Kasparov: Trump would be a Gift from Heaven for Putin

  • By Andrej Matisak

“Putin needs to spread chaos. Trump with his talks about how NATO is unnecessary, how everyone should pay for himself, plays into Putin’s cards”, says Garry Kasparov.

“President Vladimir Putin seriously interferes with the election process in the United States,” said famous Russian opposition politician and former chess champion Garry Kasparov. In his opinion, the claim that Putin would win the elections if they were free is propaganda nonsense. “The real popularity of politicians can be measured only when you have an opposition that criticizes the government. Putin has never taken part in a public political debate,” noted Kasparov for Pravda at the Forum2000 conference 'The Courage to Take Responsibility'.

In an interview for Pravda in 2007 you said that time was working in favour of the Russian opposition. The situation is completely different now. President Vladimir Putin’s position is very strong. Why has your prediction not come true?
Many things have gone wrong both in Russia and worldwide. Perhaps, I was an idealist who believed that the international community would not tolerate the growing authoritarian trends in my country. I warned that this did not threaten only the Russian people, neighbouring countries, but also the world community. The reset policy of US President Barack Obama, however, was a godsend for Putin. He could hide behind it and consolidate his power. We do know from history how it works. Regimes, such as the present one in Russia, can start by being friendly and open to the world. But it always ends up in confrontation. Especially when they exhaust their economic agenda. The result is a confrontation and poisonous propaganda as the main tool to maintain power.

So, what could the Russian opposition do to prevent this?
Maybe we wasted some opportunities. Especially in 2008, 2009 when the economic crisis created uncertainty among the Russian people. But Putin’s regime survived. And it was Putin’s regime. We all knew that then - President Dmitry Medvedev was just a puppet. (Dmitry Medvedev was head of the country between 2008 and 2012, Editor’s note) Unfortunately, Western governments did not perceive it that way. Probably the last real chance for change were the protests in 2011. But even then the world was talking about dialogue. It is normal that people try to avoid conflict. They cannot be blamed for it. There was a hope among the Russian opposition, which was supported also by the world community, that it is possible to change the regime, to smooth its edges. But then Putin became president again and completely crushed down such expectations.

Would Putin win any free elections?
It is nonsense to say anything like that. Putin has done everything to prevent free elections. It is a classic story of a dictator who claims he would win democratic elections. The real popularity of politicians can be measured only when you have opposition that criticizes the government. Putin has never taken part in a public political debate. At the moment the dictators are exposed, people realize that life is not as rosy as it was presented. Talks about how the authoritative leaders would win a free election are an old propaganda trick. Is Putin popular? Probably yes. After so many years of his regime, people do not know anything else. They cannot imagine that there would be someone else on Putin’s place. The right question is not who should come instead of Putin but what should replace him.

What is your answer?
It is about a change of institutions. Russia’s political system has never been set up to be truly democratic. The Constitution gives the president too much power. I believe that Russia should rather be a parliamentary republic with a limited role of the head of the state. Many political affairs can only be solved if there is a genuine sharing of power. Putin uses holes in the Constitution and the typical ambiguity of the Russian bureaucracy, which always looks at what the boss says. We do not have the tradition and people do not even believe in the rule of law. To reverse the situation, we need a drastic change. Regimes, such as Putin’s, have problems when they encounter on an equal opponent. They are vulnerable to outside events.

Why do you think so?
In 1989, Soviet troops left Afghanistan. It was not a defeat. They withdrew in an organised manner. There was not any chaos, as when the Americans left Saigon, Vietnam, in 1975. Despite that, the withdrawal of Soviet troops was perceived as a defeat. Especially in Eastern Europe. It created a feeling that it was time to stand up and fight for freedom. One of the most important reasons why Putin still holds on to power is that people perceive him as the winner. It does not mean he has won all the battles. In the age of modern technology, it is about creating the illusion that he has been always a winner. Putin is good in that. It is an important part of propaganda.

How is it demonstrated?
Five years ago, Obama said that Syrian President Bashar Assad must go. Putin’s response was that he should stay. For the Russians and their elites it is an example that the president is strong. Unfortunately, Putin’s aggressive approach is not only customary, but it has become a necessity. He has already no other tool to show his authority. Therefore the question is not where he will attack somewhere, but when. Putin will not stop until he hits a definite resistance. Obama wanted to back away from some of the world’s most explosive problems. Putin took a chance and filled the vacuum. He thus increased his power. But it is a substitution for solving the economic problems of Russia. And it is all further supported by the incessant domestic propaganda. When you listen to Russian television shows, at least 90 percent of them talk about what is happening in the world. It is never about Russia. As if there is nothing to discuss about our country.

Does Putin want Republican Donald Trump to become US president?
He works tirelessly to ensure Trump any support possible. I am not aware of any real ties of the Republican with Russia. The fact is, however, that Trump has not published his tax returns. I think it shows that there is something serious in them. Maybe some links to Russian oligarchs, perhaps something else. But I do not want to go into speculation. So, let us consider that Trump has no connection with Russia and let us not take in consideration links of his advisers with Moscow. But just look at Trump’s character. He is perfect for Putin. Trump is an agent of chaos. That is all what Putin needs. He cannot win when faced with stable institutions such as the European Union, NATO, when he must move within the rules of the set security regime. Putin needs to spread chaos. Trump with his talks about how NATO is unnecessary, how everyone should pay for himself, plays into Putin’s cards. Trump would be a gift from heaven for Putin. But it does not seem Trump is going to win the US presidential elections.

How does Putin view Democrat Hillary Clinton?
He hates her. Perhaps the word hate is inaccurate. But he is surely afraid of her. Not for her rhetoric. But because Clinton is learning. I severely criticized her actions and Obama’s attitude to Russia. It is now clear, however, that Clinton wants to restore US credibility. For Putin, it is a problem. Trump is perfect for him. This is why Putin so seriously interferes with the election process in the United States. Americans are surprised. I fear, however, that even if Clinton succeeds to stay ahead, we will see unrest and violence during elections in the United States. Putin and his KGB are phenomenal in how to kindle hatred and create problems that they can take advantage of.

Garry Kasparov

  • He was born on 13 April 1963 in Baku
  • At the age of 22, he became the youngest world champion in chess, defeating incumbent champion Anatoly Karpov
  • His record chess rating was surpassed only in 2013 by Norwegian Magnus Carlsen
  • In 2005, he retired from professional chess and started his political career
  • He unsuccessfully tried to register as a presidential candidate
  • He is the author of Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped
  • He lives in New York City