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Everyone in the vaunted “interagency,” is well aware of the concept of the instruments of national power. The old Army War College acronym is “DIME,” for diplomatic, informational, military, and economic tools. You will notice that each tends to rest primarily in different departments, different agencies in the “interagency.” This would be why you need multiple agencies to coordinate rather than always operating “in their own lane.”
Just as Madison Avenue is best at selling Madison Avenue, so too the permanent bureaucracy and its affiliates, allies, patrons, and petitioners all affirm competent and selfless expertise in the face of all evidence. Indeed, the reverence for the “foreign policy consensus” evokes the British Parliament’s ritual prostration before the NHS. Thank God that we finally have a president who feels no such compulsion, the first such since Ronald Reagan.
H.R. McMasters showed real professionalism in his honchoing of President Trump’s National Security Strategy. He actually ensured the “interagency” worked to produce a coordinated draft that conformed to the Commander in Chief’s clear intent, where “ commander’s intent” is a military term of art for guidance that must be fully supported. This baseline document was actually published within the first year of President Trump’s administration.
What has apparently been a great surprise to the Deep State is that this president actually meant what he published. There has been no turning on the primacy of our economic tools of national power, both in the trade and energy sectors. President Trump helps American workers, and businesses, and the energy consumers of the world, by opening the natural gas and oil “pipelines” wide, flooding the world market.
This week, while the media tells you, if at all, about NATO’s 70th anniversary, the real story is Germany and Russia back to their bad old ways. Once again, a German leader is conniving with a Russian leader to do a deal of mutual benefit, at the expense of the states unlucky to be situated in between them.
The German leader wants uninterrupted natural gas from Russia, not America, and does not want to be vulnerable to Putin’s next pipeline power play in Ukraine. Putin turns off the gas when he wants to punish a non-compliant Ukrainian people. Now, with a bilateral agreement, opposed by others including the United States, Nord Stream 2 will follow the sea bed from Russia to Germany, parallel to Nord Stream 1, doubling capacity.
This is the same Germany, and the same German leader, showing complete contempt for NATO and the United States, as it spends only half the mutually agreed target of two percent GDP on its own national defense. The once powerful, well equipped, and competent German military is a pathetic joke. Oh, they can muster the sort of special forces that have long been needed to deal with terrorists, from back in the 1970s when communist gangs were serious business. But the navy, and the formerly greatest tank force in the world? Jokes, very sad jokes.
The American foreign policy establishment’s answer has been to talk around and paper over reality. President Trump, like President Reagan, is having none of this. As he prepared to fly to London, Secretary of State Pompeo was hammering away on the latest numbers, showing that NATO countries had finally come around to actual increases in their own defense spending. This reality, although markedly uneven, conveys good messages to Putin, to the American people, and to the people of Europe, who have finally heard from their leaders that their nations are worth spending at least a small slice of the economic pie on national security.
The countries to the west of Russia, as a whole, dwarf the Russian economy. Indeed, Texas is bigger than the Russian economy. While it is true that Putin can spend a much higher percentage on military equipment and personnel, without losing political power, the sheer difference in scale of economies creates the potential for the rest of Europe to shut down any Russian dream of renewed empire in the west. And, as long as Donald J. Trump is president of the United States, the price of natural gas and crude oil has an upper limit, throttling Russian ambitions.
The use of economic and informational tools, along with some diplomacy, is far wiser than talk of armed confrontation between the only two countries in the world capable of rendering each other smoldering ruins in mere hours. I laid this out back in July of 2018, in “Loose Cannons and Nuclear Buttons: Dealing with Russia.” I quoted the relevant portions of President Trump’s NSS, with some explanation. Looking back, President Trump’s strategy has not changed and he is succeeding within the limits of European politics and U.S. constitutional powers.