OXON HILL, Md.—A leading national security expert is weighing in on how the Chinese Communist Party is exploiting the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
“It’s a good question, because who wins the war against Russia, Ukraine? Who wins the war against NATO, the West, and Russia? China wins this war, because they let us go at each other,” said K.T. McFarland, who served as President Donald Trump’s deputy national security adviser and also served in the Reagan, Nixon, and Ford administrations.
“China knows the longer this goes on, the more the United States’ spending $100 billion a year [in Ukraine], the more we’re spending our resources in Europe, and the less we’re focused on China,” McFarland says. adding:
So, meanwhile, China’s building up its own military. It’s building up its own trade relationships with a lot of countries. So, they’re perfectly happy with the United States to be preoccupied with Russia and Ukraine and not focusing on China—because, look, China’s the real gorilla. They’re the real strategic threat.
McFarland joins today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” to comment on how Ukraine can “win the peace” in its war against Russia, reports that China may be supplying Russia with lethal aid, and how to bring the threat of the Chinese Communist Party into focus for the American people.
Listen to the podcast below:
Samantha Aschieris: K.T. McFarland is joining today’s show. She served as former President Donald Trump’s first deputy national security adviser and held national security posts in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administration. She is also the author of “Revolution: Trump, Washington and ‘We the People.’” K.T., thank you so much for joining us.
K.T. McFarland: It’s an honor and a pleasure, Samantha. Thank you.
Aschieris: Yes, of course. Now, we just hit the one-year mark of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine and unfortunately, it just doesn’t seem that there’s an end in sight. And there’s been these reports that China might be sending lethal aid to Russia. Given your extensive background with national security, how should the U.S. respond to this, should it happen?
McFarland: OK, so here’s where things are now. A year ago when Russia invaded Ukraine, they thought, “Easy-peasy, we’ll be in in three days, we’ll get rid of [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy, we’ll trample the government, we’ll get a pro-Russian government, we’ll have Ukraine under Russia’s thumb.” Well, that didn’t happen. For a lot of reasons, it didn’t happen. In large part because the Ukrainian people fought; NATO came together, started arming Ukraine; and the Russian military didn’t do very well.
So here we are a year later and it’s now a frozen conflict. It’s a stalemate. We’re supplying weapons to Ukraine. Increasingly, the United States is really the heavy lift. We’re paying for, in weapons terms—every other country in Europe added together isn’t as much as the United States is doing. And then in addition to aid, the United States is, again, we’re doing the lion share of the work.
The Russians, who can fight on forever because as long as energy prices are high, that means Russia has made a lot of money from selling its oil and natural gas, pays for the war. And now China is probably going to get involved with helping out Russia.
So even though there are a lot of moving parts, they’re not moving very far. It’s a stalemated situation. And I, for one, worry that there’s no plan here. I mean, how does this war end? It can’t go on forever. We can’t afford it. The Russians can afford it forever, but we don’t want to ever get to the point where it’s either two choices, where on one hand the Russians say, “OK, to advance our cause—we can’t lose or [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will be thrown out of power, Russia collapses. We’re going to have a scorched earth with Ukraine,” or on the other hand we say, we, the United States and our NATO allies in Ukraine, say, “OK, we’re going to get into this.” So then we have a larger conflict.
So I don’t like those two options, complete capitulation or nuclear war, so I’m going for a third option, which is the one that I learned in the Reagan administration, which is, you get peace through strength. You deal with this not by fighting it out on the battlefield, but you deal with it with an economic weapon.
And the reason this is important and why it’s possible—so, at the beginning of the Biden administration, energy prices, remember you go fill up your gas tank, it was pretty cheap. Well, because President [Joe] Biden came in and he stopped the production of American oil and natural gas, prices obviously went up. When the prices go up, Russia’s rich. Russia exports oil and natural gas. It’s the only thing they export. And so as a result of that, Russia had, woo-hoo, windfall profits, which enabled them to then go to war in Ukraine.
Aschieris: I wanted to talk about something that you brought up during your conversation here at [the Conservative Political Action Conference]. You talked about “winning the peace.” Can you expand on what this means and what this would look like in relation to the war in Ukraine?
McFarland: OK, so one thing that we learned in the Reagan administration, where we won the Cold War without firing a shot, and the reason we were able to win it was because we used American technology and the superior American economy so that you beat them on the economic battlefield as well as every other. You didn’t have to go to war.
So I’m looking, fast-forward to where we are now, I see as we continue with no change, it’s just a stalemate conflict that may potentially escalate. Better that we use this economic weapon, I said. If President Biden doesn’t do it, the next president will do it. And that’ll say, “OK, no more war on American fossil fuels, we can produce oil and natural gas.” We once again will be supplying the world with natural gas and oil, drive the price down, bankrupt Russia, and then Russia’s forced to negotiate a solution.
They don’t want to right now. They think they’re winning. They can think they fight forever. But if you would force Russia economically, because they can’t afford to continue a war that’s expensive, then they go to the negotiating table.
That’s how we won the Cold War. We bankrupted them. We pushed down their price of oil. Russia’s bankrupt when the price of oil is low. They had no choice but to negotiate and capitulate to American Cold War victory.
So if you could do that again, especially because now we can control the price of oil and gas, Russia’s broke, Russia has to negotiate, and then the fighting stops. Now nobody gets everything they want. Russia doesn’t get everything. Ukraine doesn’t get everything. But once the fighting stops, Ukraine can win the peace. See, I don’t think Ukraine can win the war. I don’t think Russia can win the war. But Ukraine can do what Russia can’t and win the piece.
Here’s how you win the peace. After the fighting stops, think about the world’s sympathies right now, the world is going to rush into Ukraine and rebuild the infrastructure, rebuild the agricultural resources, rebuild the Ukrainian industry. They have a lot of natural resources, so within five years, the West is fully integrated into the Ukrainian economy. Companies will be co-owned, people will go back. It’ll be like it’s Germany almost.
At that point Russia has no—they can’t take on all of Europe. And then five years after the fighting stops, Russia’s still broke, right? Oil prices are low, they can’t export, and nobody in the world right now wants to rush in and have any relationship with a pariah nation of Russia. So that way you’ll win the peace without firing an American shot.
Aschieris: Yeah. I also wanted to talk about this threat that we’re dealing with regarding the Chinese Communist Party. We have Russia and Ukraine on one hand and then we have China and Taiwan on the other hand. And specifically relating to China, though, how do you see the Communist Party exploiting the war between Russia and Ukraine?
McFarland: It’s a good question because who wins the war against Russia, Ukraine? Who wins the war against NATO, the West, and Russia? China wins this war because they let us go at each other. China knows the longer this goes on, the more the United States’ spending a $100 billion a year, the more we’re spending our resources in Europe, and the less we’re focused on China. So meanwhile, China’s building up its own military. It’s building up its own trade relationships with a lot of countries.
So they’re perfectly happy with the United States to be preoccupied with Russia and Ukraine and not focusing on China because look, China’s the real gorilla. They’re the real strategic threat. They’re bigger, they have a bigger population. They have a technology-focused country. They use trade as a weapon. They trade with everybody in the world.
So Russia, it’s a problem right now for the West and for the United States, but China, they just want to push America aside and say, “This is the Chinese century and America, you’re yesterday’s news, you’re a declining power.” And once that happens, once China really does best us economically, technologically, politically, with trade, militarily, then we’re really … a declining power and we never get it back. China rules the world for 100 years.
Aschieris: I want to talk a little bit more about this rise of the Chinese Communist Party. And there are so many domestic issues impacting Americans right here at home, whether it’s gas prices or inflation, maybe what kids are learning in schools. How do we bring the threat of the Chinese Communist Party into focus for the American people?
McFarland: Well, this is the problem. For 20 years, we were so focused internationally on the global war on terror and Iraq and Afghanistan and the forever wars, and now we’re focused on Europe and Ukraine, and … we’re losing track of China and China’s thrilled with all that.
So what should we do about it? I think No. 1, again, American, let us start producing energy again because it’s great for our economy, it’s terrific for bankrupting our adversaries, and China needs energy too. Better that they buy it and are beholden to the United States than they have them buy it from the Middle East or from Russia.
Aschieris: I also wanted to get your thoughts on recent reports that Japan is planning to buy 400 Tomahawk missiles from the U.S. to kind of counter this threat that we’re seeing from China and North Korea. What do you think about this news?
McFarland: Here’s the thing, after World War II—and I know that you weren’t, probably your parents weren’t even born then. So after World War II, the United States said to our adversaries, Japan and Germany, “Look, we’ll pay for everything. We’ll help your economies develop. We’ll give you a helping hand to develop economies. We’ll take care of security. Don’t spend any money on defense. We’ll take care of it against the Soviet threat, the communist threat.” And that worked out just fine. I mean, they grew, they became our close adversaries and our friends.
We tried the same thing with China, but it didn’t work out. China has no intention of playing second fiddle to the United States.
So, what do we think about in Asia? What do we think about in Europe? Now, the Europeans have not paid their fair share on our common and mutual defense. They’re not doing their fair share with Ukraine. The Asians, we’ve not wanted them to, but we do now because we know that China, especially China allied with, say, Russia, Iran, North Korea, we can’t stand alone and deal with that.
So I for one am encouraging Japan, get a first-rate military. You have the economy, you have the capability to get a first-rate military. Korea, get a first-rate military. Philippines, Australia, New Zealand. We need to have strong security partners in Asia, strong economic countries and powers in Asia, and then we can deal with the Chinese communist threat, particularly China, Chinese Communists with the Russians and the Iranians and the North Koreans. We need our friends in Europe and in Asia.
Aschieris: Absolutely. And we talked about a lot of serious issues and a lot of serious concerns regarding our national security. One thing, I don’t want our audience to feel hopeless after this interview, so, as we were talking about your extensive background in national security, what can our listeners do or what should they be thinking about after this interview?
McFarland: I’m now the age where my children and grandchildren are taking leadership roles, that’s what makes me really happy. People always say, “What keeps you up at night?” And I say, “Oh, yeah, all these horrible problems.” But what makes me go to sleep again with a restful night is because I see people like you and I see people, the younger generation, you guys are in it. You’re not just sort of checked out like my generation did many times. You’re involved. You’re engaged. You’re politically engaged, whether you’re Republicans or Democrats or independents or who knows what, Zoroastrians. The fact that you’re going to get involved in a big way I think is what’s so optimistic about the future.
Ronald Reagan, who was my big hero, he understood that the American people and the American system of government was the best and the greatest. We just every now and then lose sight of it, and that’s why we need to get reenergized again. And your generation is doing it all around the country. So good for you. And that’s what keeps me very optimistic.
Aschieris: Well, K.T. McFarland, thank you so much for joining me today. It’s such an honor and a privilege to be able to speak with you. We’d love to have you back on the podcast in the future.
Aschieris: Thank you so much.
McFarland: Thank you. It’s an honor and it’s a pleasure too. You keep doing what you’re doing because you’re doing it really well, Samantha.
Editor’s note: K.T. McFarland’s former title was corrected to deputy national security adviser.
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