Outspoken Putin critic Garry Kasparov says Ukraine is just Putin’s first stop: NPR
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Garry Kasparov, the chess grandmaster, has a new strategic goal. He wants the world to defeat dictators, starting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
GARRY KASPAROV: The price of stopping a dictator increases every day with every delay, with every hesitation.
SIMON: Garry Kasparov is now 59 and learned to play at the Palace of Young Pioneers in Baku, Azerbaijan when it was part of the former Soviet Union. He retired as the world’s highest rated player in 2005. He was beaten and arrested by Russian police for protesting outside the courthouse where the women of punk band Pussy Riot were on trial in 2012. He is now a writer and president. of the Human Rights Foundation and lives in New York, spends a lot of time traveling the world, warning of what he sees as Putin’s Russia‘s threat to democracy everywhere. We caught up with Garry Kasparov as he spoke to a group from Goucher College in Maryland on Wednesday night.
KASPAROV: When the Cold War was won in 1991, we forgot one simple thing, that evil does not die. It pushes back through the cracks of our apathy.
SIMON: After he appeared, we told him how people sitting around saw the water bottle staged for him and thought of Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader who was poisoned by his water bottle. ‘water. Other dissidents were shot, pushed out of windows or poisoned with radioactive substances.
KASPAROV: I’m glad my wife wasn’t there because she gets really nervous when she hears reporters, you know, repeating that question. We all know the risks. She is responsible not only for me but for our children. Our daughter – she is 15 and a half. And our son will be 7 years old this summer. And she also knows that I am who I am. So I have to do it and I can make a difference.
SIMON: Garry Kasparov believes harsh Western sanctions should have been applied after Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea and the following year, when Russian planes supported Assad’s regime in Syria during that country’s civil war .
KASPAROV: This is, once again, going backwards. This is Syria, and this is Crimea. Crimea was the turning point, I think, in Putin’s mind. If he could annex the territory without consequences because the sanctions in 2014 just – and he – Putin laughed at them. So he could do anything. I think the free world has proven to be not only complacent, but too willing to compromise on our values.
SIMON: You don’t believe that Ukraine is in fact his strategic objective?
KASPAROV: No. Ukraine is one of the very important milestones on its road to changing the world, the global security infrastructure as it has operated since World War II. And for Putin, Ukraine is one of the demonstrations that he could reshape the map, redraw the map. And it could reenact the Cold War and restore Russian imperial glory. And no one could resist him.
SIMON: I noticed tonight that you wanted to tell the audience, no, no, I don’t want peace now. I want something different.
KASPAROV: I want peace, but I don’t want people to say that peace can be achieved by stopping war. Peace can be obtained by destroying the source of war. And unless we eradicate the source of war, there will be no peace. Thus, peace can only be achieved if Ukraine restores its territorial sovereignty, including Crimea and Sevastopol, and reparations are paid. As we speak, a Ukrainian town is being bombed by Russian planes, Russian missiles. Each of them can destroy half of the city. And only then can we talk about lasting peace.
SIMON: Mr. Kasparov thinks that the way the world has rallied to support Ukraine could discourage the designs of other authoritarian regimes.
KASPAROV: And I also think it’s not just about Putin and Ukraine. It is a signal for everyone. By defending Ukraine, I hope we are defending Taiwan. We stand up for many other places in the world where dictators just scratch their fair – you know, their head, thinking, maybe we can handle it.
SIMON: Garry Kasparov told us that because of his fame, he felt particularly responsible for denouncing Putin’s government.
KASPAROV: Because I think my country could do much better. And I know it will take years, if not decades, to clear Russia of these crimes. And also, I believe that the war between freedom and tyranny will not end with Ukraine fighting. It will not end with the collapse of Putin’s regime, which I believe is inevitable. This is a battle for our lives, and I hope Russia will be on the right side. Russia will cease to be a permanent problem but could be part of the solution because we will be confronted with China. We will face other countries and look at China, what is called the Chinese model. And they will challenge our way of life.
SIMON: The goal is not perfection, he says, but progress.
KASPAROV: We have a lot of work to do at home. That’s the message I think people like me can take to Americans and Europeans that, yeah, with all the imperfections in our lives, you know, that’s still the only way forward because we know how addressing the issues that are important to us, whether it’s social justice, racial justice.
SIMON: He says tyrants can no longer operate behind the shadow of an iron curtain.
KASPAROV: Now we know everything. We know the gulag in Xinjiang. We know about the genocide of the Uyghurs. We all know about the crimes committed around the world, and we need to make sure that we can do more than just talk.
SIMON: But we wanted to ask Garry Kasparov another question. Do you have a favorite Pussy Riot song?
Kasparov: Look. That’s – Pussy Riot made a name for themselves not because of the tuning of their songs.
(SOUND EXTRACTION OF THE SONG, “PUNK PRAYER”)
PUSSY RIOT: (Singing in a language other than English).
SIMON: Garry Kasparov, the chess grandmaster and president of the Human Rights Foundation, who hopes for a future where he and all Russians can be heard without fear. We caught up with him this week at Goucher College in Maryland.
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