Once again, the World is witness to unbridled Russian aggression. While Russia's invasion of Ukraine may seem unwarranted to many in the West, Westerners must come to grips with both the meaning of the latest Russian actions, and the age in which we live.
Stated simply, Russia and China along with Iran, present dangerous challenges as far as the eye can see, and it's time for a major reset of the West’s strategic and defense thinking.
Principally, and at the very least, the West must come to realize it can no longer fund the rise of Russia, China, and Iran with trade.
History reminds us that, with the rise of Soviet Union following World War II, the United States and West were faced with enormous security challenges. The emergent new world was broken down between those under growing Soviet influence and those allied with (or part of) the free world and its champion, the United States.
In that Cold War setting, the Soviet Union its allies competed with the United States and the West on economic and political battlefields bracketed by huge military buildups.
It was a rivalry made visible by an Iron Curtain plainly separating two sides.
The Western response to the Soviet challenge became known as "containment." It was a policy idea authored by the American historian and diplomat George Kennan. According to Kennan in an article, "The Sources of Soviet Conduct," authored under the pseudonym "X" (Foreign Affairs, July 1947):
"the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies . . . Soviet pressure against the free institutions of the Western world is something that can be contained by the adroit and vigilant application of counterforce at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and manoeuvers of Soviet policy, but which cannot be charmed or talked out of existence."
Thereafter, the Western strategic cooperation grew. The height of that cooperation was the creation of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Over time, Soviet aggression, whether in the form of testing a nuclear bomb in 1949, or invading Czechoslovakia in 1968, the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, or the Soviet deployment of SS-20 Saber ballistic missiles in Europe presented challenges to Western cooperation.
Eventually, however, the inherent weakness of the Soviet communist system, as evidenced by its weak economy, limited the Soviet’s ability to continue to project power.
As with other empires in history, Russia had expanded beyond its economic capacity to sustain its far-reaching interests.
Under President Ronald Reagan, the United States initiated an economic renewal and an arms race that pushed the old Soviet Union over its economic and security edge. With its break up, symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War came to an end, as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, "Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot."
With that, it could fairly be said that containment of the Soviet Union had worked.
However, that was then, and where we are is now.
Our world is far more integrated than it was between the 1940s and the 1980s. Russia is once again on the rise under the helm of its megalomaniacal leader and former KGB operative Vladimir Putin. Russia, however, is not alone in being a danger to the world.
Iran can easily be categorized as such also. It's made its nuclear ambitions quite well-known the World, and haa been insistent in its desire to wipe Israel off the map.
Of course, many believe that the threat of Russia and Iran is eclipsed by the danger that China represents. China had made its desire known that it wants to be the global superpower.
Given its enormous and growing economic power, there is more than good reason to be concerned about its ability to realize its goals in our internet and tech age.
Sadly, Iran, Russia and China share one thing in common. Their ambitions are fueled by Western dollars. They trade to one degree or another with Western countries and realize enormous fortunes that their central-planning dictatorships otherwise could not achieve.
As the world now knows, the Soviet Union sells energy to Western Europe through three major pipelines and a fourth was in the works. Iran has been seeking, and over the years succeeded in varying degrees, to sell its oil to the West, later funding terrorism with those "petro dollars."
For its part, China’s $15 trillion economy sells consumer products around the World. In order to do that, it must import 75% of its energy needs. Beyond that, China engages in predatory lending practices designed to create economic and debt dependence all over the World.
Now that Russia has unmasked its ambitions once again and given the nature of Iran and China, few can argue about the dangers those countries represent to the World.
The only question is whether the West will meet their challenge. To meet that challenge, it must engage in a new policy of Containment.
Yes, meeting that challenge will require a renewed emphasis on military preparedness. In this day and age, that especially involves robust cyber-security. After all, Russia began its attack on the Ukraine with cyber-warfare.
Beyond that, the West, once and for all, must learn this important lesson of history: adversaries do not fund the rise of their adversaries.
The first thing that the English and French did in their wars of centuries ago was cut-off trade with another. The British also cut off trade the American colonies and cut off its ability to trade with Caribbean islands as the Revolution unfolded.
By limiting that trade, those adversaries limited the capacity of their adversaries.
Incredibly, the West refuses to follow that simple lesson — even in the face of Russian invasions and the aggressions of China.
Russian funds its ambitions with Western money earned from energy sales. Given that Western Europe has an alternative source of energy, i.e., the United States, the first key element of the new policy of containment must be for the West to stop funding the ambitions of Russia.
Simply stated, the West can no longer feed the Russian bear. If it does, it must know that sooner or later, it will come for yet more territory in Europe beyond Crimea and beyond Ukraine.
Of course, the same can be said of China and Iran. Enriching them endangers the West. While no one expects the West to break off all trade with China, it is well past time to change American energy policy and its policy toward strategic minerals and products such as medications.
There will be many that claim the costs of reducing trade will be too high. Big business will be chief among them. Then again, business never favors a disruption of its profits. As for consumers around the world, one look at oil prices should make clear the price of inaction.
Others will say that vastly reducing trade between the West will foster an alliance of Russia, China and Iran versus the West. In truth, those countries are moving in that direction already as these stories, here, here, and here highlight.
Reducing trade with those countries will only be an acknowledgment by the West of what Russia, China and Iran are already doing.
Overall, given the dangers lying ahead in the nuclear/internet age, no one can be fooled by the urgency of our time. The Russian invasion of Ukraine makes that plain as do Putin’s threats to the West if it intervenes.
The Western response must be just as clear. The irony, of course, is that the simple lessons of centuries past, not to fund the ambitions of our adversaries, must guide our actions today.
Tom Del Beccaro is an acclaimed author, speaker and national columnist as well as a radio and television commentator. Tom is the Chairman of carevival.com. Read Tom Del Beccaro's Reports — More Here.
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