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Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

August 4, 2018

When Mitt Romney ran for President against Barack Obama in 2012 (and lost), he declared that Russia was the greatest external threat to the United States. The claim didn’t ring true then and it really doesn’t ring true today even given all the claims that Russia attempted to affect the vote count in the 2016 election. Using social media to place false stories is more sinister, but even that is not a threat to America’s national interest. Hacking e-mail of the Democrat candidate for President is more serious, but Hillary Clinton opened herself to hackers by using a server installed in her home. For that, she violated State Department regulations and should have been prosecuted before the election.

If we discount Russia as a threat to internal stability of American politics and properly assess Russia’s severely strained economic condition, we should conclude that Russia can be a threat to Western Europe, only if it can regain Ukraine and grow its economy back to health. Russia’s nuclear armaments are a threat, but only if Russia intends to use them offensively.

Russia does not. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) does not. North Korea does not and neither does Pakistan, Israel, or Iran. These weapons of mass destruction are maintained in order to deter attack, to preserve these regimes, while they pursue long term interests.

The PRC wants to dominate the Republic of China, South Korea and Japan and will grow its economy and military toward that end. North Korea wants to remain the private domain of Kim Jon-Un.

Russia wants Ukraine and as many of the former Soviet satellite nations as can be cowed into submission including any that demonstrate a desire to adopt free market economic principles. That includes Georgia, Estonia, and Poland. Expansion of Russian hegemony is a threat to the national interests of the United States. And the Mullah’s in Tehran should remember that Iran was once ruled by Imperial Russia.

But, both Russia and the PRC can be restrained by economic policies that reward or punish both countries for good or bad economic and political behavior. Were I the CEO of a company with ambitions to grow sales in the Chinese market, I would immediately change course. Tariffs and trade restrictions will roil trade with China for many years and lay even the best laid marketing plans to waste.

So, who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? Mitt Romney and the Democrats, but not President Trump.


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