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The world’s biggest bully

Summary:
People often say that the Chinese government is a big bully. And they are correct. But when it comes to bullying, no one comes close to the US government. Yahoo news has a recent piece on the Biden’s administration’s decision to allow a gas pipeline to be built between Russia and Germany. I have no problem with the decision; what bothers me is the reporter’s implicit assumption that countries need to get permission from the US government before engaging in any sort of major economic investment: But in May, the Biden administration served up good news for the project when Secretary of State Antony Blinken, minutes before his first meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, announced the U.S. was waiving two key congressionally mandated sanctions on Nord

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People often say that the Chinese government is a big bully. And they are correct. But when it comes to bullying, no one comes close to the US government.

Yahoo news has a recent piece on the Biden’s administration’s decision to allow a gas pipeline to be built between Russia and Germany. I have no problem with the decision; what bothers me is the reporter’s implicit assumption that countries need to get permission from the US government before engaging in any sort of major economic investment:

But in May, the Biden administration served up good news for the project when Secretary of State Antony Blinken, minutes before his first meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, announced the U.S. was waiving two key congressionally mandated sanctions on Nord Stream AG, which oversees the pipeline. The decision left critics fuming, all the more when the pipeline was completed last month.

Those were “the sanctions that could have stopped it,” former U.S. Ambassador John Herbst, now director of the Eurasia Center of the Atlantic Council, told Yahoo News. “And they lifted those sanctions. For zip.”

Since when is it for the US to decide what sort of economic arrangements are made between Russia and Germany? Or France and Iran? Or Canada and Cuba? Or Japan and China? China’s government often bullies smaller countries, but can you imagine the Chinese telling the Germans that they are not allowed to build a gas pipeline to Russia? Even the Chinese government would never go that far.

Everyone interviewed by the reporter wanted the US to stop the pipeline. These experts are presumably a part of the same foreign policy “blob” that has done such an outstanding job of directing our foreign policy since the Vietnam War.

Permitting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to become functional “is a mistake from so many angles,” said Herbst. “I understand that Biden wants to be the anti-Trump. Trump was mean to Merkel. Biden wants to make up with Merkel. That’s a good idea in principle, but not by giving Germany something that is bad for the U.S., bad for Germany and bad for Europe. It’s a strategic mistake of the first order.”

So the US is so adept at making wise foreign policy decisions that it knows better than the German government what is “bad for Germany”? The country where a recent president told Xi Jinping that it was a good idea to put a million Muslims into concentration camps? The country where the leader of one of the two major political parties no longer even accepts the outcome of democratic elections? That’s the country you want running the world?

As an aside, the gas pipeline may or may not be a good idea, but that issue has no bearing on this post.


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Scott Sumner
Scott B. Sumner is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, the Director of the Program on Monetary Policy at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and an economist who teaches at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. His economics blog, The Money Illusion, popularized the idea of nominal GDP targeting, which says that the Fed should target nominal GDP—i.e., real GDP growth plus the rate of inflation—to better "induce the correct level of business investment".

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