The Cold War pitting the Soviet Union against the US has morphed into a new type of conflict. No longer are the two major superpowers overtly concerned with a global nuclear war and the launch of hundreds of MIRV missiles (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles that can carry up to 16 nuclear bombs). Such a confrontation would surely mark the end of humanity, as we know it today.
However, there are several other nations that have developed limited nuclear arsenals, or are in the process of doing so. They include China, Great Britain, France, Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea and Iran. The odds of less sophisticated countries developing or buying a nuclear bomb grows every day. Nuclear proliferation is in bloom, and the procurers of this deadly technology are in many cases not nations that can be trusted.
Why do smaller, less powerful nations covet nuclear weapons? Pakistan and India have weapons that they use to threaten each other. It’s a new-day mutual destruction arrangement between two mortal enemies.
Israel has nuclear weapons that will enable it to defend against an attack by one or more Arab nations that regularly threaten its existence. Although Israel does not flaunt its nuclear capabilities, its enemies are convinced that the Jewish State would respond with nukes if assaulted. The standoff between Iran and Israel has exacerbated nuclear risk in the region.
Next to North Korea, Iran’s motivations to build nuclear weapons are the most troublesome. For some reason the previous US administration decided to give Iran a road map to a nuke. Supposedly it will take a decade, or so, for Iran to develop a deliverable bomb. Why should the global community trust that Iran would act responsibly if it possesses such a weapon?
Every day Iran threatens Israel and Sunni regimes. A nuke would afford it opportunities to dominate the region using even more coercion and military strength.
North Korea’s aspirations are to gain status in the world and escape the control of China. As a dirt-poor country the leaders believe this will be a fruitless effort without the possession of a nuclear weapon. Based upon history, North Korea cannot be trusted to own deadly weapons.
President Trump has been actively dealing with Iran and North Korea. Hopefully he will convince both countries to denuclearize. Their specific regions and the international community will breathe easier if the president is successful.
Since the US does not use its nuclear power to manage relations around the world and seldom applies military action, how can it administer the peaceful coexistence of nations throughout the world?
Ronald Reagan employed the most effective strategy to deal with the Soviet Union without engaging in a conventional or nuclear war. By using the unparalleled strength of the American economy, he was able to bludgeon the Soviets to do his bidding. The same strategy would be effective against any rogue nation today including Russia and China. Economics are the new weapon of mass destruction of the 21st Century.
The US must combat aggressive behavior with severe economic sanctions, penalties that disrupt domestic economies. In the 80s Reagan pumped up the Cold War by greatly increasing military spending. The Soviets followed suit and effectively went bankrupt.
Wisely the US has initiated sanctions against Russia in response to recent aggression in the Ukraine and Russia’s meddling in our elections.
Because Russia is so dependent upon its energy industry, sanctions that directly or indirectly impact this industry are extremely effective. They include focused attacks against energy companies and their managements, disruption of oil and gas activities and the imposition of banking restrictions that impact the flow of dollars into and out of Russia.
Many people say that China is going to overtake the US economically. This is likely if we continue trade policies employed by past administrations. But China exports about $550 billion to the US annually. This number represents about 25% of its total exports. Any disruption of this trade from sanctions and/or tariffs will cause economic chaos in China. Factories will close, companies will furlough employees and GNP growth will be hampered.
The skeptics say that China can retaliate. The problem with this faulty perception is that the US only exports $120 billion to China each year. This amount is much less than what is going in the opposite direction, and a very small part of our industrial output.
In Iran, the president has imposed harsher economic sanctions to force the country to renegotiate the nuclear treaty. Iran’s currency has devalued by 80% recently, it has massive shortages of all commodities and Iranians are protesting every day against the tyrannical rule of the ayatollahs. The current regime is under great duress at this time and appears to be vulnerable to dramatic change. New sanctions will serve to make the situation direr.
Trump must convince Kim Jong-un that the US will secure his regime and his future and bring economic prosperity to the country, but he must give up the nukes. If Kim hopes to rule his country for another 30+ years, he must make a deal with the US.
The US has the most powerful military in the world. It also has the most powerful influence over the world economically. It should use the latter to avoid violence and impose itself on nations that act badly.