"It is my goal to make the London Center, the premier foreign policy institute in the country, one that is shaping
the debate on international affairs and influencing decisions emerging from the Congress."
Independence is lovely idea. But it’s tough to achieve. And sometimes no one wants to pay for it.
The nations of Europe insist that they are, in fact independent. Yet, with a large chunk of their oil and gas coming from Russia, several European countries have recently found that they didn’t want to really pay the price of independence from Russia. So, despite the various sanctions, the EU recently found a loophole; they can pay Russia in rubles, and the oil and gas will keep flowing. Since February 24th EU nations have bought more than $36 billon worth of oil, gas and petroleum feedstocks from Russia. Now, with the loophole in place, they can continue to do so. So far in April more oil has moved per day to Europe from Russia, when compared to March.
What would happen if Putin asked them to choose: no arms to Ukraine or no oil and gas to Europe? Frankly, it surprises me that he hasn’t. But certainly everyone recognizes that he could.
Much can be said about all that from a philosophical perspective, but in practical terms we need to figure out a way out of this mess. Someplace in the Pentagon, someplace at Foggy Bottom, someplace at Treasury, some folks need to put their heads down and start thinking about where we go from here in the next 20 years; we don’t want to repeat this sort of thing.
The US cannot go on as before with Russia. Russia is not our friend, has not been our friend, and short of a massive and prolonged show that things have changed, shouldn’t be viewed as our friend.
In fact, the world has not changed. But the curtain has been finally pulled back for all to see. Russia and China are ruled by evil regimes. Every country on earth has bad people, it’s the nature of man - it’s why we need Easter. But China and Russia have evil regimes; they are truly systemically evil.
Future US planning must begin with this: Russia and China are against us, they wish us harm, they would like to see the US go away. It doesn't mean hot war, but we are not friends, and until they change fundamentally we cannot be friends. This will eventually drive people to an “Us or Them” decision, but that is the nature of evil.
To be clear, the problem isn’t simply Russia. China is, if anything, less friendly to the US, more inimical to US interests, than Russia. China has long considered itself to be in conflict with the US, and their leading strategic thinkers have openly written about it. They’ve drafted plans, they’re executing those plans; we aren’t friends, and this isn’t a friendly competition. We need to face that reality, which will have tremendous consequences for the economy of every nation.
Some will insist that we must not do that, that this will lead to the formation of a de facto alliance, a Communist Bloc 2.0, or a new Pact of Steel. Unfortunately, that has already happened. And it happened because we were soft, not despite it.
Now the US must develop and enforce policies that reduce our contact with, and emphasize our independence from, China and Russia.
We need to establish true independence for the West in energy, food, technology, etc. In no sense should the West be dependent on Russia or China. Technology exchanges need to be ended. And we need an aggressive campaign to inform the people of these countries why we are doing what we are doing, we need to figure out ways around the state controlled information barriers and reach out directly to the people of Russia and China.
And, we need a discussion about energy. In particular, we need a discussion about electricity. Solar power and wind power will not work, they are niche technologies. And there isn’t enough battery production capacity on the planet to ever meet 1% of the demand. And the laws of physics will keep it so. Meanwhile, the US needs to increase its electric power baseline almost 100%, nearly double it, in the next 30 years. There is only one technology to do that: nuclear power.
As for concerns that nuclear power is unsafe, a study of US Navy nuclear power technologies and practices show that nuclear power can be operated with great safety; it’s where we need to start.
And, we need to accept that open markets are a wonderful thing, but they need to be open. China has never given the US access to its markets except under the most carefully controlled parameters. We need to step back from China and we need to get broad agreement from our friends and allies to do the same. It will be expensive, but ask yourself this question: If Europe and the US were independent of Russian oil, gas, fertilizer and certain metals, would we have more leverage in our dealing with Putin? Would we have more diplomatic maneuver room in our negotiations? Or would the EU still be looking for loopholes?
The US and the West - and that includes every country that believes in the rule of law, in individual rights, in governments that are the servants of their citizens - face hard days and years ahead. The decision points are going to come again and again to a choice of comfort versus independence, comfort versus freedom. The longer these choices are deferred, the longer we let the misguided globalists lead us down a primrose path while China and Russia pursue their agendas unfettered by the West, the worse this will be.
Simply put, we need to craft a new strategy, one with the hard goal of being independent and free.
And we need to start now.
About Pete O'Brien
Peter O’Brien has more than 30 years of successful leadership and planning experience in a wide range of organizations afloat and ashore on three continents. Mr. O’Brien’s Navy career included ten years at sea, more than a dozen years stationed overseas and multiple ...