Russian chess legend says war in Ukraine is a ‘battle between freedom and tyranny’

NEW YORK – Chess is a cerebral game, but the legendary Soviet Grand Master Garry Kasparov Contact can feel like a game. When he was at the height of his powers in the mid-1980s, he took to the chessboard with the physical intensity of a wrestler sent to the wrong tournament.

Today, his relentless energy is squarely directed against Russian President Vladimir Putin, to whom Kasparov directs the same single-minded attention he once reserved for his Soviet nemesis, Anatoly Karpov—who, as it happens, Putin supporters now serve as members of parliament. But if the Kremlin dictator hates him, nothing infuriates Kasparov like a Western handshake over how much and for how long to help Ukraine.

“Putin is not only attacking Ukraine. He is attacking the entire system of international cooperation,” Kasparov told Yahoo News in a recent interview. “Ukraine is at the forefront of this battle between freedom and tyranny.”

Garry Kasparov at the Congress of Free Russia on September 1 in Vilnius, Lithuania. (Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)

last week Congress Elections Ukrainian aid to the US could be complicated, especially if Republican skepticism hardens into outright resistance. Speaking at a press conference last week, President Biden expressed hope that aid to Ukraine would continue — but also criticized accusations that he had given too much to Ukraine.

“We have not given Ukraine a blank check,” the president told reporters, hinting at complaints about Ukraine-focused spending limits. Rep. By Kevin McCarthy, who will assume the role of Speaker of the House in January. “There are a lot of things that Ukraine needs that we haven’t done.”

It is this talk that frustrates Kasparov. He praised Biden’s support for the Ukrainian effort, which has been consistently complemented by European allies, but could not envision its scope diminishing. “It was far less than what Ukraine needed and wanted, but much more than Putin expected.”

The war in Ukraine is closer to poker than chess, a contest of stares and bluffs. On a chessboard, an opponent has nowhere to hide his pieces, but poker is by its very nature a game of imperfect information, trying to make guesses and then being forced to act on those guesses.

Is Putin holding a nuclear strike one of those cards? How long can energy-starved Europe last before it collapses? How long will American aid last?

Kasparov doesn’t ignore those very real considerations, but he also refuses to be paralyzed by the endless variety of geopolitical speculation. For him, war retains a neglected moral clarity. “I believe that Ukraine will win and win,” he says. “I think it’s inevitable. There is the issue of cost. And every day of delay, giving Ukraine what it needs to win, is increasing the cost.”

Vladimir Putin sits at a large desk with several phones and flat screens.

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a video conference at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on Monday. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool photo via AP)

The argument that Ukraine should sue for peace is completely unpalatable to Kasparov, not because the war is deteriorating for Kiev, but because it is costly for Washington, London and Berlin.

This was the widely understood subtext of the above letter 24 Oct House progressives called on Biden to “pursue every diplomatic avenue” — not wrongly — as the war “has been driving inflation and higher oil prices for the American people in recent months.” An uproar followed, and the letter was recalled a day later, but not without the Russians noticing the growing reluctance of the US to fund the Ukrainian resistance.

Kasparov finds such talk extremely dangerous. He thinks of the conflict in the Manichean world of chess, where there is only black and white, defeat or victory. Either the West defeated Putin or Putin defeated the West. “If we capitulate today in light of Putin’s nuclear blackmail, who’s to say that five years from now, six years from now he won’t use the same blackmail?” Kasparov marvels, his tone and expression suggesting that this is far from passive music.

“And who’s to say,” he continues, “that other dictators around the world aren’t going to look at this and say, ‘Oh, look at that. Is the West Ready to Surrender to Nuclear Blackmail? Why don’t we do the same?’ And for countries that don’t have nuclear weapons today? If nuclear weapons are effective and help them get what they want, why not have them?”

The missile rises through smoke and burns moments after takeoff near green buildings and towers while clearing trees against an overcast sky.

In this photo released on October 26, a Yars intercontinental ballistic missile is test-fired as part of Russia’s nuclear drills in Plesetsk, northwestern Russia. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

It’s a dark scenario Most likely to materialize in Taiwanwith An enthusiastic Xi ​​Jinping China is trying to gain full and final control of the island.

Kasparov was especially frustrated – and characteristically, irritated Elon Musk’s “Peace Plan” Which would effectively hand over a large part of Ukraine to Russia. Kremlin propagandists immediately seized on the idea and pointed to protests from the American political and media establishment as evidence that Musk (who did not respond to a Yahoo News request for comment sent on Twitter) had told some taboo, consensus-shattering truth.

“He’s buying Russian propaganda points,” Kasparov says of Musk. “It’s very, very harmful.”

Kasparov left Russia in 2013, fed up with the ever-increasing repression of the Putin regime. In 2015 he published “Winter is coming,” An urgent warning to Western policymakers about Putin, whom he called “the biggest and most dangerous threat facing the world today”.

Not particularly shy or cautious, Kasparov blamed President Barack Obama for trying to “reset” relations with Putin shortly after Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, the Kremlin’s first invasion of a sovereign nation since the fall of the Soviet Union. later, Obama warned If Russia crosses a “red line” in Syria and uses chemical weapons in support of Bashar Assad’s regime, “there will be far-reaching consequences.”

Moments before Putin and Obama shake hands in front of the Russian and American flags.

Putin and President Barack Obama in a bilateral meeting during the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico in 2012. (Carolyn Castor/AP)

Russia then used chemical weapons. “And Obama blinks,” laments Kasparov, accusing the president of “weakness.” It is not clear, however, what Obama – already managing two costly conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq – could have done to stop Putin, short of military intervention that might have been unpalatable to the American public. A representative for the former president did not respond to a request for comment.

Like the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, Kasparov argues that none of the developments encouraged Putin to invade Ukraine. “I wouldn’t call it a withdrawal. It was a stampede,” he told Yahoo News. “And it was a disaster. And undoubtedly, it boosted Putin’s confidence.”

Today, the 59-year-old New York resident – who has retired from professional chess but Still teaches classes at Masterclass — Runs the Renew Democracy Initiative, a non-profit organization that closely coordinates aid efforts with non-profit aid organizations working in Ukraine, with RDI Executive Director Uriel Epstein It ensures that supplies and funds get to the right place, to the right people, rather than going to waste, he says.

Epstein, the son of Soviet immigrants who settled in New Jersey, told Yahoo News, “It’s our responsibility to give them not just enough to survive, just enough to survive, but to actually win the war.” He also described efforts by the Kremlin to flood the so-called “information space” with its own propaganda.

A black-and-white image of Garry Kasparov in a dark turtleneck sweater poses with his left hand slightly raised.

Kasparov on Masterclass. (PR Newswire via AP)

RDI works with retired US General Ben Hodges to create short, polished videos that explain the state of war in a digestible way. It has solicited and published essays by dissidents from around the world in partnership with CNN, as part of the series. Voice of Freedom. Contributors include Egyptian-American dissident Mohammad Soltan and Iranian journalist Masih Alinjad, who was recently the target of an assassination attempt in New York.

“They have the credibility to break through our partisan shields,” says Epstein, “to remind us that America is a force for good and can remain a force for good.”

That argument has been challenged by Putin’s dark tirades against what he describes as a West whose colonialist bloodlust has, he says, married an anti-Christian progressive agenda. As the war has gotten worse for Russia, these anti-Western screeds have intensified.

“Putin’s Russia is in deep decline,” says Kasparov. “I do not believe that Russia will be able to wage this war until next spring.” Ukraine’s recent military advances, Recently with the liberation of KhersonDo not hope for a final Ukrainian battlefield victory.

Here Epstein intervenes: “It’s up to us,” he says.

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