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How a Sluggish Economy Hurts U.S. Foreign Policy

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In a major address at West Point this week, President Obama once again sought to articulate a foreign policy that places greater emphasis on diplomacy, economic leverage and recourse to international law.

Facing crises, "U.S. military action cannot be the only or even primary component of our leadership," Obama said.

That assumes the U.S. has a strong economy that can deliver opportunities to nations that cooperate and withhold benefits from those that don't.

Too often, however, the Democratic or Republican president has sacrificed U.S. economic interests in international trade and investment deals that have neither adequately supported U.S. businesses and workers nor effectively supported U.S. foreign policy objectives.

For example, the U.S. and its allies in the European Union opened their markets and access to technology to China in 2001 and Russia in 2012 by approving entry of those two countries into the World Trade Organization. The deals were part of broader strategies to integrate former cold war adversaries in a system of global commerce and shared prosperity that has made war unthinkable among former foes in Europe, Japan and the South Pacific. Sadly, some of the actors did not get the script.

China is using money it earns trading with the west to rapidly modernize its navy and bully Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and others in Asia to cede sovereignty over disputed territory in the East and South China Seas.

Russia has taken the dividends from selling natural gas, nonferrous metals and machinery to Europe to modernize its army, steal Crimea from the Ukraine and bully other former Soviet states to think twice about closer ties with the EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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