Putin And Russia Can’t Wreck The U.S. Economy, But President Obama Can Wreck Russia’s
Please note : article is from March 14, 2014. It contains an interesting proposal to counter Russian revanchism that should have been taken up. It still could!
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Barack Obama ridiculed Mitt Romney for calling Russia, “…without question our number one geopolitical foe.” In doing so, what Obama was basically saying to America was, “If you like my kumbaya foreign policy, you can keep it.”
Oops—Romney was right.
Well, of course Russia is America’s number one geopolitical foe. Russia has 8,500 nuclear weapons (China has 350), and they have the world’s second largest navy and air force. Russia is also a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, and they have often used their veto to oppose our never-ending battle for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
Russia is dangerous to world peace, because it is militarily powerful, but economically, politically, and morally weak. Russia is ruled by Vladimir Putin, an autocrat that says charming things like, “First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”
Putin’s invasion of Crimea seems to reflect nostalgia for the days of the Evil Empire . How long are those Russian soldiers going to be walking around Simferopol wearing unmarked uniforms and ski masks?
So, how do we frustrate Russia’s resurgent imperial ambitions in general, and repel their threat to the Ukraine in particular? We adopt this simple, three-part plan:
- We demand that Russia withdraw from Crimea, and stop threatening its neighbors. When Mr. Putin refuses, we bring Mr. T out of retirement to say, “I pity the fool.”
- We stabilize the U.S. dollar. This would drive world oil prices down, thereby crushing Russia’s economy, export earnings, and government revenues. (Details here.)
- Then we rip Russia’s heart out, demographically.
To understand how America would go about ripping Russia’s demographic heart out (while profiting enormously in the process), you need to know the story of Michael and Eugenia Brin.
Both graduates of Moscow State University, Michael and Eugenia realized that there was no future for Jews in the Soviet Union, so they took the risky step of applying for exit visas. In May 1979, they were allowed to emigrate from the USSR to the United States. With them, Michael and Eugenia brought their six-year-old son, Sergey.
In 1998, Sergey Brin and Larry Page incorporated Google, Inc., a company that is today worth $406 billion.
Could Sergey Brin have created Google in Russia? If Sergey’s parents had not brought him to America, would he be a multi-billionaire today? Not a chance. America is a good place for smart, ambitious young people to live and work, and Russia is not.
This fact gives the U.S. a way to sap Putin’s geopolitical power, by recruiting away Russia’s human capital. There are more “Sergey Brins” where he came from. America, with its knowledge-based economy, can make good use of such people. Russia, a corrupt kleptocracy with an economy devoted to brute-force resource extraction, cannot.
OK, here’s the plan. Russia’s total population is 142.5 million. Of these, about 11.5%, or 16.4 million people, are between 20 and 30 years old. Based upon IQ, education, looks, athletic ability, etc., we target the top 10% of this group, or 1.6 million people.
We create a website where Russians can go to see if they qualify, and we promote the program through social media. We offer to spend (say) $20,000 per immigrant to bring these elite young Russians to the U.S., and to get them established here (complete with green cards).
Not all 1.6 million Russians that qualified would want to leave home, but let’s say that 1.0 million did. This would put the cost of the program at $20 billion, or about 5% of the market capitalization of Google. By way of comparison, our newest aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford, cost $13 billion to build.
At $20,000 a head, young, smart, highly educated Russians would be a “steal” for America. Many of them have degrees and skills comparable to what American kids have to pay $200,000 to get at M.I.T. and Caltech.
Within Russia, America’s “recruiting” web site would become a high-stakes game of, “Are You Hot or Not?” It would become a huge topic of conversation. There would be no way for Mr. Putin to counter our program without police state measures that would be very unpopular within Russia.
The combination of much lower oil prices and watching the cream of Russia’s youth depart for America would give Mr. Putin something to focus on other than biting off chunks of his neighbors’ territories. Meanwhile, the influx of human capital would make America vastly richer, just as the emigration of nearly one million Russian Jews to Israel in the 1990s made Israel vastly richer.
America has weak leadership right now, but, as a nation, we are incomparably stronger than Russia. We don’t have to meet every geopolitical challenge with our armed forces. Stabilizing the U.S. dollar and utilizing our nation’s unmatched ability to assimilate talented immigrants would defeat Russian revanchism.