Could US sanctions lead to regime change in Moscow?

Larry Lindsey
Conservative Opinion

Larry Lindsey

President & CEO, The Lindsey Group
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When President Biden went off script and said Vladimir Putin could no longer remain in power, he was only saying the quiet part out loud. Yes, White House staff was caught off guard and had to go into damage control following the president’s ad-libbed remarks, but don’t kid yourself. He was only stating publicly what has almost certainly been discussed privately since the war in Ukraine began.

Our objective in this war is regime change in Moscow. The president already has called, excuse me, Putin, a war criminal. Well, what exactly does that mean? Is there a negotiated settlement? Is the US willing to leave a war criminal in power? No, of course not. 

It has been our policy to …have a regime change. Now, the reason it was pulled back was that it will make a settlement, if one is to happen, much more difficult. Why after all would Putin negotiate the end to a war if he knows he’s going to be arrested and tried as a war criminal. It just doesn’t make sense. 

And that’s why the staff president’s staff was so eager to walk back his comment.

It’s not an accident that since the Warsaw speech, Biden has only turned up the heat with his public comments about Putin and the Russian military’s actions in Urkaine. He called Putin’s invasion “a genocide” recently and followed up with more comments reiterating that stance. U.S. officials also said they’ve confirmed Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine, and the president has called for a war crimes trial.

What we are quite certain of is that the sanctions we’ve enacted to cripple Russia economically are in place for the long haul. If a regime change does occur in Russia–say, the chance that people there finally reach a breaking point with Putin’s rule–those sanctions which have significantly impacted Russia’s economy could be a key reason. Of course, even if Putin is removed from power, whoever steps in to fill the power void should expect the sanctions to remain in place for quite some time.

The president kind of stepped in it, or so his staff thought. when he said that Vladimir Putin had to go, could not remain in power. Well, the staff walked it back. They had an implausible explanation for what the president meant. I don’t think anyone really believed them. And they even got the president to say, that’s not what I said. 

Well, whatever, perhaps he shouldn’t have said it, but let’s face it. Our objective in this war is regime change in Moscow. The president already has called, excuse me, Putin, a war criminal. Well, what exactly does that mean? Is there a negotiated settlement? Is the US willing to leave a war criminal in power? No, of course not. 

It has been our policy to …have a regime change. Now, the reason it was pulled back was that it will make a settlement, if one is to happen, much more difficult. Why after all would Putin negotiate the end to a war if he knows he’s going to be arrested and tried as a war criminal. It just doesn’t make sense. 

And that’s why the staff president’s staff was so eager to walk back his comment. They didn’t want to slow down any possible progress in the talks. Now, what has US policy been? Well, first of all, the US talked up how powerful its sanctions were gonna be. It tried to reassure Ukraine that Russia would never invade because the sanctions would be so powerful. And although it was perfectly within his rights in terms of domestic politics in Ukraine, President Zelenskyy was poking the bear next door in a lot of his rhetoric. Well, that was part of the confidence building. He might not have done that had he not been. Then the day of the invasion, the president says, no one ever thought that the sanctions were going to stop anything from happening. That’s a direct quote. Well, if that’s true, why were they talking about how tough the sanctions were? There wasn’t really a reason to reassure Ukraine the way we did, if we didn’t think they were gonna work. Then after the war began, we sent Ukraine just enough weapons to carry on a battle, kill Russian soldiers, but not enough to win.

 

And the result has been 10 million refugees who have had their homes destroyed in the process and thousands who have died on both sides of the battle. It would be as if we were perfectly willing to let Ukrainians fight and die to promote our objective, which was to remove Putin from power. 

Now that sounds harsh. I don’t mean it to sound harsh. It is what has often been called “real politic.” It is the way business is done among nations. And it does definitely make sense to get Putin out of power. It’s perfectly reasonable to try him as a war criminal, which he is, but we should be honest with ourselves that that’s really our objective here. Um, in the end, we are causing Ukrainians to lose people. In fact, the Ukrainian deputy, uh, prime minister said, what, are they going to protect Poland by piling up a bunch of Ukrainian bodies at the border?

 

Yes, it is cynical. Unfortunately it is also how things happen now. What should we be doing going forward? Our sanctions are gonna remain in power almost no matter what happens. If there’s a negotiated settlement, we go back to the problem with, what we do with Putin. There could be regime change in Moscow, brought about by the Russians. FSB walks in and puts a bullet in his head. I mean, no, one’s gonna cry, but nor are we gonna reward those people who stage the coup by suddenly withdrawing sanctions to help them. They still have a war going on in Ukraine. So that’s not going to end the sanctions or they can slug it out, which it looks like is what’s going to happen, which is also going to keep sanctions in place. 

So it looks like our course forward is well said. No matter what happens, our sanctions are gonna remain in place no matter what happens. There’s probably gonna be continued bloodshed and hopefully at the end of this, we will have regime change in the Kremlin. 

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