A Conversation with Jens Stoltenberg – Foreign Affairs May 27, 2015

After serving as Norway’s prime minister from 2005 to 2013, Jens Stoltenberg took over as the 13th Secretary General of NATO this past March. As his tenure began, Russia was still fomenting unrest in Ukraine and the Islamic State (also called ISIS) was wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, a revolution in cyberwarfare and other emerging threats challenged the alliance and its partners. In other words, Stoltenberg’s plate was full from the start, but he has also pledged to modernize NATO and how it responds to threats. In April, he spoke with Foreign Affairs Deputy Web Editor Brian O’Connor in Washington.

Jens Stoltenberg

Jens Stoltenberg

How has the challenge of dealing with the Ukraine crisis affected your time on the job so far? It has framed my time as secretary general. Because the annexation of Crimea, the Russian violation of international law, and the Russian support for the separatists and destabilization of Eastern Ukraine has been at the top of our agenda, of course. My responsibility has been to make sure that NATO responds to this behavior. And we are responding. We are now implementing the biggest increase in our collective defense since the end of the Cold War. We are doubling the size of the NATO response force. We are making it more ready and more prepared so the lead elements will be able to move within as little as 48 hours. And we are responding by adapting the NATO force structure to what we have seen Russia do in Ukraine.

There have been calls for NATO members to increase their defense spending, but there is still a gap between what has been called for and what is being spent. What is NATO doing to close that gap? NATO has made a strong commitment to stop cuts and to start increasing defense spending, with members moving toward two percent of GDP for defense over the next decade. This is a very strong commitment, and for me, it has been a top priority in all my meetings with governments and parliaments, underlining that we have to deliver. At the least, the cuts have to stop. European members of NATO have reduced their defense spending steadily since 1990. The cuts have to stop, and then spending has to gradually increase. There are some positive signs. There are four NATO members who are at two percent or above—the United States, the United Kingdom, Estonia, and Greece. And there are others that are quite close. Poland, for instance, is expected to reach two percent this year. The Baltic countries, Romania, and others are increasing spending, and Germany just announced that it will also start to increase. But the picture is mixed. Many countries need to do more and I’m urging them to do so.

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Lawmakers divvy up $1.014 trillion in spending for 2015 – By Erik Wasson – 05/08/14 02:17 PM EDT

The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved an outline for all 12 annual spending bills for 2015 that calls for an increase in Pentagon spending and a $1 billion cut to labor, health and education spending.

The allocations, which were approved in a partisan 25-20 vote, divide up the $1.014 trillion in discretionary spending that was agreed to in the bipartisan December budget agreement.

Many of the bills are given roughly equivalent funding to 2014. House GOP appropriators have put a premium on getting all 12 bills done this year, rather than settling for a stopgap measure when the fiscal year ends on Oct. 1.

“No subcommittee has been increased by more than 2 percent or reduced by more than 3 percent,” Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) noted.

The committee has released a $52 billion Commerce, Justice and Science bill; and a $52 billion Transportation and Housing measure. The latter contains a nearly $2 billion cut due to shrinking Federal Housing Finance Agency revenue.

The full House has passed a $72 billion Military Construction and Veterans Affairs measure as well as a $4 billion legislative branch measure.

Thursday’s outline completes the picture for the other bills, and Democrats said they objected to cuts to three bills in particular.

Base defense spending is to increase to $490 billion from $487 billion this year, while Defense Department war funding decreases from $85 billion to $79 billion.

The Labor, Health and Education measure, in contrast, gets $156 billion, down from $157 billion. The bill is a favorite target of Republicans and last year, prior to the budget compromise, they sought to cut funding to $121 billion. The bill partly funds ObamaCare as well as controversial Obama administration workplace regulations.

The Financial Services bill also gets a $575 million cut to $21 billion.

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Counterpoint: Maybe Republicans aren’t winning on spending, after all Posted by Brad Plumer on December 12, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Yesterday, I suggested that Republicans have been winning the debate over discretionary spending in Congress.* The reason? Overall spending on discretionary programs next year is set to be lower than even Paul Ryan envisioned in his initial budget back in 2011.

But Loren Adler of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget argues that this is a bit simplistic. You can’t just look at overall spending levels — you also have to look at the mix of spending. Ryan’s original budget wanted to increase defense spending while dramatically cutting everything else, from health to transportation to housing to environmental programs.

And that’s not quite where we’re we’ve ended up. The latest budget deal struck between Ryan and Patty Murray would have far less spending on defense and far more spending on domestic programs than Ryan and the House GOP originally proposed:


Democrats have had to accept far less discretionary spending than either President Obama’s budget or Patty Murray’s original budget proposed. But they’ve been able to make sure that a sizable chunk of the reductions have come from the defense side instead of the domestic side.

So it depends how you look at it. Discretionary spending is still set to be 14 percent below 2010 levels next year, after adjusting for inflation. As a share of the economy, federal spending on these programs is at historic lows. That’s a win for those in favor of austerity. And it’s a loss for those who think that cutting federal spending right now will drag down the economy and hurt growth, especially when unemployment is still high.

But it’s not quite true to say that Paul Ryan has achieved total victory here — at least if you look at the type of spending that has survived.

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