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

NEW YORK – Chess is a cerebral game, but the game of a legendary Soviet master Garry Kasparov It can make it look like a contact sport. When he was at the height of his power in the mid-1980s, he approached the chessboard with the brash physical intensity of a wrestler who had gone through the wrong competition.

Today, his relentless energies are fully directed against Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Kasparov approaches with the same singular focus he once reserved for his Soviet adversary, Anatoly Karpov — who, as it happens, He now holds a pro-Putin parliamentary position. But if the Kremlin autocrat disgusts him, nothing angers Kasparov like the West’s displeasure with how much aid he gives Ukraine, and for how long.

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

Garry Kasparov seated holding a microphone in his right hand and gesturing with his left hand.

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

past weeks Congressional elections In the United States that could complicate Ukrainian aid, especially if Republican suspicion intensifies into outright resistance. Speaking at a news conference last week, President Biden expressed hope that aid to Ukraine would continue — but he also chafed at accusations that he had done too much for Ukraine.

“We didn’t give Ukraine a blank cheque,” the president told reporters, referring to a complaint about the amount of spending focused on Ukraine. Delivered by Representative Kevin McCarthy, who will take over as Speaker of the House in January. “There are a lot of things Ukraine wants that we haven’t done.”

This is exactly the kind of talk that frustrates Kasparov. He praised Biden’s support for the Ukrainian effort, which has been continually complemented by European allies, but cannot be imagined diminishing in scope. It was far less than what Ukraine needed and wanted, but much more than Putin expected.

The war in Ukraine is more like a game of poker than a game of chess, a staring-and-bluff contest. On the chessboard, the opponent has nowhere to hide their pieces, but poker is by its very nature a game of imperfect information and trying to guess and then forcing it to act on those guesses.

Is one of the papers launched by Putin a nuclear strike? How long can energy-hungry Europe last before it folds? How long will US aid last?

Not only does Kasparov ignore those very realistic considerations, but he also refuses to be crippled by countless kinds of geopolitical speculation. For him, war retains unbearable moral clarity. “I think Ukraine can and will win,” he says. “I think it’s inevitable. It’s a matter of cost. And every day of delay, to give Ukraine what it needs to win, simply raises that cost.”

Vladimir Putin is sitting at a large desk with many phones and a flat screen.

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

Wholly unpalatable for Kasparov is the argument that Ukraine should sue for peace, not because the war is going badly for Cave but because it is costly for Washington, London and Berlin.

This was the subtext of the widely sent message Oct. 24 by House Progressives to Biden, urging him to “pursue all diplomatic avenues” while noting — not incorrectly — that the war is “fueling inflation and soaring oil prices for Americans in recent months.” An uproar ensued, and a day later the letter was recalled, though not without the Russians noticing an increasing American reluctance to fund the Ukrainian resistance.

Kasparov considers such talk to be extremely dangerous. He thinks of conflict in the Manichaean world of chess, where there is only black and white, defeat or victory. Either the West will defeat Putin, or Putin will defeat the West. “If we surrender today in light of Putin’s nuclear blackmail, who will say that he will not use exactly the same blackmail five years later, six years later?” Kasparov wonders, his tone and expression suggesting that this is far from idle contemplation.

He continues, “And who’s to say that other tyrants around the world won’t look at this and say, ‘Oh, look at that.'” The West is ready to surrender to nuclear blackmail? Why don’t we do the same? And for countries that do not have nuclear weapons today? Why don’t they have nuclear weapons if nuclear weapons are effective, and help them get what they want? “

Rockets billowing in smoke and flames moments after takeoff near a green building and towers amid clearings of trees against an overcast sky.

In a photo released on Oct. 26, a Yaris intercontinental ballistic missile is being tested as part of Russia’s nuclear drills in Plesetsk, northwest Russia. (The press service of the Russian Defense Ministry via AP)

This dark scenario Likely to materialize in Taiwanwith Brave Xi Jinping They are looking forward to finally asserting full control of China over the island.

Kasparov was particularly upset – and especially angry – at Elon Musk’s “Peace Plan”, Which would effectively cede large swathes of Ukraine to Russia. Kremlin advocates immediately embraced the idea, pointing to condemnation from the American political and media establishment as evidence that Musk (who did not respond to Yahoo News’ request for comment, sent via Twitter) spoke out on some taboo and consensus-breaking truths.

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

Disgusted by the ever-increasing repression of the Putin regime, Kasparov left Russia in 2013. Published in 2015 “winter is coming,” An urgent warning to Western policymakers about Putin, whom he described as “clearly the greatest and most dangerous threat facing the world today”.

Kasparov hasn’t been particularly shy or cautious, blaming President Barack Obama for trying to “reset” relations with Putin shortly after Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, in what was the first incursion by the Kremlin into a sovereign country since the fall of the Soviet Union. . Later, Obama warned That if Russia crosses the “red line” in Syria and uses chemical weapons to support Bashar al-Assad’s regime, “there will be serious consequences.”

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

Putin and President Barack Obama in a bilateral meeting during the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, in 2012 (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Then Russia used chemical weapons. “And Obama blinked,” Kasparov laments, accusing the president of “weakness.” Yet it is not clear what Obama — already managing two costly conflicts, in Afghanistan and Iraq — could have done to stop Putin, short of potentially unpalatable military intervention to the American public. A representative for the former president did not respond to a request for comment.

Kasparov argues that no development has discouraged Putin from invading Ukraine, such as the chaotic withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. “I wouldn’t call it a withdrawal. It was a stampede,” he told Yahoo News. “It was a disaster. And it undoubtedly added to Putin’s confidence.”

Today, the 59-year-old is a New York resident – who has retired from professional chess however He’s still teaching a class at MasterClass He directs the Renewal of Democracy Initiative, a nonprofit organization that closely coordinates aid efforts with nonprofit relief organizations operating in Ukraine, of which RDI is the executive director. Uriel Epstein He says he ensures supplies and money get to the right people, in the right places, rather than being squandered or lost.

“It’s our responsibility to give them what they need to not only survive, not just enough to survive, but enough to actually win the war,” Epstein, the son of Soviet immigrants who settled in New Jersey, told Yahoo News. He also described efforts in what became known as the “information space,” which the Kremlin has tried to drown out with its own propaganda.

Black and white photo of Garry Kasparov in a dark turtleneck sweater appearing to point his left hand slightly upward.

Kasparov on MasterClass. (PR Newswire via AP)

RDI works with retired US General Ben Hodges to produce short, polished videos that explain the state of war in easy-to-understand terms. It also commissioned and published articles by dissidents from around the world in partnership with CNN, part of a series called Voices of freedom. Contributors include Egyptian-American dissident Mohamed Soltan and Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, who was recently the target of an assassination attempt in New York.

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

This argument has been challenged by Putin’s grim tirades against a Western that, in his telling, marries colonial bloodshed with a progressive anti-Christian agenda. As the war has become ever worse for Russia, the anti-Western settlement hoppers have grown ever more anti-Western.

“Putin’s Russia is in sharp decline,” says Kasparov. “I don’t think that by next spring Russia will be able to fight this war.” recent military developments by Ukraine, Including the liberation of Khersondo not give hope of victory on the Ukrainian battlefield in the end.

Here’s Epstein’s intercession: “It’s up to us.”

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