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Monday, April 09, 2007

Kasparov with an Apple in his Mouth

Sometimes, people ask La Russophobe why she's so hard on Russians. Well, here's why.

Last week was not a good one to be a Garry Kasparov fan.

First, the Moscow News reported on the danger to Kasparov's life resulting from his opposition to the Kremlin:

Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, now a political opposition leader in Russia, said that his personal safety is more of concern now, although he played down the danger of being poisoned following the murder of dissident Alexander Litvinenko. Kasparov said he never touches the food and drink when he flies on Russian carrier Aeroflot. “I don’t consume any substances there on Aeroflot,” Kasparov told Reuters in an interview in London, where he is promoting a new book “How Life Imitates Chess.” He said he has two bodyguards when in Moscow and four or five armed guards when he travels within Russia. He tries not to take international flights on Aeroflot when he can avoid it. “Does it reduce the risk? No. If the state wants to go after me they will, but what else can I do? I live in peace with myself.”
There was just one small problem: Kasparov chose to make this revelation in connection with a publicity tour for his book "Garry Kasparov: How Life Imitates Chess."

Here's what Amazon says about the book:
'In this book, chess is a teacher, and I aim to show it is a great one.' - Garry Kasparov. World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov shares the powerful secrets of strategy he has learned from dominating the world's most intellectually challenging game for two decades - lessons about mastering the strategic and emotional skills to navigate life's toughest challenges and maximise success no matter how tough the competition. Drawing on a wealth of revealing and instructive stories, not only from his finest games, but also from a wide-ranging and perceptive knowledge of current affairs, Kasparov reveals the strategic ways of thinking that always give a player - in life as in chess - the edge. With a raconteur's engaging charm, a great chess strategist takes us inside a brilliant strategic mind. As Sun Tzu distilled the secrets of the art of war and Machiavelli unveiled the lessons to be learned from courtly intrigue, Garry Kasparov - a player whose record is likely never to be rivalled - reveals how and why the game of chess is a fitting and powerful teacher, of how to be prepared for, and how to win in, even the most competitive situations.
In other words, it doesn't exactly seem to be about the struggle for democracy in Russia, and nobody seems to be saying he intends to use its proceeds to further that purpose. One could suggest that Kasparov's time might possibly be better spent in other pursuits.

Then, the OntoInfo Blog noticed that Kasparov is a member of something called the "Center for Security Policy." The group describes itself thusly: "An independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the security of America and its allies." Now, not that there's anything wrong with wanting to keep America and her allies safe but, to put it mildly, this is not going to go over too well with the nationalists in Russia. It's not exactly going to increase Kasparov's viability as a presidential candidate, nor contribute to the viability of protest groups he associates with. It's exactly the kind of thing that Putin's propaganda machine will use against him.

Is Kasparov another Grigori Yavlinksy (ringleader of the circus known as Yabloko, the "apple" party), someone who will get going when the going gets tough, someone who will disappoint, someone who can't cut the Russian mustard, someone who's bound to self-destruct? He's on the ground at Ground Zero. He's risking a lot by being there. He's entitled to admiration and support for doing that, and neither he nor any other opposition figure is getting remotely enough of it from the West. On the other hand, he's not there all that often and when he is he doesn't really do or say anything all that memorable.

This is the kind of thing that makes La Russophobe see red. If there is any silver lining here, it is that at least we get to show we are not sycophants of Russian critics or the U.S. This criticism of Kasparov paired with last week's pummeling of George Bush (both here and on Publius Pundit) ought to show that beyond any question.


Anonymous said...

Kasparov is an irreleveant hasbeen - most Russians do not even recall who he is.

La Russophobe said...

It may well turn out they were right to do so, as they rejected Yavlinsky. But on the other hand, the people of Russia have done absolutely nothing to encourage better opposition leaders to appear; in other words, they may well be getting exactly what they deserve -- and if Kasparov and Yavlinsky are the best Russia can do, then they are better than nothing. Such a pathetic country could not afford to be a chooser when it comes to the desperate fight for Russia's survival.

Igor said...

I heard Kasparov speak a few months back at the National Endowment for Democracy in DC, and his book and American connections are not the only problem - its the message. Even in Russia, politics matter more than revolutionary rhetoric. So, when he says that the current Russian state must be "destroyed" (along with those "value-corrupting" oil revenues) to start a new Western-style liberal democratic utopia, that's not exactly pleasing any constituency, be it upper middle class or the "workers and peasants". Typical - and utterly sad - as it is for all liberals in Russia, he rarely makes any sense whatsoever on how he plans on building, rather than destroying, anything...

La Russophobe said...

Igor: Thanks for the comment, although it's kind of depressing. Apparently the situation is even worse then we thought.

Do you have any opposition politician you can recommend?

Anonymous said...

Opposition will emerge when Putin is no longer popular as he is now. At this point, they are all in single digits.