Speed Reads

getting bolder

Are dictators 'testing' Biden?

Are dictators like Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko "testing" President Biden? The Washington Post's Brian Klass thinks so, arguing that they had a "free pass" while former President Donald Trump was in the White House and now want to see how serious his successor is about standing up to them.

Just this past week, Belarusian Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya received political asylum in Poland after state authorities tried to force her to leave Tokyo because she criticized her coaches. Tsimanouskaya feared returning to Belarus, where she thought she might face prison time. Then, on Tuesday, Belarusian anti-government activist Vitaly Shishov was found dead in a park in Ukraine. The case hasn't been solved yet, but there are suspicions that he was killed by agents of the Lukashenko regime. The fact that the incidents took place (allegedly in the latter case) beyond Belarus' borders show that Minsk is growing increasingly emboldened and Lukashenko isn't too worried about the international response.

But Klass believes Biden needs to change his Belarusian counterpart's perception and go beyond "run-of-the-mill" sanctions. A "more robust response," in Klass' opinion, would include: sanctioning "the all-important petrochemical industries in Belarus," cracking down on "tax havens that allow Belarusians to launder crooked cash," developing "an international pro-democracy fund to suppor the Belarusian opposition more directly," offering aslyum to Belarusian dissidents, and potentially "using some limited cyber operations against Belarusian regime targets as warning shots."

Of course, Lukashenko isn't the only authoritarian figure out there, and Klass wants Biden to send a signal to all of them in a "major speech" in which he would make clear that deterring dictators was at the heart of his foreign policy agenda, which Klass writes could become known as "the Biden Doctrine." Read Klass' full column at The Washington Post.