John Bolton wants US to ‘change regime’ in Russia

A coup in Moscow is the only way for Washington to achieve its goals in Europe, the former national security adviser says

Former US National Security adviser John Bolton. ©  JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

Former White House national security adviser John Bolton insisted on Wednesday that only “regime change” in Moscow can achieve long-term US objectives in Europe. He proposed funding Russian “dissidents” who could team up with mid-level officers to overthrow President Vladimir Putin in a coup.

“There is no long-term prospect for peace and security in Europe without regime change in Russia,” Bolton argued in an article titled “Putin Must Go,” which was published by the online journal 1945.

Change “must involve far more than simply replacing Putin,” according to Bolton. “The whole regime must go.”

Bolton actually opened the article by quoting President Joe Biden, who said in March, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” Biden’s aides had scrambled to walk that back, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken arguing that “we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia – or anywhere else, for that matter.”

The very next day, however, Biden insisted he wasn’t backpedaling, and that his remarks were not “articulating a policy change” but “expressing moral outrage… and I make no apologies for it.”

While serving as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Bolton championed regime-change policies for Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran – and derailed Trump’s diplomacy with North Korea, after which he was dismissed in September 2019. Yet the official US position on Havana, Caracas, and Tehran has not changed since Biden took office.

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 Regime change has been the US goal in Russia for years

The Kremlin reacted to Biden’s remarks by calling him a “victim of many delusions.” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the question of who should be in power in Russia is not up to any US citizen, but for Russians to decide.

“Carefully assisting Russian dissidents to pursue regime change might just be the answer,” Bolton argued, in a twist to Peskov’s logic. “The key is for Russians themselves to exacerbate divisions among those with real authority, the siloviki… Once regime coherence and solidarity shatter, change is possible.”

Bolton claimed that “Russians are already discussing it, quietly, for obvious reasons” and brushed off concerns that Russia is a nuclear power, saying “that is no more an argument against seeking regime change than against assisting Ukrainian self-defense.” 

He also accused Moscow of subverting the US government “for many decades” and blowing up its own Nord Stream pipeline.

“Washington’s obvious strategic objective is having Russia aligned with the West, a fit candidate for NATO, as we hoped after the Soviet Union’s breakup,” Bolton argued. The US goal “of a peaceful and secure Europe… remains central to our national interests. This is no time to be shy,” he concluded.

An outspoken neoconservative who believes in American unilateralism, Bolton held government positions under Republican presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. The Biden administration claims that Iran plotted to have him assassinated.

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