OPEC+ made a surprise announcement Sunday night, April 2, to cut oil production by more than 1.1 million barrels per day – about 1% of global production. Crude oil prices immediately shot up, presaging pain at the pump for Americans already struggling with inflation.
The move by 13 members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries plus 11 other non-OPEC members, the most important of which being Russia, increases the risk of a recession in America while at the same time, earning Russia more cash for its faltering war effort in Ukraine.
There’s a good chance that this didn’t have to happen, but President Joe Biden ran for president with the promise to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state.
Since taking office, Biden’s foreign affairs team has focused a lot of effort on climate change and transgender concerns. Preventing the Taliban in Afghanistan from getting its hands on $7 billion in military equipment, deterring Russia from invading Ukraine, and maintain U.S. military strength, not so much.
Americans are famously nonchalant about foreign events – the broad expanses of the Atlantic and the Pacific tend to afford us the illusion that we can ignore the happenings in far off lands. But eventually foreign crises can come a calling – and exact a toll in American service members’ lives and endless dollars.
Unfortunately, our foreign policy elite are asleep at the wheel and our president isn’t inclined to challenge their comfortable groupthink, increasing the danger for Americans and the world. Settled in their Eurocentric ways, they hyperfocus on Russia’s war against Ukraine, triggering a reaction by those who either oppose Biden or who see China as the main threat.
But there are really three basic views of the main threat to the American national security interests. The camps break down to: Russia first, China first, and the understanding that a new authoritarian alliance combining China, Russia and other powers has emerged.
The first camp is the unthinking default view inside the Beltway. With a sympathetic view of the plight of Ukraine, a smaller nation courageously resisting Vladimir Putin’s Russia, they advocate giving Ukraine what it needs to expel Russian forces from Ukraine – even as America dangerously draws down its stocks of complex, slow-to-replace munitions.
The second camp is small but growing, with former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, thinkers such as Elbridge Colby, and some with isolationist leanings correctly asserting that American power, relative to China and Russia, is not endless and certainly far less overwhelming than it was during the Cold War against the Soviet Union. Because of this, the U.S. must prudently focus on the greatest national security threat: China.
Some in this camp also view the Biden team as being hampered by the commander in chief’s cognitive decline and the growing fragility of American economic power. For others, it is merely a reaction against Biden and the Establishment – both of which have a sorry track record in foreign policy and military interventions over a dismal 50 years, from the defeat in Vietnam to the embarrassment in Afghanistan.
The third camp is still assembling. People such as Mark Levin and a scattering of Cold War veterans take the view that China and Russia have come together in an alliance of convenience, and that Russia’s war on Ukraine cannot be viewed in isolation from China’s deadly designs on Taiwan or other neighbors – foremost among them Japan, India, Australia and the Philippines.
Critics of this third view say there is no evidence to show China is providing Russia with much-needed military support.
But can we rely on limited battlefield intelligence to be assured that China doesn’t intend to significantly upgrade its assistance to Russia, especially given Xi Jinping’s recent three-day visit to Moscow?
Informed surveyors of the international scene in 1936 saw that Hitler’s Germany stood alone, with merely commercial arrangements with nations such as nationalist China. Yet, by the end of the year, the Italo-German protocol was agreed to, as Mussolini came to the belief that Britain and France were declining powers.
Then, in December 1937, with the fall of Nanking in nationalist China to the Japanese, Germany reevaluated its support of Chiang Kai‐shek and recalled the German military mission to China in May 1938. By September 1940, Germany, Italy and Japan signed the Tripartite Pact, formalizing the Axis alliance. Thus, in less than four years, the Third Reich went from a friendless pariah to a nation leading a wartime alliance.
That the alliance failed – at unprecedented cost in blood and treasure to all the combatants – is beside the point. That the Axis powers coalesced rapidly in a deadly alliance of convenience is the lesson.
We are now facing the greatest national security threat of our history. Our financial resources are strained, our military is worn down, our leaders are clueless, and our people have not been informed of the grave danger and likely sacrifice that may lie ahead.