending, and deficit hawks, who want all spending restrained or cut.

Then there are nerdy but important technical arguments, starting with how the resolution’s spending baseline is calculated. Beginning with a baseline of “current law” means assuming that a tax break currently authorized for only a year or two will actually expire instead of being reauthorized. But Congress renews some tax breaks annually and probably will keep doing so through the next decade. To account for this, many in the GOP want to calculate the baseline under “current policy.”

It sounds technical, but it quickly becomes political. Democrats demand “current law” because a higher baseline would make tax reform appear to raise the deficit more than it actually would. On the other hand a lower baseline would give tax reform more wiggle room: One GOP budget expert tells me that “current policy” would provide, on paper, $450 billion that could be used to lower rates and make the tax code simpler and fairer.

Dynamic scoring is another geeky fight. A tax reform that generates economic growth will offset some of the government revenue lost from cutting rates. Republicans want their bill evaluated with dynamic scoring because it takes this effect into account and makes reform more attractive. Democrats oppose it for the same reason.

Still, given time and leadership—both on Capitol Hill and from the White House—Republicans could cobble together a budget resolution setting up a strong tax reform, which in turn would juice the economy and redeem the GOP in the midterms.

The biggest obstacle is the House Freedom Caucus. This group of just over 30 Republican congressmen has already slowed up the process by threatening to vote with Democrats against the GOP budget resolution unless they can see and approve, in advance, every major provision of the tax-reform bill. The Freedom Caucus tried in late July to block the House Budget Committee’s passage of a resolution unless the border-adjustment tax was taken off the table—which it then was. Now the Freedom Caucus’s members say they’ll flake on the budget resolution if tax reform includes full, immediate expensing of business investment. But if that’s agreed to, they’ll have more demands.

These lawmakers say they want Congress to operate in “regular order,” with committees grinding away to write legislation instead of leadership handing it down. This is hypocritical bunk. What they want is for their caucus to dictate the details of tax bills to the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Republican majorities on both sides of Capitol Hill. Their approach is to make demands while threatening to join Nancy Pelosi in opposing the budget resolution unless they get their way.

If the Freedom Caucus acts on its threat, the budget resolution could be voted down, making tax reform impossible. No doubt, following their M.O., the group’s members would then blame the GOP leadership. Even if the resolution passes, the Freedom Caucus’s shenanigans may delay tax reform until 2018. These lawmakers are demonstrating once again that the freedom they most prize is freedom from the responsibility of governing.

Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is the author of “The Triumph of William McKinley ” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

Appeared in the September 14, 2017, print edition.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-30-republicans-holding-up-tax-reform-1505343197

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Sweden increases military spending and reintroduces conscription as Russia tensions mount

August 21, 2017

Scandinavian nation’s armed forces receive £190 million in additional funding under cross-party agreement to bolster defences against threat posed by neighbouring superpower

By Johan Sennero

The Independent 

Sweden’s centre-left minority government has agreed with two opposition parties to boost military spending in the 2018 budget as the country faces increased tension with Russia in the Baltics.

Sweden’s armed forces will get around 2 billion crowns (£190 million) extra in the 2018 budget and around 6 billion crowns (£575 million) during the 2018-2020 period in the deal between the Social Democrat and Green party coalition and the opposition Moderate and Centre parties, Swedish Radio reported.

Sweden’s military has said it needs the money to rebuild its strength after years of under investment and greater demands on its operational capabilities.

The armed forces called for 9 billion crowns (£862 million) in extra spending during 2017-2020 period.

Minister of Defence Peter Hultqvist will hold a press conference later on Wednesday.

The budget for 2018 – an election year – will be presented on 20 September.

Sweden has reintroduced conscription and restored troops to the strategically key Baltic island of Gotland as it looks to bolster its defences.

It has also been drawing closer to Nato, although the government has ruled out becoming a member of the alliance.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/sweden-military-budget-increase-russia-tensions-nato-baltics-draft-reintroduced-a7904011.html

Reuters

Sweden to raise military budget by SEK 6 billion through 2020: Swedish Radio

August 16, 2017

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden’s center-left minority government said on Wednesday it had agreed with two opposition parties to boost military spending in the 2018 budget as the country faces increased tension with Russia in the Baltics.

Sweden’s armed forces will get around 2 billion crowns ($250 million) extra in the 2018 budget and around 6 billion crowns during the 2018-2020 period in the deal between the Social Democrat and Green party coalition and the opposition Moderate and Centre parties, Swedish Radio reported.

Image result for sweden military, photos

Sweden’s military has said it needs the money to rebuild its strength after years of under investment and greater demands on its operational capabilities.

The armed forces called for 9 billion crowns in extra spending during 2017-2020 period.

Minister of Defence Peter Hultqvist will hold a press conference later on Wednesday.

The budget for 2018 – an election year – will be presented on Sept. 20.

Sweden has reintroduced conscription and restored troops to the strategically key Baltic island of Gotland as it looks to bolster its defenses.

It has also been drawing closer to NATO, although the government has ruled out becoming a member of the alliance.

Reporting by Johan Sennero; Editing by Simon Johnson and Toby Chopra

Image result for sweden military, photos

Europe Reckons With Its Depleted Armies

June 3, 2017

As European NATO members confront rampant materiel shortages, officials acknowledge Trump has a point in calling for more military spending

Image may contain: 8 people

Russian servicemen march during the Victory Day military parade, marking the 72nd anniversary of its victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, in the Chechen capital of Grozny on May 9. Moscow has grown increasingly frustrated with the U.S. and NATO’s expanding military infrastructure around the world and has vowed to take countermeasures. Photo credit SAID TSARNAYEV/REUTERS

Updated June 2, 2017 7:22 p.m. ET

Soldiers in Germany’s Light Infantry Battalion 413 near the Baltic Sea coast complained last year that they didn’t have enough sniper rifles or antitank weapons or the right kind of vehicles.

During exercises, they told a parliamentary ombudsman, their unit didn’t have the munitions to simulate battle. Instead, they were told to imagine the bangs.

Across Europe, similar shortfalls riddle land, sea, air and cyber forces following years of defense cutbacks.

U.S. President Donald Trump last month irked European leaders when he berated them at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s new headquarters for insufficient defense spending and what he called unpaid military bills.

Current and former European officials were quick to point out that NATO members don’t owe dues to the U.S., but they acknowledged Mr. Trump wasn’t wrong: Europe lacks the capabilities to defend itself.

A Leopard tank and Tiger helicopter of the German Armed Forces participating in military exercises in October near Bergen, Germany.
A Leopard tank and Tiger helicopter of the German Armed Forces participating in military exercises in October near Bergen, Germany. PHOTO: ALEXANDER KOERNER/GETTY IMAGES
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“Trump won’t have made many friends during his trip to Brussels,” said Richard Shirreff, a retired British four-star general and a former senior NATO commander. “However, Trump is dead right that European nations do not spend enough on defense.”

When Belgium put hundreds of soldiers on street patrols in Brussels after the Paris terror attacks in November 2015, it had to request a thousand armor sets from the U.S. Army. Britain’s Royal Navy has 19 destroyers and frigates. In 1982, during the Falklands War, it had 55.

Fighting wars—and preventing them—doesn’t entail just bullets and bombs. Troops and heavy weapons must be moved to the front, requiring fleets of planes, helicopters and trucks. Arsenals must be ready to reload weapons, necessitating stockpiles of munitions. Armies must be ready to defend themselves and to counterattack, which requires specialized systems. In Europe, all are in short supply.

The U.S. has also cut back its troop strength, naval fleet and tank forces from their Cold War highs. But Europe’s offerings are far outmatched by America’s high-end military capabilities, including advanced fighter planes, armed drones, elite special-operation forces and aircraft carriers.

Despite cutbacks in the Pentagon’s budget in recent years, U.S. military spending far exceeds Europe’s, and American conventional forces are generally better trained and equipped than their European counterparts. The U.S. defense budget, $680 billion by NATO calculations, dwarfs the alliance’s European members, which spend a total of $242 billion.

Europeans have tried for decades to more efficiently build military hardware and organize troops. That effort is littered with failures, delays and compromises. Today European allies spend roughly half as much as the U.S. on defense yet have less than one-sixth of its combat power, European officials acknowledge.

The U.S. has long chastised Europeans on their inadequate military. After the 2011 bombing campaign in Libya, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized allies for not having enough smart bombs to conduct the effort. NATO countries had to rely on U.S. targeting experts and refueling planes and even borrowed American munitions.

The real wake-up call, allied officials say, was Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, followed by Moscow’s intervention in Syria. Both displayed new Russian tactics and weaponry. Suddenly long-ignored weapons of the Cold War became relevant again.

“The Russian ground forces have under way the biggest modernization program they have undertaken in the last 50 years,” said Christopher Foss, editor of Jane’s Armored Fighting Vehicles. “Their new vehicles are a step-change in capability on what NATO has got.”

For decades, NATO’s nuclear forces kept the peace, offsetting any imbalance in conventional forces. Russia wouldn’t risk annihilating the planet by invading a NATO country, the thinking went. But in view of the risks of nuclear war, the West would only consider pushing the button against an all-out attack. A a so-called hybrid scenario like Crimea, involving a handful of unidentified soldiers sneaking across a border to foment unrest, is impervious to nuclear deterrence.

U.S. President Donald Trump delivering a speech at last month’s NATO summit in Brussels as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg looks on.
U.S. President Donald Trump delivering a speech at last month’s NATO summit in Brussels as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg looks on. PHOTO: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
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That is where conventional weapons fit in. The best way to prevent Moscow from stirring up trouble on NATO’s borders has been to ensure the world knew NATO had the firepower to win any kind of conflict, U.S. and allied officials say.

NATO’s challenges in achieving such deterrence today are exemplified in the decline in stocks of tanks.

During the Cold War, the Netherlands had 445 battle tanks. In 2015, the country put up for sale its last 60 tanks, along with its transport helicopters and many of its naval minesweepers. Instead, the Dutch sent soldiers to operate German tanks.

But Germany was also cutting tank numbers, from a Cold War peak of 2,125 Leopard 2 battle tanks to a force as of last fall of only 244, of which just over half were ready for action. The reduction has meant units sometimes have to borrow tanks from sister units for training with just hours’ notice, according to a parliamentary official.

A defense ministry spokeswoman said military units do sometimes need to borrow equipment from other units to carry out exercises—a problem, she said, that informed a recent government decision to invest more in such equipment.

The dearth extends beyond tanks. Last year, only around nine of Germany’s 48 NH-90 transport helicopters and 40 of its 123 Eurofighter jets were usable at any given time.

Hans-Peter Bartels, the German parliament’s armed forces commissioner who functions as a military ombudsman, said in his annual report this year that efforts to improve equipment and replenish munitions stores were taking too long. At Light Infantry Battalion 413 the battalion near the Baltic Sea, he said, materiel shortfalls led to “discontent and frustration” among the troops.

A German army spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the complaints reported to Mr. Bartels were accurate. She said the battalion currently has the equipment and munitions it needs to train properly and carry out its duties.

Stories of shortages abound in Europe. France recently sent only five tanks and 300 troops to a new NATO force in the Baltic states partly because French deployments in Africa, Syria and the streets of Paris have overtaxed its military, according to allied officials.

Britain’s storied Royal Navy is without a single aircraft carrier while it awaits the delivery of two carriers. When the HMS Queen Elizabeth sets sail in 2021, it may initially carry U.S. Marine Corps F-35B fighter planes while Britain builds up its own fleet. The U.K. has also placed its submarine-hunting crews with allies because it lacks planes and awaits new surveillance aircraft.

Britain and France—Europe’s biggest defense spenders—and Germany, its biggest economy, have all pledged to rebuild their militaries. In 2016, non-U.S. NATO military spending ticked up by $10 billion, an increase of 3.8% over 2015 outlays.

Officials say a first sign that Mr. Trump has had an impact may come later this month when NATO releases preliminary estimates for 2017 European defense budgets.

NATO’s goal that member countries spend 2% of economic output on defense is formulated as a loose target meant to be reached by 2024. But Washington increasingly treats it as a requirement. Days after the NATO meeting, Mr. Trump tweeted: “We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change.”

German officials acknowledge their force has become hollow and vow to rebuild it—a decision they stress was made before Mr. Trump’s election. Chancellor Angela Merkel  pushed through parliament a military budget increase of 8% for this year, to €37 billion ($42 billion). According to the German government, that represents 1.2% of the country’s gross domestic product. Ms. Merkel says she is committed to NATO’s 2% goal.

Better defense spending, not just more defense spending, is what is required

—Douglas Barrie of the International Institute for Strategic Studies

German and U.S. critics say changes are too slow. The German defense ministry announced in 2015 it would rebuild its tank force, but the tanks haven’t arrived, to the frustration of U.S. military planners. The €760-million deal to refurbish 104 tanks was signed only last month. The two-year gap was due to the technical complexity of the refurbishment and procurement process, the German defense ministry spokeswoman said.

How money gets spent is another factor. “Better defense spending, not just more defense spending, is what is required,” said Douglas Barrie, a senior fellow at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Transportation remains the most critical need, U.S. and NATO officials say. The U.S. has been urging allies to extend rail lines to training bases, since its transport trailers can’t legally carry tanks on European roads due to weight limits. The U.S. also wants Europeans to buy their own tank transporters.

Cargo planes and helicopters are also a big capability gap, officials say. If tensions with Russia flare on NATO’s borders, war plans call for reinforcements of front lines with NATO rapid-reaction forces. But deploying those forces quickly would likely depend on American equipment.

NATO Warship HMS Duncan docking in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
NATO Warship HMS Duncan docking in Belfast, Northern Ireland. PHOTO: MARK WINTER/CORBIS/GETTY IMAGES
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NATO says members are beginning to turn a corner. Later this month, the alliance will approve a new defense plan that boosts heavy equipment, like tanks, but also calls for additional surveillance planes, air refueling tankers and strategic airlift, according to a senior NATO official.

In the short term, the U.S. is filling the gap in European defenses. Last month, the U.S. announced plans for $4.8 billion in new military spending in Europe, an increase of $1.4 billion over last year.

In Germany, military spending has become an issue in September general elections. The main party challenging Ms. Merkel is casting her support for higher military spending as kowtowing to Mr. Trump, whom many German voters dislike.

Ms. Merkel’s chief electoral rival, Social Democrat Martin Schulz, said Thursday he would officially abandon the 2% goal if elected. “I don’t think this spiraling arms buildup makes sense,” he said.

At last month’s NATO summit where Mr. Trump lambasted Europeans, several leaders said they would publicly advocate higher military spending for the sake of their own national security, not American demands. But they also privately told Mr. Trump they agreed with him, according to diplomats.

“To an extent,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte after the meeting, “he has a point.”

Write to Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com, Anton Troianovski at anton.troianovski@wsj.com and Robert Wall at robert.wall@wsj.com

Appeared in the June 3, 2017, print edition as ‘Europe Reckons With Its Depleted Armies.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/europe-reckons-with-its-depleted-armies-1496444305

Russia is now world’s third largest spender on military

April 27, 2017

95 percent of the soldiers with the Northern Fleet are now on professional contracts, following a year when Russia increased defense spendings by 5.4%.

By Thomas Nilsen
The Independent Barents Observer

Northern Fleet soldiers on march in Nikel near Russia’s border to Norway in the north. Photo: Atle Staalesen
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It is the annual comprehensive update by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) that again places Russia among the top three nations on military spendings.

Russia’s defense budget increased to $69,2 billion in 2016. The country’s defense budget has grown by 87% over the last 10 years and now counts for 4,1% of the global spendings on arms. Only China and United Arabic Emirates had a larger growth since 2007, with 118% and 123% respectively.

The Russian military sector now counts for 5,3% of the country’s GDP, the highest proportion since Russia became an independent state 25 years ago.

The five biggest arms spenders in 2016 were USA, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and India.

United States alone spends $200 billion more on its military than the four next on the list combined. Although 4,8% decrease in defense spendings from 2015, the United States still spent $611 billion on weapons and soldiers last year. That is more than one third of the total global military spendings.

SIPRI underscores that all 28 NATO countries’ military spending was still over 12 times more than Russia in 2016.

Economy in trouble

SIPRI reports that as a result of an unexpected increase in Russia’s military expenditure late in 2016 and large cuts to Saudi Arabia’s military budget, Russia climbed to the position of the third largest spender.

The sharp increase comes at a time when the Russian economy is in serious trouble due to low oil and gas prices and the economic sanctions imposed since 2014.

«It was originally expected and planned that the Russian Government would reduce its spending, including military spending. However, late in 2016 actual spending was pushed substantially higher by a decision to make a one-off payment of roughly $11,8 billion in government debt to Russian arm producers,» the SIPRI report reads.

Without this debt repayment, Russia’s military spending would have decreased by 12%.

Northern Fleet

Much of the costs are related to new-buildings of naval vessels, including submarines for northern waters.

Talking about the Northern Fleet last week, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said 95% of all naval soldiers under command of the fleet now serve on contracts, the Defense Ministry’s report from the meeting reads.

Crews on Russian submarines have been out at sea on many more voyages this winter than ever before over the last 25 years. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Shoygu praised the successful voyage of the combat group from the Northern Fleet to Syria this winter, lead by aircraft carrier «Admiral Kuznetsov» and followed by the voyage of the anti-submarine warship «Severomorsk» to ports in Africa. The Northern Fleet last year also had the first combat mission with the new nuclear powered submarine «Severodvinsk», one of the new strategic submarines of the Borei-class made a patrol under the Arctic ice-cap and the frigate «Admiral Gorshkov» successfully test-fired Calibr and Onyx cruise missiles.

https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2017/04/russia-now-worlds-third-largest-spender-military

Tillerson Clashes With NATO Allies Over Military Spending — Our nations “are bulwarks against the maniacs who think that by hurting us they can scare us.”

March 31, 2017

German foreign minister said U.S. demands on military spending were ‘totally unrealistic’

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg prepare for a group photo of 28 foreign ministers a conference of foreign ministers on Friday. The meeting in Brussels is Tillerson’s first visit to NATO headquarters as secretary of state. Photo by Stephanie Lecocq/EPA

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. couldn’t “maintain a disproportionate share of NATO’s defense expenditures.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson squared off against his German counterpart on Friday as the Trump administration stepped up its pressure on allies to raise their military spending.

Mr. Tillerson said he wants member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to agree at their summit in May to increase such spending by the end of the year or to make concrete plans to reach2% of gross domestic product by 2024—a target the Germans have contested.

As part of that process, Mr. Tillerson suggested that the U.S. would want to see annual milestones that would ensure the defense investment pledgeis implemented by the 2024 deadline.

“As President Trump has made clear, it is no longer sustainable for the U.S. to maintain a disproportionate share of NATO’s defense expenditures,” Mr. Tillerson said at a meeting of allied foreign ministers in Brussels.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel acknowledged Germany should spend more but said demands for spending 2% of GDP were “totally unrealistic.” To meet the U.S. target, he said, Germany would have to increase spending by some €35 billion ($37 billion).

Mr. Gabriel declined to answer questions about whether Germany intended to develop the kind of spending plans pushed by the U.S.

Raising German military spending—now at about 1.2% of GDP—has long been seen by the U.S. as key to Europe shouldering more of its own defense.

Mr. Gabriel, a member of the left-leaning Social Democratic Party, has stepped up his criticism of further spending increases as September elections near, arguing that a strong defense isn’t enough to ensure security.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, of the ruling Christian Democrats, has been more supportive of increased military spending than the SPD, who is a junior partner in her governing coalition.

After President Donald Trump’s meeting with Ms. Merkel earlier this month, he made waves in Berlin by tweeting that “Germany owes…vast sums of money to NATO,” a charge German officials have dismissed.

Mr. Trump promised in his first budget proposal to boost U.S. military spending by $20 billion to “rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has embraced the push by the U.S. and said Europe must raise its spending and improve its military capabilities.

“Increased military spending isn’t about pleasing the United States. It is about investing more in European security because it is important to Europe,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, on a visit to London where he met with his British counterpart, underlined the U.S. stance, and British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon called on allies to “raise their game.”

An official at the NATO meeting said there was “a reasonable consensus” for the call, with a number of allies detailing their plans. But officials acknowledged reaching agreement on the exact language of the spending plans will be a challenge, given Germany’s concerns.

Some allied officials predicted the alliance would agree on spending plans, but only after intense negotiation over language that could give countries a degree of flexibility.

Mr. Stoltenberg noted that the U.S. has demonstrated its commitment, including by adding troops in Eastern Europe this year as part of a force meant to deter Russia.

In London, Mr. Mattis said Russian aggression and the country’s alleged interference in foreign elections and in Afghanistan are matters of common concern between the U.S. and the U.K. Mr. Mattis said the West was confronting a range of challenges, from Iran’s alleged sponsorship of international terrorism to missile tests by North Korea.

“Our two nations are bulwarks against the maniacs who think that by hurting us they can scare us,” Mr. Mattis said. “They do not understand: We don’t scare.”

On Russia, Mr. Mattis accused Moscow of violations of international law, citing its annexation of Crimea and alleged interference in foreign elections. He also said the U.S. has observed “Russian activity vis-à-vis the Taliban” in Afghanistan, though he wasn’t specific.

Mr. Fallon said Britain, the U.S. and other allies “need to be extremely watchful now of this persistent pattern of Russian interference.”

Write to Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com and Jason Douglas at jason.douglas@wsj.com

After trashing her on campaign trail, will Trump get along with Merkel? — “She’s used to awkward meetings. She’s going to try to set him straight. We don’t get to worried about the personal.”

March 17, 2017

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By ANITA KUMAR
No automatic alt text available.

U.S., Germany at crossroads as Merkel visits Trump

While campaigning for president, Donald Trump slammed Chancellor Angela Merkel for “ruining” Germany. He called her decision to allow more than a million refugees into Germany “insane.” He even predicted that Germans would overthrow her.

Trump, now the president of the United States, and Merkel, still the leader of Germany, will come face to face for the first time Friday at the White House.

Merkel, ranked as the second most powerful person in the world by Forbes last year, is expected to ignore Trump’s criticism altogether and move forward on forming a relationship with the brash new leader of one of Germany’s closest allies.

I told you @TIME Magazine would never pick me as person of the year despite being the big favorite They picked person who is ruining Germany

After nearly a dozen years as chancellor, Merkel is known for her successful track record on dealing with notoriously difficult leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. German media report that she has been studying Trump’s speeches and interviews to prepare for the visit.

“She’s used to awkward meetings. She’s handled them quite well,” said Constanze Stelzenmueller, an expert on German, European and trans-Atlantic policy at the Brookings Institution, a research center. “You don’t linger over the personal.”

Merkel had good relationships with Trump’s predecessors, Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama. Despite allegations that the Obama administration wiretapped her cellphone, Merkel and Obama maintained a close partnership. She was the last world leader he called before leaving office.

Trump and Merkel differ on substance and style. They disagree on values and how those values translate to policy, including immigration, trade, defense spending and the role of the European Union. A Trump adviser recently accused Germany of depressing the euro to gain a trade advantage.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP AND GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL WILL MEET FOR THE FIRST TIME FRIDAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE, FOLLOWED BY A NEWS CONFERENCE.

“I think Germany views the United States with equal portions of puzzlement and concern at the moment,” said Jeff Rathke, senior fellow and deputy director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The two leaders are expected to meet, have lunch and host a joint news conference. Perhaps in the hopes of relating to a former businessman, Merkel will be joined by the CEOs of automaker BMW and industrial firm Siemens.

Trump and Merkel are not expected to announce any new agreements. Their meeting was scheduled for Tuesday but then postponed three days after a snowstorm on the East Coast.

They’ve spoken by phone but have never met. Vice President Mike Pence visited with Merkel in Germany recently. Their aides have met.

The list of possible topics for their talk is long: NATO, the United Nations, the fight against the Islamic State, the situation in the Middle East, Afghanistan, North Korea, climate change and defense.

THE STAKES FOR THIS MEETING . . . AND FOR THIS RELATIONSHIP EVEN MORE SO, ARE VERY HIGH.Heather Conley, senior vice president for Europe, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Trump will seek Merkel’s advice in dealing with Putin, according to the White House, and many other world leaders hope that Merkel, who speaks Russian and was raised in East Germany, will be able to educate him.

“The president will be very interested in hearing the chancellor’s views on her experience interacting with Putin,” said a senior administration official with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly. “Of course, she’s been doing this for more than a decade. She’s met with Putin, I think, for at least a couple of dozen times. And so he’s going to be very interested in hearing her insights and what it’s like to deal with the Russians.”

Trump, who has long been accused of being too friendly with Russia and Putin, has said he would consider lifting the sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea, along with suggesting that he’d be open to recognizing Crimea as Russian territory. U.S. officials are investigating Russia’s attempts to influence the November American election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided Trump.

“His comments on Russia are worrisome to European leaders,” said James Kirchick, a fellow with the Foreign Policy Initiative who’s author of the forthcoming book “The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age.” “She’s going to try to set him straight.”

Merkel will stress to Trump the importance of the European Union. In turn, Trump will press Merkel for Germany’s commitment to abide by a NATO guideline to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on their military budget, according to the White House.

“He does believe that Germany, as one of the largest economies within NATO, should be setting an example and should be leading by example, as we do from the United States,” the official said.

Merkel did not respond to Trump’s criticism during the campaign. Since then, she has pushed back against some of his policies.

She criticized his original travel ban on citizens from seven majority-Muslim nations, and explained to him over the phone that the Geneva Conventions require countries to protect refugees on humanitarian grounds.

She defended the news media after Trump tweeted that journalists are “the enemy of the American people.”

“I stand by a free and independent press and have great respect for journalists,” she said last month at the Munich Security Conference, which Pence attended.

Anita Kumar: 202-383-6017, @anitakumar01

 http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article138891308.html

McCain speaks out against Trump’s defense budget: “It cannot pass the Senate.”

March 16, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

By Hayden Packwood

Sen. John McCain says President Donald Trump’s budget proposal will not be sufficient enough to “rebuild the military” which, he says, has been damaged by “years of budget cuts under [the] Obama White House.”

“Such a budget does not represent a 10 percent increase as previously described by the White House,” McCain said in a statement Thursday, “but amounts to a mere 3 percent over President Obama’s defense plan, which has left our military underfunded, undersized and unready to meet the threats of today and tomorrow.”

McCain said military leaders have testified for years that budget cuts have put the “lives of military service members at greater risk” and the current proposed defense budget “cannot pass the Senate.”

According to USA Today, President Trump’s proposal, referred to as the “America First” budget by the White House, increases defense spending by $54 billion offsetting that with cuts to education, environmental protection, health and human services, and foreign aid.

McCain says a defense budget of $640 billion in 2018 with yearly increases is needed to “rebuild our military, restore military readiness, and modernize our forces for the realities of 21st century warfare.”

In his statement, McCain said a bipartisan agreement on sufficient defense funds is “imperative” and added that Congress needs to act as soon as possible on a proposed budget amendment and defense appropriations bill for 2017.

“Failure to do so,” he said, “will only lead to more political dysfunction that has inflicted such harm on our men and women in uniform over the past six years.”

© 2017 KPNX-TV

http://www.12news.com/news/politics/cannot-pass-the-senate-mccain-speaks-out-against-trumps-defense-budget/423086064

Four Themes in Trump’s Budget Blueprint

March 16, 2017

This June 25, 2002 file photo shows the south portal tunnel entrance of Yucca Mountain, the planned site of a national nuclear waste dump near Mercury, Nev., which Donald Trump has promised to activate.

This June 25, 2002 file photo shows the south portal tunnel entrance of Yucca Mountain, the planned site of a national nuclear waste dump near Mercury, Nev., which Donald Trump has promised to activate. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Donald Trump’s abbreviated budget plan provides the public with a clear outline of his administration’s priorities, calling for sharp cuts to spending on foreign aid assistance, the arts, environment and public broadcasting to pay for a bigger military and stronger defense along the border. It’s the Trump administration’s first stab at translating the president’s campaign promises into hard numbers.

Here are some major themes emerging from the document:

Build the Wall, Paid For By the U.S.

Mr. Trump promised a border wall, declaring during the campaign that it would be paid for by Mexico. Mexican officials have steadfastly refused to entertain that notion, and though Mr. Trump has said Mexico will reimburse the U.S., for now his budget proposal earmarks $2.6 billion for that project as well as “tactical infrastructure and border security technology.” Highlighting one of many challenges, there are also funds for 20 attorneys “to pursue federal efforts to obtain the land and holdings necessary to secure the Southwest border.”

The budget doesn’t stop at one structure to keep out illegal immigrants. It includes funds for 500 new border patrol agents, 1,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel, expanded detention and removal of illegal immigrants, 60 border enforcement prosecutors, 75 immigration judges “to bolster and more efficiently adjudicate removal proceedings,” and other measures to deter illegal immigration.

Nothing Soft About This Power

A primary theme of Mr. Trump’s candidacy was that previous American leaders of both main political parties had been too generous with foreign nations and insufficiently attentive to Americans’ domestic needs. The proposal slashes direct and indirect foreign aid, casting aside the traditional view among elected officials and foreign policy thinkers that American largess can promote American interests abroad.

“There is no question this is a hard power budget,” said White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, referring to the administration’s preference for military spending over foreign aid. “It is not a soft power budget, it is a hard power budget. And that was done intentionally.”

The Best Defense

Mr. Trump is making good on campaign pledges to invest in the American military, requesting an increase of $52 billion in spending for the Pentagon to $574 billion in base funding. Across other government departments, even some that face spending reductions under Mr. Trump’s proposal, the administration is proposing another $2 billion increase for defense and security-related programs.

That includes new funding at the State Department, which faces a 28% overall reduction, for embassy security, taking into account some of the findings of a congressional inquiry into the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. At the Department of Energy, the administration is seeking $120 million to restart preparations for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility in Nevada, a project blocked for years by former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. And the administration’s request to undo automatic budget caps left over from the Obama years would boost funding for programs that extend the life of nuclear warheads.

$0 for Tiny Arts, Humanities, Broadcasting, Homelessness Agencies

The White House proposes eliminating funding on a raft of independent agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. Most of the agencies barely dent a more than $4 trillion federal budget–public broadcasting’s appropriation was $445 million in fiscal 2016–but have long been targeted by conservatives as an inappropriate use of taxpayer money.

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2017/03/16/four-themes-in-trumps-budget-blueprint/

Related:

NATO head says more defence spending from European allies ‘essential’ to US ties

March 13, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | “In 2017, we must redouble our efforts to sustain the positive momentum and speed up national efforts to keep our pledge,” Stoltenberg said in a report, referring to members’ 2-percent defence spending commitment
BRUSSELS (AFP) – NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Monday told allies to boost defence spending, as demanded by US President Donald Trump, if they want to preserve crucial transatlantic defence ties.

“This is essential for the continued strength of the transatlantic bond on which our alliance is founded,” Stoltenberg said in NATO’s 2016 annual report.

“For almost 70 years the unique partnership between Europe and North America has ensured peace and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said.

“That is an achievement we can never take for granted.”

Trump caused dismay in Europe when he said on the campaign trail that NATO was “obsolete,” and failing to meet the challenge posed by Islamic terror groups.

His administration has repeatedly pressed the allies to meet a pledge to spend two percent of GDP annually on defence by 2024.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO allies cut defence spending only to find themselves caught out by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and its 2014 annexation of Crimea.

NATO leaders, pressed by then US president Barack Obama, agreed the two percent target in 2014 and reaffirmed it at a 2016 Warsaw summit to counter a more assertive Russia.

The NATO annual report said only five countries met the two percent target — the United States, Britain, Greece, Poland and Estonia — while Washington still accounted for nearly 70 percent of combined alliance defence spending.

Overall, the US-led alliance reversed the downturn in 2015 and last year, defence spending rose 3.8 percent or $10 billion (9.3 billion euros), it noted.

“In 2017, we must redouble our efforts to sustain the positive momentum and speed up national efforts to keep our pledge,” Stoltenberg said in the report.

Meeting the two percent target has caused some soul-searching in Europe over what the wider impact will be.

Critics cite the example of Germany, currently on 1.2 percent of GDP but an increase to 2.0 percent would put Berlin’s defence budget on a par with Russia’s at around 65 billion euros.

Trump has also called for a $54 billion hike in US defence expenditure, currently at more than $600 billion, winning broad support but also criticism that the money could be better spent elsewhere.