The biggest challenges the US will face in 2022 will not be Covid-19 or inflation, but Russia and Iran. The way the Biden administration deals with these two hostile, despotic governments can determine how safe our country will be for years.
Moscow and Tehran are testing the government’s foreign policy, which was principled rather than muscular in the first year. The humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan has unsettled allies around the world and made enemies, including Russia and Iran, opportunistic.
Russia has gathered its troops on the Ukrainian border to invade and subdue its people. Iran has further increased its uranium enrichment and is nearing nuclear weapon building. It has upgraded its long-range ballistic missile capacity to target its enemies in the Arab world and Israel, as well as American military personnel and bases in the region. The governments of Vladimir Putin and Ali Khamenei have intensified the repression of their citizens, violating the values ââthat are at the core of American foreign policy.
This month the US will meet with Russia and Iran in Geneva and Vienna respectively for crucial talks on these direct challenges. The US embassies – during these discussions and through their actions or failures – will have enormous consequences for the security, prosperity and freedom of America, Europe and the Middle East.
Russia and Iran have made outrageous demands. Russia insists that Ukraine will never be admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and that NATO never station troops or equipment in a former Soviet bloc country, although some are now NATO members.
Iran has called for all economic sanctions to be lifted, whether for its nuclear treason, human rights violations or support for terrorist groups, even though Tehran has done nothing to justify such surrender.
Messrs Putin and Khamenei are head of two hollow economies. You have overseen the demotion of two nations with proud histories and rich cultures. They act like tyrants because, like most tyrants, they are insecure and both have reasons to be. The US and its allies must bring these realistic views of Russia and Iran into the negotiations so that we do not allow ourselves to be intimidated into dangerous compromises just to reach an agreement.
How should the US approach these discussions? First, by understanding that Russia and Iran need an agreement with us more than they do with them. We should participate with absolute confidence.
Second, they shouldn’t make any demands on us. We should make demands on them because they are the culprits and our economy and military are much stronger than theirs.
We should start by demanding that Russia withdraw its troops from the Ukrainian border and that Iran stop its nuclear development program and allow international inspections. If not, there will be no easing of economic sanctions, which are tightened and widened as President Biden threatened last week.
Third, we must prove to Russia and Iran that we mean what we say by providing Ukraine and our Middle Eastern allies with defensive and offensive weapons to protect and defend themselves.
Fourth, we must make it clear to the Russians and Iranians that if either one of them makes the egregious mistake of being more aggressive against the US, Ukraine, and we will react and use military means to assist our friends, including the Secret Service and the Air Force, we will Arabs or Israel go ahead energy.
Such strong, clear actions by principled US diplomatic and military leadership can prevent generational defeats in Europe and the Middle East and restore America’s international credibility and trustworthiness. This in turn would increase internal security and prosperity, as well as that of our allies around the world.
A great Roman general said a long time ago, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” This is wise advice well worth following with Russia and Iran in 2022.
Mr. Lieberman was the Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate in 2000 and United States Senator from Connecticut from 1989 to 2013. He is chairman of United Against Nuclear Iran and No Labels.
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