The Obama administration is not exactly a well-spring of free market rhetoric. Whether President Obama is endorsing cap-and-trade, increasing corporate taxes, or demarcating between Wall Street and Main Street, one thing is for sure—Obama is not an outright free market aficionado. The president has overtly positioned himself as an antagonist to Big Business. Admittedly, Obama is a corporatist—and a rather selective one at that. For example, the President makes a sharp distinction between the bankers motivated by sheer greed, and those who are “savvy businessmen,” like Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein (you know, the bank being investigated by the SEC for selling securities which its creators were simultaneously shorting). By and large, however, the president does not spend a lot of time putting gold stars next to the names of CEOs or proclaiming the merits of Big Business.
Even given this pattern of populist rhetoric and selective corporatism (Goldman Sachs, GE, Caterpillar, JPMorgan, and Bank of America come to mind), I believe that there is a very good chance Obama is putting the power of the free market to work. Not in terms of his domestic policy, but elsewhere.
I want to suggest that the Left-appeasing disarmament agreement with Russia is, in actuality, Obama’s attempt to use the free market to stabilize relations with Russia. In March, the infrastructure research firm CG/LA released a report stating that the potential for investment in Russian infrastructure could be close to a trillion dollars. The president of CG/LA, Norman Anderson, presented this to the United States-Russia Business Council—composed of members such as Alcoa, Apple, Inc., Bank of America, Caterpillar, General Electric, General Motors, JPMorgan Chase Bank, Microsoft, Pfizer, and other Fortune 500 names.
Did the Russian government agree to grant these companies broadened access to that trillion dollar market if Obama would sign off on the disarmament agreement? If so, does the president believe (without saying so, of course) that by allowing U.S. companies to become entrenched in the development of Russia’s dilapidated infrastructure, that he can stabilize long-term relations with Russia? In other words, are the hawks who lament the reduction in nukes turning a blind eye to what may be a superior display of American might—the export of our technological knowledge?
Reagan won the Cold War because he successfully bankrupted the Soviets in an arms race. Perhaps Obama is using Russia’s recession-weakened condition to create a circumstance of economic or industrial reliance with Russia. Such Industrial involvement acts as a kind of diplomacy; in the long term, it may end up being more effective in crafting a sustained policy than the threat of nuclear buildups and defense shields, which can whimsically be undone and redone by any future administration.