The Cable

Kerry says yes to State Dept. funding, Ros-Lehtinen says no

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) unveiled his bill today to authorize funding for the State Department and foreign operations, which represented a direct rebuttal to the legislation approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) last week that was written by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

"We face tremendous foreign policy and national security challenges worldwide, from helping countries manage peaceful, democratic transitions in the Middle East, to preventing violence, conflict, and terrorism from engulfing key partners, and to leading humanitarian responses to forestall drought, famine, and natural disasters," Kerry said in a press release. "We are only able to achieve these aims with a strong State Department and USAID."

The bill would fully fund the State Department and USAID operations at the level requested by the White House. HFAC and the House Appropriations State and Foreign Ops subcommittee, meanwhile, approved an appropriations bill today that would slash the international affairs budget 18 percent from fiscal 2011 levels.

"We thought it important to get this out there as a counterpoint to what was done in the House last week," said a committee staffer in an interview with The Cable.

Whereas the House GOP legislation would severely restrict U.S. foreign aid to a host of countries, such as Pakistan, Lebanon, and Yemen, Kerry's bill doesn't include prohibitions on foreign aid funding to countries that have major policy differences with the United States. For example, the starting point for aid to Pakistan under Kerry's bill is the Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid bill, which authorizes $1.5 billion in annual funding. This funding would be severely restricted under Ros-Lehtinen's plan.

"What we're trying to do is to support our diplomats, while putting in oversight and accountability mechanisms as well. But we're not putting in prohibitions or restrictions or anything along those lines," the staffer said, noting some new accountability rules concerning foreign aid disbursement in the bill.

The Kerry bill also calls for a new State Department senior cyber-coordinator, includes provisions on Internet freedom that may eventually be transformed into a stand-alone bill, and also provides a permanent authorization for USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), which has been funded on an ad hoc basis until now.

The funding levels authorized in Kerry's bill closely track the administration's fiscal 2012 budget request. Of course, nobody knows if those funds will be set aside for international affairs when the appropriators weigh in. And the ongoing negotiations over the debt ceiling could change the financial picture for State and USAID as well.

There's no word yet when Kerry's bill might see committee markup or floor action, but it won't happen until at least September. Importantly, this bill is the product of Kerry's office alone. Last year, Kerry introduced an authorization bill with Lugar, but this time, Lugar decided not to participate.

The bill text is here, a long summary of provisions is here, and a shorter fact sheet on the bill can be found here.

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

The Cable

Russian official calls Kyl and Kirk “monsters of the Cold War”

A top Russian official today called Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) "radicals" and "monsters of the Cold War" and warned that the U.S.-Russia relationship would collapse if Republicans came to power.

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's ambassador to NATO, met with Kyl and Kirk yesterday in Washington -- but they probably won't be meeting again anytime soon. After the meeting, Rogozin let loose on the senators in an extensive interview with the Russian news service RIA Novosti, and sought to warn the Russian public of what he sees as the dangers of a return to Republican rule in America.

Rogozin accused the two senators of threatening to scuttle the U.S.-Russia reset by stalling or attacking U.S.-Russian cooperation on several issues, such as nuclear arms control and missile defense.

"Today in the Senate, I met with Senators Jon Kyl and Mark Kirk. The meeting is very useful because it shows that the alternative to Barack Obama is a collapse of all the programs of cooperation with Russia," he said. "Today, I had the impression that I was transported in a time machine back several decades, and in front of me sat two monsters of the Cold War, who looked at me not through pupils, but targeting sights."

Rogozin also warned that Russia cannot afford to deepen its ties with the United States given the GOP's current position, because doing so would put its security at risk if the Republicans came back to power.

"[E]ither we will achieve some sort of deeper cooperation in the military and political spheres that will allow us to pass ‘the point of no return' in our relationship, so no one could reverse this partnership, or we do not -- then today's thaw known as ‘the reset' will be swept aside and the ferocious winter will come," he said.

Rogozin, however, didn't mention that it is the Russian government that is threatening the Obama administration with scuttling the reset because of a bill that targets Russian human rights violators, and he scoffed at Kirk's mention of a report that Russia was involved in the bombing of the U.S. embassy compound in Tbilisi.

Rogozin praised the White House for improving U.S.-Russian relations, and called for further cooperation in the future.

Rogozin's remarks to the Russian media were starkly different from his readout of the Kyl-Kirk meeting on his English language twitter feed, where he tweeted, "It is with specially (sic) warm feelings that I remember my meeting in the Senate."

He tweeted that Kirk declared his support for U.S.-Russian missile defense cooperation and that Kirk admitted he secretly supports the U.S.-Russia reset policy.

"I also liked [Kirk's] confession that deep in his heart he's an ardent advocate of the reset policy of relations with Russia," Rogozin tweeted, "although he has been compelled not to disguise this fact for some time. I thank Comrade Kirk for his position!"

"Comrade Kirk," in an interview with The Cable, shot back at Rogozin and said that frankly, he's not too concerned about Russia's views on U.S. missile defense plans one way or the other.

"You could say that we're just not that into him," Kirk said. "In a potential missile combat scenario between NATO and Iran, Russia is thoroughly irrelevant. So Russian concerns about what we do and not do about the Iranian threat are interesting but largely irrelevant."

Regarding Rogozin's comment that Kirk and Kyl were "radicals" and "monsters of the Cold War," Kirk said, "He should probably moderate his caffeine intake."

"I would like to have good relations with Russia and there are areas where we should cooperate," Kirk said. "But he requested the meeting and then blasted us in the press. I would never have done that."

Rozogin, a former Russian parliamentarian and a well-known rabble rouser, also met with a host of administration officials on his visit to Washington, including National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, NSC Senior Director for Russia Michael McFaul, NSC Senior Director for Nonproliferation Gary Samore, Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Philip Gordon, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs James Cartwright, NORAD Chief Commander Adm. James Winnefeld, and Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. General Patrick O'Reilly.

Rogozin had nothing but praise for Donilon in the RIA Novosti interview.

"Tom Donilon is a veteran U.S. diplomat and politician, who began his career in 1977. I was pleased to meet with this distinguished man in the U.S. establishment. He is a smart, attentive person on whom you can rely in terms [of] preparing important decisions," he said. "This meeting was the most enjoyable."