He is the darling of the West, as he has been opposing the “authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin” since he came to power. Yet he does not miss an opportunity to criticise the West, especially the United States of America for failing to protect innocent lives. Former world champion and one of the greatest chess players, Garry Kasparov has many facets to his personality, but post retirement, it is activism that has kept his mind alert.
Kasparov made it clear that as opposed to his favourite surface, the chess board, life is not black and white. “You know between war and appeasement there is a vast territory called the leadership. I won’t call (Barack) Obama’s policies as pacifist because inaction kills more people than terrorists.
When you look at the carpet bombing in Aleppo (Syria), you understand the cost of this inaction. So as someone who cares about human rights, whether in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Cuba or Russia… I see him ignoring certain obligations as a world leader to protect law and order,” he said while explaining why he has been a constant critic of the US President.
He wasn’t finished. The rot, according to him, brought on by Obama’s failure to take decisive action is costing dear. The result was a surge in popularity of Democrat hopeful Bernie Sanders and Republican billionaire Donald Trump.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing the effect of Obama’s inaction. We have Trump on one side and Sanders on the other. You have somebody trying to undermine the capitalist foundation –Sanders, who is challenging the free market economy. On another side, we have Trump, who I call a cotton candy candidate. At first it (candy) tastes good but there is no nutritional value and if you eat it too much you fall sick,” added Kasparov, who in his own words has been fighting these battles ever since he became a world champion at 22.
Always a rebel
From his early days he was a regular thorn for the higher ups.
“Chess in Soviet Union was highly politicised. I was involved in some kind of political battles and I had to face Anatoly Karpov, who was the darling of the Kremlin. I was kind of a rebel. As a young champion, I was deeply involved in promoting change. I was the first athlete, if you can call chess players athletes, to stop playing under the Soviet flag. Against Karpov I demanded the Russian flag, at a time which was three-four months before the collapse of the Soviet Union. So for me to challenge the regime wasn’t a completely unknown enterprise,” he said about his early run-ins with higher ups.
Kasparov was briefly arrested in 2007 while leading a pro-democracy march. After which he was interrogated by the dreaded Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation for violation of anti-extremist laws. He was arrested again in November 2007 after he had announced his intention to stand against President Putin. Ultimately, he had to withdraw.
“In Russia the election process is rigged from the beginning. You can’t register a political party without Kremlin’s permission. You can’t have a peaceful procession, you can’t do fund-raising and there is no access to mass media, except for a tiny bit on internet media. So even before you start a campaign you are denied every chance to address potential supporters,” he said while describing the democratic process in Russia.
Kasparov suggested that Putin’s end will not be a peaceful one.
“I know I have read enough history books and it (his end) will not be nice. Here I am paraphrasing John F Kennedy, ‘those who make peaceful agitation impossible make violent revolution inevitable’. This will all end up in an explosion.”