- - Sunday, January 1, 2017

For the next four years (and probably eight) the media will proclaim everything Donald Trump says and does to be proof positive that he’s incompetent or insane and probably both. While Mr. Trump apparently enjoys riling up the media, his statements usually make sense and have considerable impact domestically and internationally.

A great example was his declaration that a new arms race would be fine and dandy because we’d certainly win.

A few days before Christmas, he tweeted, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

At about the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin told an audience, “We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces.”

Asked by an interviewer to clarify his tweet in terms of the Russian’s speech, Mr. Trump answered, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass. And outlast them all.” That, predictably, gave the media a case of the jitters. Mr. Putin wasn’t expecting that, and may not believe it. Yet.

Mr. Trump’s disdain for the media is clear and his use of them very effective. This time he used them to make a point with which Ronald Reagan would have agreed. Mr. Trump was restating in current terms the strategy that Mr. Reagan employed to win the Cold War by outspending and out-innovating the Soviet Union on defense causing it to go broke trying to keep up with us.

Facts, as John Adams said, are stubborn things. One of them, largely ignored by the media, is that Mr. Putin’s Russia is being bankrupted by Western sanctions and the drop in the prices of oil and gas. The World Bank, as reported on Sept. 9 by CNBC, found that ” very little is going right for Russia. Gross domestic product in Russia cratered from $2.23 trillion in 2013 to $1.33 trillion last year — a staggering 40-percent drop, according to figures from the World Bank.” Russian GDP was expected to shrink another 1.8 percent in 2016.

Russia’s economy depends on the sale of oil and gas. When prices were high, Mr. Putin and his oligarch pals stuffed Mr. Putin’s bank — Bank Rossiya — with their profits. Mr. Putin is reportedly one of the richest men in the world because he and his oligarch pals have pocketed a lot of the profits from such sales. Much of the rest has gone to pay for Mr. Putin’s military aggression in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria.

The good times were over for Mr. Putin and his gang the moment oil and gas prices plummeted. They have risen slightly of late, but not enough to power any Russian economic recovery.

Mr. Trump knows this. He also knows that if he rescinded President Obama’s ban on oil and gas drilling in our Arctic and offshore reserves, the prices of oil and gas would plummet, again crippling Mr. Putin’s capability for aggression. The more oil and gas we produce — and possibly export to Europe and other regions dependent on Russian supplies — the worse it will be for Mr. Putin.

Mr. Trump also knows that Mr. Obama has begun the modernization of our nuclear arsenal, proceeding at a glacially slow pace. Mr. Trump’s tweet signals the idea that he may accelerate that modernization to a pace that will maintain our technological advantages. He knows that we haven’t conducted an underground nuclear test since 1992 and that our nuclear weapons are presumed reliable on the basis of computer modeling which may be inaccurate.

Keep in mind that Mr. Trump’s least favorite fighter plane, the overpriced and underperforming F-35, was produced on the basis of computer models predicting performance. When flight testing began, the computer models of the F-35’s flight performance were often proven wrong. He also knows how computer modeling used to “prove” global warming is, to be kind, rigged to come up with the desired result.

In September, Mr. Trump promised to pursue “state of the art” missile defense. That is, historically, the purely defensive weapon that Russia fears most. There’s every reason to believe he will continue to fund and build land-based and sea-based systems, each of which steadily increases our advantage over that of Russia and other nations.

The combination of nuclear force modernization and increased missile defense with increased oil and gas production from American domestic sources should appeal to Mr. Trump. Senate Democrats will try to block his every move, but he should, and likely will, prevail.

Is Mr. Trump crazy? Einstein’s definition of insanity was to do the same thing repeatedly and expect different results. America has tried, time and again, to use only diplomacy to achieve our national security goals and failed dramatically. As a New Yorker, Mr. Trump understands that the world is a neighborhood in which you can get far with a kind word, but much farther with a kind word and a gun.

To MSNBC, The New York Times and the rest of his enemies in the press, accelerating nuclear modernization, missile defense and domestic oil and gas production prove that Mr. Trump is nuts. Yes, he may prove to be crazy. In just the same way Ronald Reagan was.

Jed Babbin served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration. He is a senior fellow of the London Center for Policy Research and the author of five books including “In the Words of Our Enemies.”

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