Former World Chess Champion and Russian political activist Garry Kasparov was in Cheyenne and Laramie last Friday to discuss global politics and American leadership. Kasparov says under President Vladimir Putin, Russia presents the greatest threat to global security.
“It seems that he believes, and his cronies keep repeating it, that Putin is Russia and Russia is Putin, which means his personal failure he may consider as a signal to bring the entire country down with him.”
Terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda may dominate the headlines, but Kasparov says Putin threatens the free world because he has access to nuclear weapons. “Putin can push one button. It’s unrealistic, some say, but let’s not forget that the list of what Putin would never do, and he [has] done, is growing every day. And he is openly blackmailing the free world with nuclear weapons,” says Kasparov.
Although there are still some elements of economic freedom in Russia, politically, Kasparov says it’s an authoritarian regime. “In Russia, we all understand, Putin is there forever,” he says. “I don’t know the outcome of his rule, I don’t know what price Russia will pay for his paranoia, I don’t know what will be the cost for the rest of the world for his aggression, [but] I know for sure he is going to die in [the] Kremlin. The question is when and how.”
Kasparov says Putin’s political ambitions can be mapped by following oil pipelines between Russia and former Soviet states. He says the annexation of Crimea is likely just the first. Because Putin’s political strength depends on oil money, Kasparov says fracking in Wyoming has done more damage to Putin than Washington’s foreign policy.
And while he praises the U.S. as the world’s greatest democracy, he says it’s been in decline for the past two decades because “America has gradually been replacing its risk-taking attitude by complacency, by trying to find an easy way.”
Kasparov says under the last four presidents, America has lacked global leadership and vision. He says a return to risk endeavors—like the space race in the 1960’s—will help America regain its role as the world’s engine of innovation and will gain America the respect it needs to lead on the world stage.