Garry KASPAROV. We Need Regime Change in Iran and Russia

The free world’s strategy should be to isolate both countries politically and economically.

The $95 billion aid bill for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan finally passed after months of obstruction by the MAGA coalition in the House and a destructive blame game played by the White House. Amid the bill’s essential weapons and money for Ukraine, a critical detail shouldn’t be overlooked.

On page 32, a provision requires the Biden administration to present “a strategy regarding United States support for Ukraine against aggression by the Russian Federation” within 45 days of its enactment on April 24.

In supporting Ukraine, the U.S. and Europe have failed to establish the most basic element of strategic planning—a clearly defined goal.

Abraham Lincoln, a true strategist, began his 1858 “House Divided” speech: “If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.” Where are we today? We are at war, but one side doesn’t want to admit it. Whither are we tending? In an impossible two directions at once, yearning for a return to the status quo ante of profitable and corrupt dealings with Russia while giving Ukraine just enough support to prevent a Russian victory that would spark a crisis in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

European leaders like Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz act as if they are eager to get back to business as usual with Vladimir Putin’s mafia state. They provide defensive weapons to Ukraine but waver when it comes to arms that would help Ukraine strike back, creating a perpetual cycle of civilian deaths.

The Biden administration is still guided by Obama-era aides and failed Obama-era concepts of constraining American power and allies while indulging American enemies. Supporting Ukraine “for as long as it takes” isn’t a goal. Supporting Israel while telling it not to root out Hamas terrorists isn’t a goal. Supporting Ukraine until it is whole and free is a goal. Promoting long-term peace in Europe and the Middle East by doing everything possible to accelerate the downfall of hostile regimes in Russia and Iran is a goal.

The aid bill also mentions seizing the hundreds of billions in Russian assets held abroad and using the money to defend and rebuild Ukraine. It’s a natural course of action, and the Renew Democracy Initiative, which confronts dictatorships and promotes liberty worldwide, has led the way in proving its validity and legality.

Russia’s response to this threat is instructive. Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that if the assets were seized, Russia would retaliate in court. Yes, a threat of litigation from an illegitimate dictatorship that is invading neighbors in Europe, forming partnerships with terrorists from Syria and Iran to Afghanistan, and carrying out election interference across the free world.

That this bluster is taken seriously proves that we in the West still don’t believe we are in a war. This delusion also prohibits the European Union and NATO from imposing sanctions on or expelling Mr. Putin’s partners in Hungary and Slovakia and from pursuing Western companies that still do business with Russia. Europe and NATO haven’t acted to halt the booming business of being a middleman in Russia’s trade, especially in China and Central Asia.

For years, the U.S. has pointed to the size and strength of its military, how easily and decisively it could respond to any threat. But deterrence works only when military might is matched by reputation. If your enemies believe you will use overwhelming force, it forestalls the need to use that force. When a red line is crossed, there is no choice but to respond. Otherwise, credibility disintegrates and violence becomes more likely.

In 2012 President Obama told Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad that using chemical weapons in Syria would be a “red line.” Mr. Assad did, and he is still there, slaughtering people with impunity. Mr. Biden told Iran it couldn’t strike Israel from its own territory. It did.

Likewise, the international institutions the U.S. has long championed have lost credibility. NATO is only a piece of paper unless its leaders have the will to act. The bad guys know that, so they will keep escalating until, inevitably, they overstep. We risk a global catastrophe the likes of which we have never seen, given new technologies in today’s interconnected world.

Are you better off than you were four years ago? For Mr. Putin, Xi Jinping, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Nicolás Maduro, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Viktor Orbán—nearly every dictator and strongman—the answer is yes. There is still time for the Biden White House to correct course now that the aid bill has passed and the weapons are flowing, but the clock is ticking.

A war can’t be won by following the rules set in peacetime. The only way to win this long war is through regime change in Moscow and Tehran. Such change will be brought closer by isolating Russia and Iran politically and economically and by halting their foreign aggression.
The aid bill must be a new beginning, not the end. On a recent trip to Washington, I heard from former top-level defense officials about a growing recognition of what is at stake and a willingness to fight for it. Russia has shifted to a permanent war footing, and China is supporting Mr. Putin’s efforts to destabilize the Western world order. The U.S. and Europe must rise to the challenge.

I believe in America and I believe the free world will prevail. Its economic, technological, cultural and military advantages are so great that only self-destructive politics can prevent success. They have already delayed it.

We need goals, a strategy for victory, and bold leadership, starting with the recognition that we are at war and the courage to take political risks to change its course. The future of American democracy—and of the entire free world—depends on it.


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