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

NEW YORK – Chess is a cerebral game, but the famous Soviet grandmaster Garry Kasparov can pretend it’s a communication sport. In the year At the height of his power in the mid-1980s, he approached the chess board with the sheer physical strength of a wrestler who was prepared for the wrong competition.

Today, his unrelenting energy is aimed squarely at Russian President Vladimir Putin, with Kasparov once single-mindedly approaching his Soviet nemesis Anatoly Karpov — who, however, now serves as a pro-Putin member of parliament. But if the Kremlin’s autocrat disgusts him, there is nothing to anger Kasparov about how much we should help Ukraine and for how long.

“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 the battle between freedom and tyranny.”

Garry Kasparov, seated, holds a microphone in his right hand and gestures with his left.

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

Last week’s congressional elections in the US could complicate aid to Ukraine, especially if Republican skepticism turns to outright opposition. At a press conference last week, President Biden expressed hope that aid to Ukraine would continue — but he also pushed back against accusations that he had given Ukraine too much.

“We didn’t give Ukraine a blank check,” the president told reporters, citing complaints about the level of Ukraine-focused spending by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who will take over the role of House Speaker in January. There are many things that Ukraine needs that we haven’t done.

That’s precisely the sort of talk that annoys Kasparov. He praised Biden’s support for Ukraine’s efforts, which have been consistently supported by European allies, but he can’t imagine that scope will diminish. “Ukraine was less than it needed and wanted, but more than Putin expected.”

The war in Ukraine is closer to poker than chess, a tournament of sleaze and vulgarity. On the chess board, the opponent has nowhere to hide his pieces, but poker is by its very nature a game of incomplete information, a game of trying to guess and then being forced to act on those guesses.

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Is a nuclear strike one of Putin’s cards? How long can power-hungry Europe last before it folds? How long will US aid last?

Kasparov doesn’t ignore those very real ideas, but he also refuses to be paralyzed by endless geopolitical speculation. For him, the war holds an unknown moral clarity. “I believe that Ukraine will win and win,” he said. “I think it’s inevitable. It’s a cost issue. And delaying every day, giving Ukraine what it needs to win, is simply raising this price.

Vladimir Putin is sitting at a large table with several phones and a flat screen.

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 does not sit well with Kasparov because the war is not only bad for Kiev, but expensive for Washington, London and Berlin.

That was the subtext of an Oct. 24 letter from House progressives to Biden urging him to “pursue every diplomatic avenue” — not mistakenly — that the war is “bringing inflation and higher oil prices to Americans.” In recent months. An outcry followed, and a day later the letter was recalled, but not without the Russians noting the Americans’ reluctance to support the Ukrainian resistance.

Kasparov said such talk is particularly dangerous. He imagines the conflict in the Manichean 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. “Who’s to say that in terms of Putin’s nuclear attack today, he won’t use the same blackmail five years from now, six years from now?” Kasparov marvels, his tone and expression far from idle music.

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“And who’s to say,” he continues, “that other dictators around the world will see this and say, ‘Oh, look at that.’ Are the West willing to resort to nuclear attack? 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 nuclear weapons?

Moments after a missile and flames rising from the smoke, next to a green building and towers over a clearing of trees against a cloudy sky.

In this photo released on October 26, a Yars intercontinental ballistic missile was fired as part of a nuclear test in Plesetsk, northwestern Russia. (Press service of the Ministry of Defense of Russia via AP)

That bleak scenario could become a reality in Taiwan, as the emboldened Xi Jinping seeks to fully and ultimately reassert China’s control over the island.

Kasparov was particularly shocked – and characteristically angry – at Elon Musk’s “Peace Plan” Which actually transfers large areas of Ukraine to Russia. Kremlin propagandists immediately seized on the idea, citing condemnation from the US political and media establishment as evidence that Musk (who did not respond to a Yahoo News comment on Twitter) had told a forbidden, consensus-shattering truth.

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

Kasparov He left Russia in 2013. He was disgusted by the ever-increasing repression of Putin’s regime. In the year In 2015, he published an urgent warning to Western policymakers about Putin’s “Winter is Coming,” calling it “the biggest and most dangerous threat facing the world today.”

Not particularly shy or intellectual, Kasparov blames President Barack Obama for trying to “reset” relations with Putin shortly after Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, the first time Agerlin has been in the sovereign cream since the fall of the Soviet Union. Obama later warned that if Russia crossed a “red line” in Syria and used chemical weapons to support Bashar al-Assad’s government, there would be “severe consequences.”

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

Putin and President Barack Obama during a bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico in 2012.

Then Russia used chemical weapons. “Obama blinked,” Kasparov angrily accused the president of “weakness.” However, it is not clear what Obama – who has already managed two costly conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq – can do to stop Putin, which may be unpopular with the American people, from military intervention. A representative for the former president did not respond to requests for comment.

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Kasparov counters that Putin has made no progress toward invading Ukraine, such as the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. “I wouldn’t call it a takeout. It was chaos,” he told Yahoo News. “And it was a disaster. And it undoubtedly boosted Putin’s confidence.”

Today, the 59-year-old New Yorker — retired from professional chess but still teaching MasterClass classes — runs the Renew Democracy Initiative, a nonprofit that closely coordinates aid efforts with nonprofits working in Ukraine. , which RDI Director General Uriel Epstein It ensures that supplies and funds get to the right people in the right place instead of getting spoiled or lost.

“It’s our responsibility to give them what they need to survive, not just to survive,” Epstein, the son of Soviet immigrants who settled in New Jersey, told Yahoo News. The Kremlin has described efforts in the so-called “information space” to flood its own propaganda.

A black and white portrait of Garry Kasparov in a dark turtleneck sweater with his left hand slightly up.

Kasparov in MasterClass. (PR Newswire via AP)

RDI works with retired US General Ben Hodges to produce short, crisp videos that explain the war situation in easily digestible terms. In collaboration with CNN, he published a series of articles by international dissidents called Freedom Voices. Contributors include Mohamed Soltan, an Egyptian-American protester who was the target of a recent assassination attempt in New York, and Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist.

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

That argument has been challenged by what Putin describes as a dark invasion of the West, whose colonialist bloodlust is married to an anti-Christian progressive agenda. These anti-Western tensions have become more acute as the war has become ever weaker for Russia.

“Putin’s Russia is in serious decline,” Kasparov said. “I do not believe that Russia will be able to carry out this war next spring.” Recent Ukrainian military developments, including the recent liberation of Kherson, offer hope for a final Ukrainian battlefield victory.

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


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