While the media have been focused on the missing Malaysian aircraft, massive alterations of the world’s geopolitical terrain are underway simultaneously.
The annexation of Crimea by Russia should not have been a surprise for anyone who suspects that President Vladimir Putin is trying to re-establish a powerful Soviet-style empire. When he aggressively attacked Georgia in 2008 after both Georgia and Ukraine failed to obtain NATO admission at the Bucharest Summit, we should have realized that his goals were not limited to one territory. I suspect he is now calculating an excuse to occupy the easiest regions of Ukraine first and then the whole country over time.
The United States encouraged Ukraine to give up its nuclear arsenal and to de-emphasize its military complex, but in its moment of dire need for tangible support, will we have the courage and fortitude to help stop Russian aggression, which ultimately could lead to another Cold War or worse?
Many probably have forgotten the worldwide turmoil created during the Cold War, which ended a quarter-century ago. Allowing conditions to mature that might re-create another dominant world power hostile toward the United States could easily reinforce those radical elements who wish to see the demise of this nation. One of the ways we permit such conditions to arise is through our fiscal irresponsibility, which substantially weakens us because the borrower is subservient to the lender. Can we be objective in our treatment of nations, no matter what their actions, if we owe them great sums of money?
Ronald Reagan facilitated the demise of the Soviet Union without firing a single shot. He enacted policies that resulted in a financial meltdown that ended the brutal Soviet reign. The recent precipitous fall of the Russian stock market cannot go unnoticed by Putin, and more financial pressure applied immediately could give pause to his grandiose schemes. We could freeze Russian financial assets, downgrade trade associations or rapidly establish energy production policies to free the European Union from the Russian energy stranglehold.
EU energy freedom would require the quick establishment of a rational energy development platform that does not cater to far-left environmentalists. Many advocates of common sense are also concerned about the environment, but are reasonable enough to realize that rather than using Environmental Protection Agency regulations to stifle abundant energy production, we can use the EPA in conjunction with the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship to produce and export a vast amount of clean energy. This could significantly improve our bargaining position throughout the world.
Whether we are experiencing global warming or a coming ice age, which was predicted in the 1970s, we as responsible human beings must be concerned about our surroundings and what we will pass on to future generations. However, to use climate change as an excuse not to develop our God-given resources makes little sense. Expanding our wealth of energy resources, as well as encouraging the development of new renewable energy sources, would provide an enormous economic lift with obvious benefits, but it also would bolster our role as a formidable player in the struggle for world leadership.
The rapidly changing geopolitical scene cannot successfully be managed by leading from behind. We need to put aside partisan ideological bickering and use our collective knowledge and wisdom to thwart the redevelopment of a powerful and dangerous rival for global influence. Perception is reality, and it is crucial that we not be seen as timid and waffling during the opening moves of this strategic chess match.
Our allies must know that we have their backs when they get into difficult situations, and our support must be pronounced and immediate. If we call upon independent nations such as Ukraine to abandon their most potent weapons of defense and then only lend tepid support when their independence is threatened, we would be foolish to believe that others in the world are not observing our behavior. Consistent reliability and strong support in these matters will lead to strong support when we call upon our allies to join us in employing economic leverage against rogues who threaten world peace.
Americans should be supportive and encouraging of our leaders during times of international crisis, but let’s hope they are listening to voices from all major parties about the ramifications of each option available to us in this fight. Let’s further hope that they can see the big picture and understand the importance of using all of our resources, including natural energy, to achieve our objectives. Developing our natural energy resources, controlling our national debt, consistently supporting our allies and aggressively opposing our foes without playing politics will help improve our status in the world and make peace more likely. The stakes are too high to simply be reactive. We must act if we are to lead.
Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.