Wednesday, October 15, 2014

 

Garry Kasparov Implores the West to Stop Vladimir Putin Before it is Too Late

Since retiring from competition, former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov has focused his formidable intellect on international politics. Earlier this year, Kasparov offered a very blunt evaluation of Vladimir Putin: "Evil, pure evil." While many world leaders are either unable or unwilling to face the danger that Putin represents, Kasparov understands that language is important and that Putin's conduct regarding the Ukraine is a war, not an "incursion." Kasparov declares, "As Russian troops and armored columns advance in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian government begs for aid from the free world it hoped would receive it and protect it as one of its own. The leaders of the free world, meanwhile, are struggling to find the right terminology to free themselves from the moral responsibility to provide that protection."

Kasparov then cuts through all of the rhetoric emanating from so-called leaders who are in fact afraid to take a meaningful stand:

This vocabulary of cowardice emanating from Berlin and Washington today is as disgraceful as the black-is-white propaganda produced by Putin's regime, and even more dangerous. Moscow's smoke screens are hardly necessary in the face of so much willful blindness. Putin's lies are obvious and expected. European leaders and the White House are even more eager than the Kremlin to pretend this conflict is local and so requires nothing more than vague promises from a very safe distance. As George Orwell wrote in his 1946 essay on language right before starting work on his novel 1984 (surely not a coincidence): "But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought." The Western rhetoric of appeasement creates a self-reinforcing loop of mental and moral corruption. Speaking the truth now would mean confessing to many months of lies, just as it took years for Western leaders to finally admit Putin didn't belong in the G-7 club of industrialized democracies...

The U.S., Canada and even Europe have responded to Putin's aggression, it is true, but always a few moves behind, always after the deterrent potential of each action had passed. Strong sanctions and a clear demonstration of support for Ukrainian territorial integrity (as I recommended at the time) would have had real impact when Putin moved on Crimea in February and March. A sign that there would be real consequences would have split his elites as they pondered the loss of their coveted assets in New York City and London...

As one of the pioneers of the analogy I feel the irony in how it has quickly gone from scandal to cliché to compare Putin to Hitler, for better and for worse. Certainly Putin's arrogance and language remind us more and more of Hitler's, as does how well he has been rewarded for them. For this he can thank the overabundance of Chamberlains in the halls of power today--and there is no Churchill in sight."

Kasparov's ominous conclusion foreshadows what will happen next if President Obama and other Western heads of state do not display much more resolve in the face of Putin's aggression:

As always when it comes to stopping dictators, with every delay the price goes up. Western leaders have protested over the potential costs of action [in] Ukraine at every turn only to be faced with the well-established historical fact that the real costs of inaction are always higher. Now the only options left are risky and difficult, and yet they must be tried. The best reason for acting to stop Putin today is brutally simple: it will only get harder tomorrow.

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