By Thomas C. Theiner – https://twitter.com/noclador
The United States has to lead again. The world has been a safer, more prosperous and more peaceful place when the US led the free countries of the world. Over the last few years the US has followed a disastrous policy of “leading from behind”. Disastrous insofar, as without US leadership the West and its allies meander around without a clear policy, thus not solving any pressing problems. US leadership up front is needed, not so much militarily, as ideologically and politically. As long as the United States does not formulate clear policy aims and a strategy to achieve these aims, even the most well intentioned ally only goes in circles waiting for the US to point it in the right direction.
The United States must lead again if it does not want to see the world descend into chaos and ruin. The world needs American leadership now as always and even if the current administration has been unwilling to lead on anything– but the presidents golfing game– the free world will fall in line instantly when the United States returns to its natural role as leader of the free and beacon of hope for the oppressed.
When the will to lead returns to the White House the United States needs to tackle the following problems:
Become active: As of now the USA only reacts. In every foreign policy field the current administration does nothing until a situation becomes unbearable and it is forced to act. Then the administration acts a bit and returns to its stasis until disaster strikes again. This way leads to disaster and Obama will be remembered in history as the president, who lost Europe.
To be active means to recognize a problem, name it, develop a strategy, enact this strategy and never waver the commitment to win. Putin is a master in this art and the White House has to realize that it has to take up this fight or see the US abandoned by all its allies. The White House has to accept that Russia is a danger to America itself, has to say so publicly, has to enact a strategy to break the Russian regime and not waver until Russia comes crawling and begs to surrender.
Impose sanctions on Russia: Russia is a corrupt mafia state whose leaders despise the West for its liberties and working justice system. At the same time the Russian regime is utterly depended on the West for financing its corruption and its wars. Putin and his gang also need the West to launder their stolen funds and deliver them the luxuries the decadent lifestyle of a dictator’s clique demands. It is time to show Putin that the West is not as gullible and corrupt as he believes.
Therefore, travel and business sanctions must be imposed against the Top 500 regime members, their families and their companies. The more severe the economic sanctions, the less American blood will be spilled on the battlefields; therefore every person of power in Russia must be sanctioned and investigated for their crimes. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act will come in handy, as it allows also going after Putin’s corrupt enablers in the West.
With biting sanctions crippling the Russian upper class and energy earnings from the West disappearing Putin will loose rapidly support at home and the ability to finance his military too. Both very much in the West’s interest and therefore this must be our first and most though measure if we wish to win this war.
Counter Russian propaganda: Russia has built up a formidable propaganda machine, while the West has given up promoting its values and countering its enemies’ propaganda. Russia today is emulating our old Cold War playbooks, but we are still the masters of this game. It is time we return to this arena overtly and covertly to sow Fear, Uncertainty and Distrust among our enemies and open the eyes to their oppressed people about our riches and their poverty.
Expose Putin’s corruption: Putin has been using his agent Edward Snowden masterfully to drive a wedge between the US and its allies. “Leaks that do damage” is a game that two can play. It is high time the US government began to release all it knows about Putin’s corruption. As Russia used the New York Times and The Guardian as useful idiots to spread its disinformation, the US intelligence community and allied intelligence agencies should publish everything they know about the corruption of Russia’s elite on the internet for everyone to see: a putinleaks.com so to say.
Furthermore, the US should go after all and each company that has a hand in Putin’s corrupt system by applying the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act vigorously; especially against European companies to shame European governments into action after they turned a blind eye to the corruption seeping from Russia into their nations.
Destroy Syria’s regime: Putin has rabidly insisted that the West must not interfere in Syria, because such an intervention would infringe upon the principle of sovereignty. Obama caved in and Putin lost his mind from the ease of victory. At the same time, the US lost much credit with its allies for not enforcing a clear red line. It is time to end this farce and bomb Syria’s regime into oblivion. The US military needs to strike Syrian regime command and control and air-defense facilities as quickly and as massively as possibly. Afterwards Türkiye, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and France would be delighted to mop up the rests of the regime with their air forces and some American logistical help.
Confront Iran: Iran needs to be given a choice: either dismantle your nuclear program and withdraw your forces from Iraq and Syria and be rewarded for this with the lifting of sanctions, or else. Then announce publicly: if Israel feels threatened by the Iranian nuclear program, it is free to go and lay waste to it, and will have the full American support to do so.
Improve relations with Egypt and Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been two of the most loyal American allies in the Middle East. Obama is losing them both: Saudi Arabia, due to his pro-Iranian policy and refusal to intervene in Syria, and Egypt, due to his lack of any kind of sensible policy towards this country. Currently, Egypt is negotiating a $ 3 billion arms deal with Russia, breaking the American hold on arms sales to Egypt. This will give Russia a foothold in Egypt and strengthen the Russian arms industry- a disaster that not even registers in the White House.
As Saudi Arabia is paying for this arms deal to reward the Egyptian military for the crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood, the US must scupper it and direct Saudi Arabia to either buy the weapons in France (as Lebanon does in its own $ 2 billion Saudi financed arms deal) or buy them from American companies. If the deal should go to France, then in return France should cancel the sale of its two Mistral amphibious assaults ships to Russia.
Make Türkiye a top ally: Türkiye is one of the most valuable strategic prizes in this war with Russia. Not only does it control the entrance to the Black Sea, but it also borders Iran and Syria, and is the only power capable of defending the small Caucasus nations of Georgia and Azerbaijan against Russian aggression. Furthermore, Türkiye has the largest NATO ground forces (thanks to Hagels’ “reform” the US Army slipped to second place), is an emerging power in the Balkans, the Middle East, the Black Sea Region and Central Asia, and Israel’s only regional ally.
Therefore, losing Türkiye means losing this war – NOT an option! Türkiye wants to see Syria’s Assad gone as soon as possible – bomb him! Türkiye needs a new long range air-defense system but American systems are too expensive – drop the price and sell Türkiye twice the number of what it needs. Türkiye’s Navy needs expanding and upgrading – give it both of the surplus French Mistral amphibious assaults ships. The US and also the EU must do everything to strengthen Türkiye militarily, economically, and politically, and to build it up as a counterweight to Russia in the region.
Stop gutting the US military: After the latest round of cuts as laid out by defense secretary Chuck Hagel, the US will field the same number of heavy mechanized combat brigades as 10,8 million people of Greece! The US is losing its ability to wage a conventional war; already today Russia fields three times as many heavy brigades as the US, a ratio that is bound to increase with Putin’s planned expansion of the Russian ground forces.
Reducing heavy forces, forsaking the development of a new self-propelled artillery system, and taking the A-10 Thunderbolt II jets out of service deprives the US of the ability to fight a conventional land war; this trend must not only be stopped – it must be reversed. The US needs at least six more heavy brigades, at least two of which must be based in Europe. Furthermore, strong air assets need to be placed into the frontline nations of Romania, Poland, and Türkiye by the US Air Force.
Lead NATO: NATO has kept the peace in Europe for 65 years and all these years US leadership gave it meaning and heft. With the end of the Cold War and Americas pivot to Asia NATO has become leaderless and only the US has the might to reverse this slide into oblivion. As first step the US must tell members covertly but clearly that it will not defend a nation, who does not invest at least 2% of GDP in defense. Secondly the US needs to sell weapons and equipment to NATO members at a blistering rate; for nations economically too weak the US should either lease arms and equipment or provide loans to buy them from American companies.
Ally with India: India cooperates closely with Russia in military development and buys vast amounts of Russian equipment. Unlike Russia’s other main customer China, India is a natural ally of the US. Not only are these two the biggest democracies, but they are both wary of a resurgent China. Therefore, Russia’s lock on India needs to be broken. Losing India will weaken Russia’s arms industry and strengthen America’s position opposite China.
Pakistan, which has been a erratic American ally at best, will be alarmed by such an Indo-American alliance, therefore the US needs to invest much energy into forcing Pakistan and India to finally settle their differences over the disputed Kashmir region.
Stabilize post-Soviet nations: With Putin threatening now all nations of the former Soviet Union, he has given the US an opening to strengthen ties with these nations. Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia are already firmly oriented towards the West; while Armenia and Azerbaijan are looking for ways to secure their nations against the Kremlins desire to swallow smaller nations. All five need urgent financial help and should receive it generously along with military and law enforcement training and vast amounts of defense equipment.
The Central Asian nations are mostly run by kleptocratic dictators, an unsavory bunch with which we should not associate too closely; but, as all of them try to put some distance between themselves and Russia, we have now an opening to bring them closer to us and use this desire of theirs to blackmail them into allowing their people more freedom. Türkiye has assumed a role as protector and close ally of these countries already, and the US should encourage Turkish efforts to gain more economic, political and military influence in Central Asia.
Arm Ukraine: Events over this weekend have proven that Putin will not stop until he has annexed large swaths of Ukraine. The US and its allies must begin to arm Ukraine as soon as possible: arm the Ukrainian military in a war with Russia in whatever area it manages to hold, and arm the Ukrainian resistance with everything needed to turn Ukraine into hell for Russian troops and collaborators. No weapon system should be off the table and everything should be delivered in masses, along with training in insurgency tactics, which the US military amassed an immense experience with over the last decade.
But above all, the US must show strength. For the last few years the current administration has not once shown leadership, never shown strength and failed to rally allies repeatedly: France led the charge in Libya, France led the mission in Mali, Poland leads on Ukraine, while nobody in the administration has taken charge of the post-revolution situations in Libya and Egypt, nobody deals with Russian incursions into South America, nobody has a concept for the post-Soviet nations; this list goes on and on. The lack of foresight, strategic thinking, moral resoluteness, coupled with Obama’s short attention span, has encouraged Putin, Assad, Kim Jong-un, Iran, and other criminal state actors to become much more active, assertive, and brutal. A world where dictators live without fear of the wrath of the United States is a world in anarchy. Anarchy that will ultimately come back to American shores and devastate the US too, just as anarchy in Afghanistan came to America’s shores.
The choice for the US is clear either the US becomes pro-active again, asserts its authority once more and draws red lines it will enforce as in the past, or it retreats and lets the world descend in chaos, wars and economic turmoil that will destroy America itself in the end. Therefore there is no other choice for the US but to lead!
Edited by Alya Shandra
This article is part of a series:
Thomas Theiner is a writer and production manager. He has previously lived in Kyiv for 5 years and worked at a subsidiary of Ukraine’s biggest film company.