Ex-CIA professor speaks on U.S., China and Russia


Leif Rosenberger, a visiting professor at Webster who is a former adviser to the U.S. military and the CIA, spoke at an event where he discussed relations between the U.S., China and Russia.

Leif Rosenberger, visiting professor at Webster University, gave his insights on the power relations between China, Russia and the U.S. to Webster students on Sept. 15.

Rosenberger, a professor of international security at the University of Pittsburgh, is a former adviser to the U.S. military, the Department of State and the CIA. He is also the author of numerous books including “Economic Statecraft and US Foreign Policy: Reducing the Demand for Violence.”

The university noted in its announcement of the event that Rosenberger served under both Republican and Democratic institutions.

The event was open to the public and Webster students at Browning Hall. Following a brief introduction by Webster professor Kelly-Kate Pease, President of Webster University Julian Schuster introduced Rosenberger and stressed making events such as this a recurring theme.

“We have this wonderful opportunity to have somebody with a profound experience and knowledge about the international affairs and the place of the United States in what we would call the ‘strategic game of power in international relations,’” Schuster said.

Rosenberger gave a 30-minute lecture on the topic. He began by referencing a question from a book by former Defense Secretary Bob Gates: “Why are there so many failures in U.S. foreign policy?”

Bob Gates argued that the U.S. and its allies do not know how to use non-military power, such as economic power.

Rosenberger, in agreement, referenced his economic expertise and experience, including working as the chief economist for U.S. Central Command. The desire to see “economic power” used in place of military power was a central theme to Rosenberger’s lecture, titled “Who is winning the economic competition between Russia, China, and the U.S.”

“You can defeat an enemy without firing a shot,” Rosenberger said, referencing ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu.

Following this quote, Rosenberger said that China is “decisively winning” this power struggle and said the U.S. government persistently minimizes economic indicators for potential security conflicts.

To make his case for this thesis, Rosenberger referenced China’s Belt and Road initiative, which will be worth upwards of $8 trillion.

He also pointed out China’s investments in infrastructure and human capital development as a reason for not only the People’s Republic of China’s rise but also why they are winning this power struggle. Rosenberger cited China’s massive public investments.

“For every dollar invested in infrastructure, you get almost three in return,” Rosenberger said.

Rosenberger said the U.S. has cash cows like Silicon Valley and investment banks on Wall Street, which are private sector.

“Frankly, the U.S. government has failed to mobilize the private sector to compete against China,” Rosenberger said.

Rosenberger asked the audience if they believed the private sector could be mobilized as such. Rosenberger referenced his own experience working on a U.S. version of a Belt and Road initiative during his time at Central Command.

Rosenberger called this a “missed opportunity,” seeing the similar initiative as a way to spread U.S. influence.

Rosenberger then turned to Russia. He referenced the U.S.’s history of using economic coercion to achieve its goals, noting the U.S. economic coercion of Russia to achieve successions from Vladimir Putin. Rosenberger said this was a failure, making Russia more agriculturally effective and self-sustaining.

Rosenberger went over economic indicators for the U.S., China and Russia, pointing out another loss here by the U.S. He specifically noted how high the debt-to-GDP ratio of the U.S. was in comparison to Russia and China.

In closing, Rosenberger offered a somber viewpoint on potential military conflicts. He said due to the U.S. attacks on both Russia and China, they forced the two countries into a strategic alliance which poses a great military threat in the event of “World War III.”

After the lecture, Rosenberger offered his opinion on why he believed the war in Afghanistan was a disaster before a Q&A segment was opened to attendees. During the Q&A, Rosenberger stated he believed that improving relations, rather than bashing countries such as China was the best path forward.

If you would like to view the lecture by Rosenberger and Q&A, visit this link.

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Caleb Sprous
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