19
March 2024
Past Event
We Win, They Lose: Republican Foreign Policy and the New Cold War

Event will also air live on this page.

 

Inquiries: mdewitt@hudson.org

We Win, They Lose: Republican Foreign Policy and the New Cold War

Past Event
Hudson Institute
March 19, 2024
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) and USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) steam in formation during a multiple large deck event in the Pacific Ocean on June 8, 2023. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carson Croom)
Caption
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) and Arleigh Burke–class guided-missile destroyers USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) and USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) steam in formation during a multiple large deck event in the Pacific Ocean on June 8, 2023. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carson Croom)
19
March 2024
Past Event

Event will also air live on this page.

 

Inquiries: mdewitt@hudson.org

Speakers:
Kroenig
Matthew Kroenig

Vice President and Senior Director, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council

Dan Negrea
Dan Negrea

Senior Director, Freedom and Prosperity Center, Atlantic Council

heinrichs
Rebeccah L. Heinrichs

Senior Fellow and Director, Keystone Defense Initiative

Listen to Event Audio

To compete with the People’s Republic of China, Republicans need to reach a strong foreign policy consensus that bridges party divides. In We Win, They Lose: Republican Foreign Policy and the New Cold War, Mathew Kroenig and Dan Negrea argue that such a consensus, based on a fusion of Donald Trump’s and Ronald Reagan’s foreign policies, is within reach.

Kroenig and Negrea will join Senior Fellow and Keystone Defense Initiative Director Rebeccah Heinrichs to discuss the path forward for policymakers hoping to usher in a new era of American leadership.

Event Transcript

This transcription is automatically generated and edited lightly for accuracy. Please excuse any errors.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

Welcome to this event at Hudson Institute. My name is Rebeccah Heinrichs. I’m a senior fellow here at Hudson and the director of our Keystone Defense Initiative. It is a real pleasure to have our two friends of Hudson and wonderful guests here today with us. The authors of a new book. So, We Win, They Lose: Republican Foreign Policy and the New Cold War. Thank you so much for being here in person and for those of you who are watching online. And I would encourage those of you a great incentive for actually coming here in person, you have the cookies with the book cover. Thank you so much. They’re out there in the lobby. Thank you to my wonderful Hudson colleagues for making sure that my dream became reality and I hope they taste as good as they look. So welcome here to Hudson. So today is the release day for your book, Matt, is that right?

And so we’re going to get a little bit of an inside peek as to what inspired the book, the contents of the book. And so, please do check it out online then, I mean after you hear the authors discuss it. So, if I may, I’m going to introduce our two authors here directly to my left. Dr. Matthew Kroenig is vice president, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, and the Council’s Director of Studies. In these roles, he manages the Scowcroft Center’s bipartisan team of more than 30 resident staff and oversees the council’s extensive network of non-resident fellows. His own research focuses on US national security strategy, strategic competition with China and Russia and strategic deterrence and weapons nonproliferation. Matt and I both serve on the bipartisan US Strategic Posture Commission. I also have copies of that out there. I would encourage the audience here to go ahead and take one per person and to look at that.

Just wanted to use the opportunity to commend that to you here. I could go on with his bio, but you can see that online. Matt is a prolific writer and really, really thrilled to have him here to talk about his book.

And then his coauthor, Dan Negrea, is the senior director of the Freedom and Prosperity Center. He was the State Department special representative for commercial and business affairs between 2019 and 21. In that capacity, he pioneered and led the deal team initiative, a coordination mechanism between US government agencies, the initiative promotes business relations between US and foreign companies around the world. He was a member of the Secretary of State’s policy planning office between 2018 and 2019 where he was responsible for the economic portfolio. And I just learned that you sat across the hall from our own Miles Yu, so a very Hudson group here.

And we even have more Hudson, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is a distinguished fellow here at Hudson and he wrote the foreword to the book we have today. So it’s a real pleasure to have you here. So if I may, I’m going to just ask a few questions, have the authors kind of walk us through a little bit of their findings and their analysis of the book, and then we’ll leave plenty of time for questions from the audience. So please do be thinking of those. So Matt, if you don’t mind, I’ll start with you. So what is the inspiration for the book? What made you think there needs to be a book that explains this in a coherent way and there’s a need for this?

Matthew Kroenig:

Well, first thank you very much Rebeccah for having us here. Hudson is such a great institution doing some of the best work right now, I think on center-right foreign and defense policy. So really an honor to be here on the first day of our book publication to launch the book and with an old long-time friend and colleague. I should say too, as a disclaimer, Dan and I are at the Atlantic Council, which is a nonpartisan organization. And so this book represents our views, not the views of the Atlantic Council as an organization. So the origins of this book, there are several origin stories, but maybe the one that stands out most to me was we were at a retreat for Republican foreign policy in Jackson Hole. I think you were at that meeting as well. And there were people who had served in the Trump administration, people who had served in past Republican administrations, including never Trumpers.

And there were some heated disagreements, but there was also a lot of agreement. And at one point I was getting coffee and a prominent US senator was next to me in line and he said, “You know what we really need is a Trump-Reagan fusion.” And I thought that was interesting because there’s this sense, I think that the Republican Party is very divided between the Reaganite and the Trumpian wings, look at aid to Ukraine and other debates. And I thought that’s interesting. Is there a vision that can bring these two sides together? And it becomes a central argument in the book, because I actually think despite this common, what we think is a misperception, that there is actually a lot of unity still within the conservative movement on foreign policy.

And so the book starts a little bit with political philosophy. What does it mean to be a conservative? What does it mean to be a progressive? How does that lead to consistent differences in worldview on foreign policy? I think the Trump and the Reagan wings are both very much conservative, not progressive in that worldview, but then we go through other major pillars. I think both wings of the Republican Party believe in peace through strength on defense, fair and reciprocal trade when it comes to economic policy, American exceptionalism when it comes to values. And then we go through in the book and a number of specific issues. And I think there’s a lot of unity on China, Iran, North Korea, immigration, climate change. And so that’s what we do in the book. And again, a central argument is the party is more united than many people believe.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

Wonderful.

Dan Negrea:

So my origin of the book story is that my background is Wall Street. I was in finance for a long time. I came to the US government and I discovered how very difficult it is to conceptualize things and to produce documents, positions that bring the administration. So, excuse me, I thought that it would be wonderful to have the outlines of a national security strategy, prepared before the administration comes to power rather than in the turmoil that exists in every administration. So that’s when Matt and I started looking at the book.

And in terms of the big themes of the book, let me add one more to what Matt talked about, which is the fact that we are in a Cold War. So the title of the book is We Win, They Lose, which is a quote from Reagan in the previous Cold War. And what the way we entitled and the subtitle is Republican Foreign Policy and the New Cold War. So if we accept this premise that we are in a Cold War, very important policy consequences follow from that. And we felt that this is an important message to put out with our book.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

Right. Not to commend more reading. I’m giving you all so many reading assignments today. But Ben Dominesch over at The Spectator had a wonderful book review out today. So not necessarily always reflecting everything maybe the authors intended. I don’t know, haven’t asked. But I thought really insightful and really good. And so if I may, I’m going to start from there.

I’m going to start from Ben’s observations, which is Senator J.D. Vance was recently at the Munich Security Conference and he’s been associating pretty closely with Tucker Carlson’s views on foreign policy, Senator Vance opposed Ukraine aid. And from my perspective, he represents something of the new right that might be even a little bit different than where I might categorize the center of gravity of Trumpism. And maybe you can disagree with that or agree and explain that, but I thought it was interesting because one of the things that Senator Vance, he’s even lauded, he hasn’t really rejected this idea of neo-isolationism. In fact, he has lauded Charles Lindbergh’s speeches online. So can you explain to me how that view fits into what you are actually saying is a fruitful fusionist sort of foreign policy in the right?

Matthew Kroenig:

Well, this is another one of our motivations for wanting to write the book and we talk about this in the introduction. And why we chose Reagan and Trump that I think they are the two most influential Republican presidents in foreign policy over the past several decades. So I think any attempt to build a new conservative foreign policy has to take both of their legacies seriously. So what is the Reagan legacy? What is the Trump legacy? And I think I was concerned anyway that I think some people are maybe invoking Trump to advocate policies that aren’t really very Trumpian, that could verge on isolationism. And I think Trump wasn’t an isolationist president.

And so take peace through strength, for example, which is a term that Reagan really believed in, that Trump also promotes when it comes to defense policy, which is to say that the United States should be so strong that our adversaries don’t challenge us. But that the peace part is important that we don’t go getting into amorphous nation building and other military interventions with no goal in sight.

So I think in that sense, they’re both different from some of the excessive caution that you might see on the left side of the political spectrum or isolationism maybe on the right side, but also different from what we maybe saw after 9/11 with what is kind of amorphous nation building campaigns with no clear goal. So I think the piece through strength part is important. And then the other piece of it of course is that both Reagan and Trump when they were challenged, were willing to hit back hard with military force. You can think about Reagan sinking several Iranian naval ships in the Iran-Iraq war or Trump killing Iranian General Soleimani after an American contractor was killed in the Middle East. So yes, I think we’re trying to redefine, I guess what is Reaganism, what is Trumpism and how do they come together?

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

It’s a really important observation because if I tell people that many people will ascribe former President Trump’s views, for instance on Ukraine to a particular perspective, but I’ve been keeping a running document since President Biden was inaugurated on everything that former President Trump has said on Ukraine, and he actually has not opposed aid to Ukraine. So I have a finger up. So Dan, maybe I’ll just kick that over to you and hear your thoughts on that. And then also explain to us why you embrace the title and the framing of a Cold War that the United States is in now with China and Russia?

Dan Negrea:

So we talk in the book about the lack of leadership from President Biden. I think to a very large personal opinion, to a very large extent, the lack of willingness in Congress to support more spending in Ukraine comes from disappointment regarding the lack of strategic clarity from the Biden administration. So when President Biden says we are going to support Ukraine until the end, we don’t know what the end looks like, how far in the future it is.

And I think that Republicans in Congress would be willing to follow a leader that explains to them that the United States actually does have a strategic interest in Europe and should oppose a dictator who invades a neighboring country because another dictator may get the idea to invade another country. But there are also two other aspects that are very important. One of the important things that President Trump did was introduce this concept of America first.

So if we start from the premise that everything we do needs to consider first the interest of the American people. Yes, we do have an interest abroad, but we have urgent, immediate, obvious interest at our border. I don’t think we should just ascribe this to isolationism to say, before I worry about someone else’s border, I want to worry about my border. So that’s one point. The other point is this, and again, I’m coming back to the positions of President Trump. Yes, there is a war in Europe. Yes, the United States has a role, but there should be an emphasis that it is the European rich countries, if you put Europe all together, they have a GDP per capita comparable to other population more than ours. That there should be a sense of urgency and of immediate demand for action in Europe. And they’re not seeing that. So I think the reaction that we are seeing in Congress is related to these two other things. And with a different leader, we may get a different result.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

And so on that point though about allies, I’ve observed something similar where President Trump was emphatic that allies must do more and there’ll be often sort of never Trump people say, “Oh, I wish he was more like Reagan.” But in fact Reagan was very adamant, very different styles, very different rhetoric. But we won the Cold War in part because of, yes, his leadership and support for allies who were, or for partners who had shared enemies in the Soviets, but also pressuring our allies to do more different style and different approach in how he did it, but leaned very, very heavily on allies to do more. So Matt, do you see, is there really truly sort of a substantive difference in a real sense? Or is it between President Trump’s style and President Reagan or is it style difference and just simply a different context? And so it looks a lot different?

Matthew Kroenig:

I think a lot of it is style. And on the point of burden sharing, it goes back all the way to Eisenhower. Eisenhower wanted the Europeans to do more so the United States could draw down. Secretary Gates who was Bush’s Secretary of Defense, and then Obama’s Secretary of Defense. And his final speech, he went to Brussels and made the same point that NATO allies are going to have to spend more if NATO is going to stay relevant. So I think this has been a bipartisan concern. And it’s not just a matter of fairness, it’s also a matter of effective global strategy. We face a very dangerous security environment as we talk about in the book, China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, the United States can’t do it all on its own. It does need its allies to do more. I had one more point on this and I’m forgetting what it is now. So Dan, bail me out.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

Well, I’ll keep asking the next one. So I want to talk about China. I do want you to, maybe not now, but you can kind of think about it while I ask the next question. I do want to talk more about the axis between China and Russia because I will often hear that the folks from the new right, who I’m deeply sympathetic with for things like listen, we do have real problems here at home. We do have an open border that presents its own national security crises. And so even those who be willing for the United States to lead abroad and do good things, they say we can’t just continue to have this open border that we have to take care of our border. But they’ll often say is the threat is just too big. The China-Russia collaboration is too big. And so the United States simply can’t do what it did in the Cold War versus the Soviet Union.

And so I wonder if you can talk a little bit about that? Why you think that we still can win a Cold War between China and Russia and why those trends are the same? And so you can kind of think about that for a minute. But I do want to point out back to Ben Dominic’s piece. Really interesting because he pointed out that Senator Vance, who really is making the pro-Charles Lindbergh more isolationist view here after he came back from Munich, he said, the Senator said, “My political perspective is maybe underrepresented among the Munich Security Conference.” Vance added, “My political perspective is I believe the majority political perspective in the United States.” And Ben Dominic goes on to say that the polls indicate that Vance is wrong. Maybe back to Dan’s point is actually that the American people still really do. . .  They might have some fatigue for these open-ended wars that don’t seem to have a conclusion or a strategy, but in fact, they would be very much open to the Soleimani, strike your example, very popular.

And so when President Trump did take action militarily abroad, it was widely supported among the American people. And so then Ben goes on to explain that this is the book then that explains this fusion that better, that perhaps your point, there might be some political officials trying to take the country down a different way. But it’s not really in line with the history of the policies of the Trump administration. And so, I do want to talk about the China-Russia thread and why you think the United States is able to win this Cold War with China. And then also I do want to focus back on Ukraine aid next, and talk about why that is so, why isn’t it just sort of agree to disagree that Ukraine is a hard problem, but why is it really something that’s important to this debate? So if you want to take either of those questions first.

Dan Negrea:

Will the American people support taking on Russia and China? We have to. I mean, it’s not a matter of choice. It’s not that we are looking abroad for dragons to slay. The reason why we put on the cover of the book that we are in a new Cold War is because we are in a new Cold War because of the aggressive adversarial actions taken by China, the people’s Republic of China under the control, a brutal dictatorship controlled by the Chinese Communist Party is taking actions in the economic sphere, in the military sphere, in the diplomatic sphere, in the ideas sphere that are inimical to vital and important interests of the United States.

And not only that, there is, we say in the book a new axis of evil where China is aligned, not allied, but aligned in an untarned with Russia, with Iran, with North Korea. And they are together coordinating to oppose interest of the United States. So we are forced to take actions to counter their positions. So it’s a matter of necessity. It’s not that we are looking. . .  The American people wouldn’t be interested in changing the regime in China. We tried that in various places, didn’t work out well, that’s for the Chinese people to deal with, but actions taken by Chinese Communist Party, People’s Republic of China, we have to counter them. And not just in China, but elsewhere in the world.

Matthew Kroenig:

If I could jump in on the, do we have the capacity to do this? One measure that international relations scholars use to measure power, probably the primary one is share of global GDP. So if you just look at share of global GDP, the United States has 25% of global GDP. That’s where we’ve been since the 1960s. So people who say the United States is declining are incorrect. We’re right where we’ve been for decades. Russia, China, Iran, North Korea together only have about 18% of global GDP. So even if it was the United States against all these adversaries together, I think we could do it, but it’s a little close for comfort. Fortunately, the United States doesn’t have to do it on its own. We have allies and partners. You bring in the free world and together we have something like 60% of global GDP. So working together, we have the preponderance of power to defeat them.

And I think that’s part of the reason we choose the title we do. We Win, They Lose. Reagan came to power at a time of Détente. People thought the United States was declining, that the Soviet Union was becoming more powerful. The best we could do was try to stabilize the relationship. Reagan didn’t believe it. He thought we’re stronger than people think. They’re weaker than people think. If we take the gloves off and force them to compete, we can win. And it’s a similar argument we make in the book. Let’s have the competition. And I think that our fundamentals are better and their fundamentals are worse than many people believe.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

Let’s talk about Ukraine and then I’m going to turn it over for the audience for your questions. Not to lead the witness, but why is it so important that the United States come up with a strategy for Ukraine to win and then resource that strategy and get them weapons? And do you. . .  Not to speculate too much, but I agree with you that many of the Republicans in Congress, I still hear regularly that they still want to support Ukraine. They just have to navigate the political environment to get something that works for the American people. But meanwhile, the Ukrainians are, I mean they need munitions and so they’re running out. So just how does that fit into this larger argument for us sort of global engagement and leadership?

Dan Negrea:

So one of the things that we do in the book is we have a listing of vital and important interests of the United States. The eight interests, I’m sure you know them very well. So one of them is it’s not in the interest of the United States to allow an adversarial power to dominate a part of the world that is important to the United States. The United States went to war twice in Europe to tremendous losses of life and material losses. So we cannot allow Putin to occupy Ukraine because if he occupies Ukraine, we heard him give interviews.

I heard, by the way, an extraordinary line. Somebody asked Patrushev, one of his advisors, who are the most influential advisors to Putin, and he said, “Ivan, the terrible, Peter, the great, and Catherine the great.” So these are all expansionist emperors, and that’s how he sees himself. So it’s reasonable and it’s always a good idea when dealing with the dictators to take them at their word. So he says, I want Ukraine, but I also want the Baltics. I want part of Poland also. The likelihood of a dangerous conflict is increased if we don’t check Putin in Ukraine. And also if we don’t check Putin in Ukraine, Xi Jinping will get the idea that we are not checking dictators with expansionist dreams. So we have good reasons to support the Ukrainian fight for their sovereignty. The big debate is how exactly to what extent and how much are we asking from the allies?

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

Questions? Yeah, we’ll take one right here in the front. Just state your name and then keep your question brief please.

Alexei Sobchenko:

My name is Alexei Sobchenko. I represent the Russian shadow parliament here in Washington. And the question is very simple. Even if Ukrainians reach internationally recognized borders of 1991, the war is not going to be over. It is going to continue as long as Putin is there. More to it, as long as Putin is there, the United States is going to have trouble with him. And the current administration is stubbornly opposed to support those Russians who really fight Putin. I know it from the real sources. And for example, there are Russians who fight on Ukrainian side in Ukraine, Russian volunteers, and the United States, the current administration does not want to talk about it, does not want to recognize them. What would you guess would be the Republican administration policy toward them? Thank you.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

It’s an interesting question and actually gets to something I want to make sure we cover, which is this question of not necessarily leading with regime change as the primary objective, but what about those? And that was something that Ronald. . . That’s very Reagan-esque of those who want freedom and liberty and want to themselves organically overthrow their dictatorships. What role does that have in a Republican foreign policy?

Matthew Kroenig:

So as Dan mentioned, we talk about these eight national security interests and one of them is democracy promotion. And we say that that is an important interest. It’s always been an important interest for a variety of reasons. We say that some of the interests like defending the homeland are interests that are so important, we should be willing to go to war over it. Other interests like democracy, promotion important but not issues that rise to the level of use of armed conflict, but that we should support using a variety of other tools, diplomacy, sanctions and other things.

So specifically the future government of Russia is not something we get into in the book. So we cover a lot of ground but can’t cover everything obviously. But you’re right, Putin won’t live forever. I’m pretty sure he’s human. So what comes next? And that’s going to be pretty important I think for the future of Russian foreign policy and for the European security architecture. It would be wonderful if somebody like Navalny or somebody who’s more of a reformer would come to power, you may have more expertise than me. My sense from the Russia experts I talked to is that Putin has so consolidated power around him that if he were to have a heart attack tonight, that the most likely outcome would be somebody in his inner circle would establish Putinism without Putin. But if you have other insights, I’d love to hear them.

Dan Negrea:

I would add something very just very quickly, the idea. So in the dime, the tools of economic statecraft, one of them is ideas. We need a much stronger Europe to bring the truth to the Russian people. I know I was in communist Romania and behind Iron Curtain. I know how important they were.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

And so would you say then too, because former President Trump himself is not notorious for making moral arguments for what he’s doing. He’s sort of the very interest-driven guy and uses that kind of rhetoric. But it was his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, sort of famously was kind of the conscience of the foreign policy. Just a quick, do you think that’s an accurate assessment of the way they worked together in the previous administration?

Matthew Kroenig:

Yeah, I think that’s right. And we do have a chapter on American exceptionalism and one of the things we get into there is this an ideological competition or not. Because you do have some kind of more realist types who say, oh, we’re just all great powers duking it out. But I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. I think to understand the foreign policies of Russia and China, understanding that they are dictatorships is an important part of understanding the threat that they pose, of understanding their strengths and weaknesses. And when it comes to winning over allies and partners, which I think is a critical center of gravity in this competition, if we go to the Europeans and others and say, hey, we’re great powers duking it out, help us. What’s their incentive to help?

If we say this is about values that we all believe in, that we all cherish, it’s about whether the free world is going to set the terms for global order or these genocidal dictatorships. I think that’s something that’s going to help to win over allies and friends. So I do think the ideological part is important not just for moral reasons, but also for concrete national security interest based reasons.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

So this is a principled realism or a moral realism I think is probably a good characterization of this kind of US leadership or conservative internationalism?

Matthew Kroenig:

That’s right.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

Well, I’m so sorry we have run out of time. This was wonderful, but out of respect for your time, I’m going to ask you all to please first grab a cookie on your way out. Please do check out the book and read the book. And we’re so thankful that you took the time to use your expertise and your experience and your enthusiasm for getting this question right. Thank you for writing the book. I know it will be an important contribution to the discussion. So please join me in welcoming our authors and guests.

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