Human Rights Foundation Chairman and Wall Street Journal contributor Garry Kasparov was interviewed by WSJ Editorial Board member Mary Kissel on whether or not the Russian strongman Vladimir Putin will grab more territory.
A very salient point Kasparov makes is the following (starting at around 2 min 23 sec):
Let us not forget that Ukraine has been guaranteed, in 1994, the protection of its territorial integrity by the United States. Ukraine gave up nukes! Very few people remember it was the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world. [Not honouring the gurantee] is very bad, not only for the United States – Bill Clinton's signature was there. Ukraine gave up twelve hundred nuclear warheads, more than England, France and China combined, in exchange for guarantees from America and Great Britain. This will have implications way beyond Ukraine's borders, because it destroys the credibility of the White House, it destroys the credibility of the free world, and it sends a message, let's say to Iran, that you need nukes to protect your borders. Same can apply to Japan, South Korea, countries that are facing a rising threat from China. It will be a totally different world unless we follow the promises written on paper and signed by the leaders of the free world.
Just around midnight on Friday Boris Nemtsov, the Russian opposition leader and former First Deputy Prime Minister, now turned Vladimir Putin critic and one of the loudest voices condemning Russia’s sharp turn toward confrontation with the West, was gunned down as he walked across a central Moscow bridge, less than 100 yards from the walls of the Kremlin and within sight of Red Square. His death came just hours after appealing for a Moscow march against the war in Ukraine. On February 10, while speaking to Russia's Sobesednik news website, Nemtsov said: "I'm afraid Putin will kill me." The Russian President has condemned the murder, the Kremlin says. Nemtsov was 55.
The Washington Post writes: "Nemtsov was a political star in the early post-Soviet days, when most Russians still dreamed of democracy — a young, energetic and smart politician who charmed voters and won high approval ratings as a regional governor and then as Russia’s deputy prime minister. For a time, he was seen as a likely heir to Yeltsin, who served from 1991 to 1999 as the first president of the Russian Federation."
Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion and Russian pro-democracy activist, wrote this in response to Nemtsov’s death: “He always believed Russia could change from the inside and without violence; after 2012 I disagreed with this. When we argued, Boris would tell me I was too hasty, and that in Russia you had to live a long time to see change. Now he'll never see it. Rest In Peace.”
Garry Kasparov on chess, communism,
and Russia's "one-man dictatorship" – March 2015
Reason is an American libertarian magazine published by the Reason Foundation. The magazine has a circulation of around 50,000 and was named one of the 50 best magazines in 2003 and 2004 by the Chicago Tribune. As the monthly print magazine of "free minds and free markets" it covers politics, culture, and ideas with a mix of news, analysis, commentary, and reviews.
Reason TV is a website affiliated with the magazine that produces short-form documentaries and video editorials. The video interview with Garry Kasparov was produced by Reason.tv last December, and a full transcript published in the March issue of Reason.
Reason’s Nick Gillespie interviewed Kasparov in New York in November at a dinner co-hosted by the Atlas Network, a nonprofit that promotes free-market think tanks in the developing world. Camera by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein. Edited by Joshua Swain. About 30 minutes.
The 9th of November is auspicious: on November 9th 1985 Kasparov won the 24th game of his second match against Anatoly Karpov, making him the youngest ever World Champion. On November 9 1989, after several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto the wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. Kasparov: "I celebrated this date four years before the collapse of Berlin Wall." Here some excerpts from the interview:
I was relatively privileged [while growing up in the Soviet system] because of my chess. Of course I hadn't experienced the horrors of Stalin’s time, but it was still a country that was not free. Thanks to my ability to play chess and the fact that I was a chess prodigy, I could travel abroad. So my first trip to France was when I was 13. And it was a very shocking experience. I don't think that in my extended family, cousins and friends, there was a single person that had visited a capitalist country. So at age 13, I carried a sacred knowledge of how people lived on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
I don't think that you can divide people genetically by saying these nations are not ready to embrace democracy. I hear this argument about Russia or China. You have two Koreas. If you look at the north, you can come up with the conclusion that Koreans are born to be slaves and they live in gulags. Unless you are aware that there is a South Korea, one of the most flourishing economies in Asia. And again it’s a democracy and market economy. And in China, you have China on the one side but you have Taiwan. It's a rocky island with the same people. And I'm not even mentioning two Germanys. I think people have the same aspirations. They want to be successful. They want their kids to have good education. They want to spend some money to have a vacation in a decent place. The moment they are given this opportunity, I don't think you can force them back to the Communist stable. If in August 1991 anyone had said "in nine years, a KGB lieutenant would be the President of Russia," people would have laughed. It was really impossible to believe that after all these changes, we could go back.
If a dictator goes away, it doesn't happen through a normal election process. That's why you can expect turmoil, most likely an uprising in Moscow. It won’t end with a very peaceful resolution, because political opposition has been destroyed. Putin is a paranoid, aging dictator who believes he is Russia, the same way Hitler believed he was Germany. Russia today is not like the old Soviet Union or modern China. It is not an ideological dictatorship with a politburo central committee of the Communist Party. It's one man dictatorship. It means that this man, if he believes he is the country, he can do whatever he wants.
Putin's only rationale is to present himself as a big hero, "Vladimir the Great, the man who is restoring the Russian empire". The main audience for him is inside the country. The propaganda – and I can hear it by just listening to Russian television, or reading the press – is Orwell, it's "War is peace, slavery is freedom". Twenty-four/seven, it's anti-American. And they keep talking about horrible things, including even using nuclear weapons. Putin believes that Russia was in it's rights to challenge the Ukrainian borders, and others as well. Now the question is whether he could attack Estonia and Latvia, which are members of NATO. My answer is: he might do that, because he doesn't have to start a whole invasion. He could provoke violence in the Russian enclaves, and then you would see some volunteers crossing the border. At the end of the day it is not about invading Latvia or Estonia, it's all about undermining NATO. It is all about undermining western institutions, and NATO, and demonstrating that the United States is a paper tiger, is an empty shell.
The foundation for the Internet was created, designed, and eventually developed by the scientist from DARPA – Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency in 1962, and 1963. In 1969 the first signal came, via ARPANET, from UCLA to Stanford. So what you are talking about today, www, the world-wide-web, is commercial application of technology that has been developed 20 years before. [Today] America had no more rockets, no means to send it's astronauts into space. They have to use Russian ones, which were also built in the 60s and 70s. So I think it constitutes a disaster, a scientific disaster, because space projects are important, not just for the sake of landing on the Moon or on Mars, but because of the side effects. We have GPS, we have the Internet, and many other things that have been developed alongside the space project. For instance, the expedition to Mars, which has probably a 50-50 chance of safely returning the crew, will force us to do more work on diet, and on medicine. It is very important that we have these projects to energise society, and also not to eliminate risk. We teach kids from school that if you fail, you are a failure. No no, I believe that failure is a logical move on the way to success.
The Free World needs challenges. We have to recognize that the real innovation is not the IPhone 6, it's Apollo 6. There is a fundamental difference. And it seems to me that we have multinational corporations that are now sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars of cash, without investing them in new ideas. I understand that paying shareholders in important, but creating new value is probably more important.