I never thought I would see the day when I would praise Germany for doing something right for the Alliance. Let’s not forget that former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s last act as Chancellor in November 2005 was to authorize the original Nord Stream pipeline joint venture project with Russia. The following week, after Angela Merkel replaced him as Chancellor, he showed up in Moscow as the new head of the Nord Stream joint venture, at Russian energy giant GazProm’s invitation. Wikipedia reports now that Schröder was appointed as a director of the Russian state-owned company GazProm in February 2022 and that he has been the Chairman of Russian oil company Rosneft since 2017.
Russia’s blatant aggression over the past week has been a wake-up call for Europe, and for all of us. New German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, like Schroeder, a member of the leftist Social Democratic Party (SPD), was considered something of a Russophile, and German leaders have long indulged in the hubris of thinking they had a “special understanding” of Russia, even as they have peddled their mantra of “negotiations through trade” and have made themselves far too dependent on Russian oil and gas.
So, it came as a pleasant shock to Germany’s NATO allies when Scholz announced on February 26 that for the first time in an ongoing conflict since WWII, Germany would send offensive weapons, namely Javelin and Stinger missiles, to Ukraine, and that he intended to change Germany’s constitution to require the government to spend 2% of its GDP annually on defense. This is a really big deal. The United States has been regularly pressing our NATO allies, especially Germany, since the 1970s to increase their defense spending. In the 2016 NATO Communique, all the NATO heads of state and government, including Chancellor Merkel, committed to spending 2% on defense from then on. But over her 16-year tenure as Chancellor, Merkel made very little effort to do so, and Germany’s defense spending has averaged between 1.4% and 1.6% of its GDP for decades. President Trump was right to call her out. What’s even more remarkable about Scholz’s decision is that he made it as a member of the leftist SPD, in coalition with the more leftist Greens, as well as with his third coalition member, the libertarian Free Democratic Party.
In one more “Forrest Gump moment,” as a political-military officer in the U.S. Embassy in Berlin from 1999 to 2002, I was the notetaker for at least two Washington delegations that I can recall who met with the German leadership to press them to spend more to meet their Alliance obligations. The effort I remember most clearly was in early 2001 when a senior leader from our Department of Defense met first with the appropriate representative in the German Foreign Office. After the DOD rep made his pitch, the German replied that, 10 years after German reunification, the federal government was still obligated to spend far more than it wanted to restore the economy and infrastructure of eastern Germany. That might have held some water with me, except that he added, “And besides, we still have to tear down the old East German parliament building on Unter den Linden Strasse (the main boulevard that runs eastward from the Brandenburg Gate) and reconstruct the Kaiser’s palace there.”
Then the DOD rep and I headed for the Chancellor’s Office and met with one of his senior advisors. This man also pled poverty due to the costs of rebuilding eastern Germany. Then he pointed out, “Look, for the first time in Germany’s history, we have no enemies on our borders. And NOW you want us to spend more on our defense?” The simple answer was, “Yes, of course.” But of course, it didn’t happen.
To be fair, after September 11 that same year, Gerhard Schroeder did step up and contribute naval forces to help us patrol through the Red Sea and beyond, and he sent a lot of troops to northern Afghanistan on our behalf. When he spoke before the Bundestag later in September to announce that he was sending military forces in defense of the United States, he stated something like, “The United States has stood beside us in solidarity for over 50 years. It’s time to give back.” I think it was his finest hour, unlike his behavior in his post-Chancellor life in Moscow. Former U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos even labeled him a “political prostitute.”
The United States, the 27 European Union member states, and several other countries have placed an impressive array of financial sanctions on the Russian Central Bank, certain other Russian banks, and on Vladimir Putin himself and several of his oligarchs over the past few days. However, a certain level of “prostitution” continues. For countries like Germany, Italy, and sadly, even the U.S., who rely on Russian gas and oil shipments, Russian banks, such as the notoriously corrupt Sberbank, which handle oil and gas payments, have been exempted from sanctions. At least, thus far.
Sanctions implementation is the precise arena where the United States needs to demonstrate leadership in the Western world, first because we have the most experience – and the most leverage – in a largely U.S.-dollar-denominated world. Second, we alone can be the most effective in applying “secondary sanctions” – the tool that perhaps helped the most to bring Iran to the negotiating table under Obama. Secondary sanctions were applied against any third country’s banks or businesses that chose to continue doing business with Iran. If they chose to keep those business relationships with Iranian enterprises, they could no longer do business with U.S. companies or banks. This forced German companies like Siemens or French companies like Total, for example, to cease doing business in Iran’s tiny economy so as not to lose access to the United States’ economy, and these sanctions helped bring Iran to its knees economically. Now is the moment to begin applying such secondary sanctions on companies that continue to do business in Russia.
The most significant action that Washington needs to take immediately, however, as every TV talking head with half a brain has been calling for over the past week, is to “drill, baby, drill,” and turn on every gas and oil spigot we can here in America. This would not only be the smartest action to start bringing our own inflation under control, as well as providing jobs, ensuring our own energy/national security, and just as important, providing the only realistic alternative to Russian energy resources.
Read below a paragraph I wrote for my presentation to Manatee Patriots on November 2 last year:
“Here’s another, more recent, example of Russian dirty money at work. Fox Business News reported in mid-2017 that Russia was funding certain U.S. environmental groups opposing the development and expansion of American fossil fuel extraction projects. This was set in motion to prevent the United States from having enough surplus energy to export liquefied natural gas, oil, and coal to Europe to provide Russia’s neighbors with viable energy options.”
The United States is blessed with numerous energy resources that we extract the most cleanly and efficiently, and under President Trump we were energy independent. Now we are the only major energy supplier on the globe that is not producing oil and gas anywhere close to our capacity because President Biden has waged war on fossil fuels since the day he took office. The world uses, and thus needs to produce, a certain amount of fossil fuels every day for normal life to happen. I think Biden and his “woke” leftie cronies naively believe that it’s somehow better if corrupt regimes on the other side of the world produce those carbon-based fuels in a dirtier manner than U.S. companies would (and reap all the jobs and profits), because those regimes then have the “carbon footprint” of production charged against them under the Paris Climate Accords – as if Russia or Saudi Arabia or Iran even cared about that!
As President Reagan once observed, “The trouble with liberals is not so much that they are ignorant; it’s that they know so much that isn’t so.” Their rabid, fearful obsession with climate change to the exclusion of all else presents, to my mind, the biggest obstacle to solving nearly every problem the United States and now our Allies are currently facing. Domestically, turning on the gas, oil, and even clean coal spigots would be the very best move to lower energy prices and thus curb inflation, solve our supply chain problems as transportation would become more affordable, provide excellent jobs drilling, fracking, and building pipelines, bring us back to energy security and greater national security, and ultimately let the United States, as the world’s biggest supplier, dictate global oil prices rather than OPEC.
Globally, the United States could literally ride to the rescue of our European allies by shipping LNG to them to free them from Russia’s energy yoke. This would enable the United States and Europe could more freely turn the punishment screws on Putin without fearing that he would turn off the gas to Europe or the oil shipments to the U.S. (It’s ridiculous that we are importing 10% of our oil needs from the Russkies when we have an abundance of it ourselves.) Obviously, if President Biden and his radical crowd could instantly pull their heads out of their backsides, and he would announce in his State of the Union address on March 1st that he would immediately undo his executive order that killed the Keystone XL pipeline, along with ending all the burdensome regulations that have made further energy resource extraction either impossible or too costly, it would still take a while for those gas and oil spigots to flow again. But just making the announcement of this major course correction would put the United States back in the leadership position we are expected to hold. More importantly, it would immediately strengthen all our hands to inflict further punishment on Putin to compel him to change course in Ukraine.
If President Biden does not take this obvious step in the next 48 hours or so to fix some of the many things, he has broken over the past 13 months, along with making sure the anti-tank and other weapons Kyiv needs reach where they are needed, Ukraine will likely fall into Putin’s hands. Almost no one believes Ukrainian territory is the last that Putin will seek to seize. Once he has installed his puppet in Kyiv and left his occupation army in place, my prediction is that poor little Moldova to the west could be next. He already has Russian troops stationed in breakaway Transniestria on the Ukrainian border and toppling the always-fragile government in Chisinau would be a much easier task than seizing far larger Ukraine.
Putin might also take on Georgia to the south if he still has the appetite by then. Further, if Putin wants to “own” Belarus (and all of its problems – who would?), he could simply run the Russian flag up the flagpole in Minsk. It’s not necessary though, because, simply put, he already owns Lukashenko. Putin has threatened to take on the Baltic states, but I don’t believe him. He knows that would trigger Article V of the NATO Charter, the mutual defense clause whereby an attack on one is an attack on all and could easily lead to WWIII. Putin knows his country is not strong enough to take on all of NATO. With the beginning of financial sanctions being applied on February 28, the Russian ruble fell to a fraction of a U.S. penny.
The fact that the Alliance has become more united over the past week because of Putin’s aggression against its neighbor will make him think twice or three times before attacking Lithuania or Latvia or Estonia. He might be content to simply shore up his western flank by controlling Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. Yet I predict that maintaining control of Ukraine, if he obtains it, will prove much, much harder than taking it. An entire army, or perhaps two or three, would be required to occupy Ukraine in the face of a perpetual insurgency. President Putin should have been more careful about what he wished for.
In the face of American weakness, my fear for the past several months has been that Putin attacking all of Ukraine would be the first domino to fall. I have long suspected that Putin and Chinese President-for-life Xi Jin Ping have been in cahoots to administer a 1-2 punch. If Putin’s aggression is successful, then Xi would attack and try to capture Taiwan while the U.S. is consumed with helping Ukraine. Iran is just a hair’s breadth from having a fully capable nuclear missile or two. So, the third domino could be Iran attacking Israel – with a nuclear weapon. And North Korean thug Kim Jong-Il hates being ignored, so he could pop off missiles at Japan or the U.S. or elsewhere, just to get the attention he craves, amid all the other mayhem. Clearly, none of this would have happened if President Trump were still in office. But bullies love to exploit a power vacuum.
In the economic sphere, Russia, China, and Iran have been preparing back-up plans. I’ve seen articles about China, Russia, and Iran working on national gold-backed crypto-currencies that would serve to end the U.S. dollar’s reign as the de facto world currency if they could get others to accept and use them for international trade. Hatred for the greenback is something all three have in common. All three have been stockpiling gold for the past decade, anticipating this opportunity to introduce their own “hard currencies” that would do away with cash in their own economies and strengthen government control over their own financial systems through the ability to monitor everyone’s digital money. (By the way, the Biden administration is developing a national crypto currency as well. Stay tuned.)
My other solution is simply to pray to Almighty God to protect and save Ukraine from Russia’s clutches; and the same for Taiwan from China; ditto for Israel – God’s chosen people – from Iran; and ditto for all of us to be spared from North Korea’s WMD strikes. Please join me in those prayers.