Roger W. Robinson, Jr.
Chairman, Prague Security Studies Institute
Roger W. Robinson, Jr. is president and CEO of RWR Advisory Group and co-founder and chairman of the Prague Security Studies Institute. He earned a B.A. from Duke University and an M.A. from George Washington University. He served as senior director of international economic affairs on President Reagan’s National Security Council, where he was the principal architect of the secret economic and financial strategy that proved decisive to the defeat of the Soviet Union. He later served as chairman of the Congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Prior to his government service, he was a vice president in the international department of the Chase Manhattan Bank.
The following is adapted from a speech delivered at Hillsdale College on September 9, 2019, during a conference on the topic, “Understanding China.”
In the early 1980s, I served on President Reagan’s National Security Council. Prior to my time at the White House, I was a vice president at Chase Manhattan Bank, in charge of its USSR and Eastern Europe division. It was my job to assess the creditworthiness of the countries in that part of the world, and I had come to realize that the Soviet Union had relatively modest hard currency income—and that what little it had came largely from the West.
In 1982, the Soviets had an empire stretching from Havana to Hanoi, but their hard currency revenue totaled only about $32 billion a year—roughly one-third the annual revenue of General Motors at the time. They were spending about $16 billion more annually than they were making, with the funding gap—the USSR’s life support—being financed by Western governments and banks.