Former Pentagon official: "Many more body bags" needed to achieve regime change in Russia
While Evelyn Farkas agitates for U.S. weapons shipments that she says will ensure a Ukrainian victory, she admits that Russian defeat is not "on the precipice."
By Dan Cohen
During an appearance at a January 11 Council on Foreign Relations event called ‘What to Worry About in 2023’, Executive Director of the McCain Institute Evelyn Farkas was asked by Fox News Chief National Security correspondent Jennifer Griffin which countries might be overthrown in 2023.
GRIFFIN: Hmm. Evelyn, are you seeing any places that you think regimes are faltering? We have a lot of authoritarian leaders out there, if you look from—you’re looking at a regime in Iran that is looking a little unstable, Putin. Are you seeing any signs of cracks in terms of stability there? Could that be a surprise—you know, a 2023 surprise, North Korea? Any places that you’re looking at in terms of a potential regime change that could destabilize a region or the world?
FARKAS: Well, obviously a good one would be Russia, but I don’t think they’re on the precipice there. I think things have to get worse economically and there have to be many more body bags and, frankly, military losses before there’s a change in the government in Moscow.
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Farkas is a former high-ranking Pentagon official, having overseen the Russia-Ukraine portfolio from 2012 to 2015.
Like many of Washington’s most fervent anti-Russia hawks, her outlook is informed by old world Hungarian nationalism imbued by her parents, who left Hungary after the Soviet Union thwarted the 1956 counter-revolution.
Beginning her career at the CFR, she rose through the ranks of the NGO/military industrial-complex. She was a professor at Marine Corps University, Staff Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was in Bosnia as a Human Rights Officer for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, led the post-9/11 Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, was a senior NATO advisor, and a Special Advisor to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
In 2012 , Farkas was appointed by President Obama as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia. Under her guidance, the U.S. sent hundreds of military trainers and $244 million in military aid as the Ukrainian coup regime launched its brutal war on the people of Donbas and integrated neo-Nazi militias like the Azov Battalion. She played key roles in Montenegro’s accession to NATO and expanded ties with Georgia.
She resigned in 2015 as part of a neoconservative exodus in protest of Obama’s refusal to send lethal weapons to Ukraine and directly intervene in Syria following a chemical weapons attack staged by the opposition.
Since leaving the Defense Department in 2015, she has rotated through Washington, DC think tanks like the Atlantic Council and German Marshall Fund, was a National Security Analyst for NBC/MSNBC, and has written numerous op-eds in legacy media outlets.
Farkas was an advisor to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 failed presidential run, and Wikileaks’ publication of the Podesta emails show she offered to be a campaign surrogate.
Had Clinton won, Farkas likely would have been Pentagon under secretary for policy. Instead, she became one of the first figures to promote the Trump-Russia hoax and call for Trump to be investigated, speculating that Trump was involved in “hanky-panky that opens the president up to blackmail,” never mentioning her ties to the Clinton campaign. She later admitted under oath that she had no evidence of any collusion.
While Farkas has enjoyed incredible power through appointed positions, her single attempt at winning an election failed miserably. In 2021, she ran for congress in her home district in Westchester, New York, but came in third in the Democratic party primary, despite receiving endorsements from prominent figures, including John Kerry.
In April 2022, she was named executive director of the McCain Institute.
Even before Russia’s “special military operation” began, Farkas sought to escalate tensions. On January 11, 2022, she wrote that “U.S. leaders should be marshaling an international coalition of the willing, readying military forces to deter Putin and, if necessary, prepare for war.” She warned that western refusal to confront Russia would not only “spell the beginning of the end of the international order” but, with no sense of irony, would lead to “unbridled military and economic competition, and ultimately, world war.”
In the same article, she pushed for escalation over Georgia.
“We must not only condemn Russia’s illegal occupations of Ukraine and Georgia, but we must demand a withdrawal from both countries by a certain date and organize coalition forces willing to take action to enforce it,” she wrote.
On February 21, 2022, as Russian troops amassed along its border with Ukraine and carried out joint military exercises with Belarus, she called for "large scale military deployments to NATO frontline countries to contain this war” and a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine, speculating that Russia would attempt to invade “one or more” NATO countries – a claim that has not come to fruition, even as Ukraine’s Defense Minister admits his country is fighting on behalf of NATO.
While Farkas has, on one hand, portrayed Putin as an aggressor who must be confronted, she has simultaneously dismissed his warnings that Russia will use nuclear weapons as a defensive measure.
These contradictory statements are frequent.
In the same thread, she wrote that that the U.S. must make Putin “cornered” because “he could drag is into war.”
In her January, 2022 Defense News op-ed, she wrote that
“The horrible possibility exists that Americans, with our European allies, must use our military to roll back Russians—even at risk of direct combat. But if we don’t now, Putin will force us to fight another day,
Though Farkas told the CFR that Russia was “not on the precipice” of regime change, she writes the opposite in editorials, and argues that further weapons shipments will give Ukraine what it needs to win the war.
“Russia is set to lose this war. But a Ukrainian victory is not assured unless the United States and its allies swiftly provide Ukraine the sophisticated military equipment it needs to push the Russian military completely out of the country… It should include fighter aircraft — MIGs from neighboring states like Poland and older surplus F-16s — and longer-range sophisticated air defense systems like Patriot batteries or the Iron Dome from Israel to eliminate the incoming artillery killing Ukrainian noncombatants. The United States and NATO allies should also provide the modern M1 Abrams or German Leopard tanks so Ukraine can take advantage of its momentum on the ground. Finally, the United States should also provide more surface-to-sea missiles to allow Ukraine to take out more Russian ships and free Ukrainian ports.”
Former Pentagon undersecretary for policy Michele Flournoy wrote in 2016 that Ukraine would never be able to defeat Russia.
Despite her repeated contradictions, one thing is clear: Farkas is hellbent on achieving regime change in Russia, no matter the cost – human or monetary – or how long it takes. The fact that her statement was made at the CFR, Washington’s most prestigious and mainstream foreign policy think tank, indicates her Strangelovian ideology is shared by much of the establishment.