Russian political activist Garry Kasparov said this weekend that Russian President Vladimir Putin was a bigger threat to world peace than Islamic State, the militant group of Sunni Muslims terrorizing parts of Syria and Iraq and declaring themselves an independent nation. Kasparov’s words, which were reported by BBC News on Oct. 25, come on the heels of yet another speech by Putin that again accused the United States and its allies of destabilizing the world with interfering in the politics of Ukraine and other countries. And again the rhetoric used by the Russian president was reminiscent of leaders during the Cold War, that twilight period of world history that saw the United States and its allies poised on the brink of World War 3 with the Soviet Union and its allies.
Garry Kasparov, chess grandmaster and political activist, believes that Putin wishes to recapture the Soviet Union’s former glory and first on his “agenda” is to “destroy the independent Ukrainian state.” Kasparov went on to describe Putin as a man who sees himself as a “Vladimir the Great,” a leader of Russia that reunites the empire of old. Instead of playing chess, as some have described Putin’s moves of late, he says the Russian president is actually playing poker, and bluffing to get ahead in the game.
Kasparov, who once ran for president in Russia, sees Vladimir Putin as a dictator and doesn’t shy away from comparisons to Adolf Hitler. He notes that while Hitler organized and solidified his base through the late 1930s, he did so because he was not confronted. He sees the same thing happening with regard to Putin and the annexation of Crimea and the blatant military incursions into Ukraine.
Kasparov told BBC News that it was the “same algorithm” as the appeasement process that was used to mollify the German leader prior to World War II. “And let us not forget, unlike Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Putin has nuclear weapons.”
Allowing that the position of the West also has to deal with the threat of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the chess grandmaster suggests that whereas the problem of Islamic State has a military solution, Russia does not. He says that Russia is “by far” a greater threat than Islamic State. Where IS is a regional threat, he says, Russia is a nuclear superpower and financially wealthy.
“We did not start this,” Putin said, according to a Reuters report. He accused the U. S. of attempting “remake the whole world” according to its own interests.
The news agency wrote that Putin’s words were a “a 40-minute diatribe against the West that was reminiscent of the Cold War and underlined the depth of the rift between Moscow and the West, Putin also denied trying to rebuild the Soviet empire at the expense of Russia’s neighbors.”
Putin went on to say: “Statements that Russia is trying to reinstate some sort of empire, that it is encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbors, are groundless.”
And yet there are Russian troops inside Ukraine. There are also somewhat veiled threats issued by Putin against Ukraine and the West in the past few months that have increased tensions between all nations involved.
Last month, it was reported that Vladimir Putin, while in talks with Ukraine, warned that he could have Russian troops in Kiev and other Eastern European nation capitals in two days. Not long before that, according to The Inquistr, he had test-fired his nuclear arsenal. But even more recently, Serbian newspaper Politika reported that during an interview he said he wanted to remind the West of “the threat of a fall-out between the largest nuclear powers.”
It certainly sounds and looks like a return to Cold War rhetoric and the nuclear brinksmanship mentality that predominated global affairs between the world’s superpowers up until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. It also appears that Vladimir Putin has grown nostalgic for those days, back when he was a bit younger and a KGB operative. And this is where Garry Kasparov is incisively correct: There is no military solution, not one that does not ultimately end in mutually assured destruction (MAD), an old concept that needs to become part of political discourse once again — if for nothing more than to gauge when to call President Putin’s bluff.