Tuesday, March 15, 2005


UT’s “Operation Successor” - Garry Kasparov as the Kremlin’s greatest hope

World Chess Master Garry Kasparov claims to have retired (or simply quit) chess for an active role in Russian politics. If Kasparov intends to lead or organize Russia’s liberals against the Kremlin in 2008, Russian liberalism – as weak as it is – may find itself facing extinction for a generation. Kasparov is the Kremlin’s greatest hope to sustain the system Putin has built and keep in power his closet circle.

Again, it is hard to decide whether to cry or laugh when thinking about Kasparov (and liberal boy toy Vladimir Ryzhkov). His comment that he will "do everything possible to fight Putin's dictatorship” is the kind of zinger the “commentariat” lives for. At the same time, the “commentariat” refuses to come to terms with the fact that Putin’s public opinion polls numbers remain in the sixties or that Kasparov (or anyone else) can say anything he damn pleases under this “dictatorship.”Kasparov lives in a fantasy world where only Western news outlets (and the radio station Eko Moskva) have any real interest in what he says. In 2008 Kasparov may become the “Man of the Year” for the ‘New York Review of Books,’ but he certainly will remain a political nobody in Russia – if not simply despised.

I don’t question Kasparov’s genuine hope for Russia, with the exception of how he describes Russia’s political environment today. Unfortunately, most of his agenda is nothing less than anti-Putin. Spearheading and attempting to organize liberal opposition against Putin is even more ridiculous than it may appear at first blush: Putin will officially leave the political scene – voluntarily – in 2008. The “Committee 2008: Free Choice,” including former Union of Right Forces leader Boris Nemtsov, political adolescent independent State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov and Irina Khakamada, really has no real reason to exist and appears to be nothing more than foolishness. When Putin leaves power, will the “Committee 2008: Free Choice” take credit for this?

But the farce does not end there. Kasparov’s “negatives” outweigh his “positives” – and that’s among Russia’s liberals! Even among the huge ego world of Russia’s liberals, Kasparov has no peer (and I am not forgetting about Yavlinsky). Kasparov is/was a very temperamental chess player, his political activities to date have been no different. He was once part of the Democratic Party of Russia, then a breakaway faction thereof called the Liberal-Conservative Union. Once a supporter of Yeltsin, he later supported Alexander Lebed's bid for the presidency. Still later, Kasparov appeared to have lost interest in politics all together.

Beyond the “sandbox world” of Russia’s liberals, it is hardly possible that Kasparov will make a positive impression. Much of his vicious political commentary is easily interpreted as decidedly anti-Russian. To the average Russian he sounds like a Western stooge. Add to this, and of course it is impolite say such things, but Kasparov is Armenian – born with the name Garrik Vainshtein. Because Russia’s liberals have not build a Russian liberal ideology that includes the issue of nationality, crude nationalists will continue to make mincemeat out of liberals and Kasparov.

Kasparov is doing the Kremlin a huge favor. If Kasparov really wants to throw himself into politics, I’ll bet the Kremlin will give him all the airtime he wants – even clandestinely fund him. Kasparov will never be able to unite Russia’s liberals – he will only highlight their internal differences. The Kremlin will have every reason to watch on with smug amusement and reinforce its belief that liberalism is best promoted by the state. United Russia (or what becomes of United Russia) will erect a private shine thanking Kasparov for giving them a political reason to address voters.

Garry Kasparov and the buffoon Vladimir Ryzhkov, it is reported, will start a 10-region road show soon. If both can’t politically mature very quickly, the road show sounds like Russia’s answer to the American film “Dumb and Dumber.” This is an exercise that will most likely help many political homeless Russians to finally opt for membership in Rodina.Kasparov (and pinhead Ryzhkov) claim Russia is under a dictatorship. One has to wonder where both will be after their political efforts actually create a dictatorship in Russia. I suppose it doesn’t matter, Russia’s liberals have never shown any national responsibility – we shouldn’t expect that they ever would.

Kasparov should go back to chess. Ryzhkov should hope for the medical breakthrough called a brain transplant – ‘cause his is already dead.
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