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Garry Kasparov: I am fighting a Russian dictator

Kasparov
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Garry Kasparov is a legend, probably the best chess player of all time. In 2013 he retired from political life in Russia and chose self-exile in New York. He became one of the most active human rights defenders, succeeding Václav Havel as President of the Human Rights Foundation (HRF). Following Navalny's arrest, he remains Putin's most vocal and visible opponent. He is frank, energetic, spontaneous and eloquent. He told us about Putin's dictatorial regime, about the mafia that controls the entire Russian system, about foreign policy, disinformation, crimes, abuses, but also Vladimir Putin's fortune.

Veridica: Thank you for accepting this interview. You have opened the Superbet Chess Classic in Bucharest. How do you find Romania? It is not your first time here.

GK: It’s my third time here. To be precise, it’s my third time in Bucharest. And to be even more precise, it’s my third time inside one of Bucharest’s hotels. First in Marriot, and now in Sheraton, because they were short trips. And I spent most of them just inside the building, by just having all these arrangements. So far, I’m very pleased with the arrangements here. Obviously, this time I spent more time in the country. It’s almost nine days. But still, even if it’s nine days versus two days in the first two trips, they were all packed: interviews, appearances, arrangements, and of course, the grand chess tours, the Superbet Classics, I had to be engaged, promoting it and making commentaries. But I’m very happy that now Romania found its place on the chess map, and with the plans of Superbet to make this event traditional, and also with the plans of the Superbet Foundation to bring chess to Romanian schools, I feel that I will be visiting Romania more frequently.

Veridica: You are perhaps the greatest chess player of all time, the “enfant terrible” of Soviet chess. You became chess champion in 1985 at the age of 22 by defeating fellow Soviet grandmaster Anatoly Karpov, the Kremlin’s favorite player. And you held the title for 15 years. But today you dedicated your life to human rights and fighting Russian president Vladimir Putin. Why?

GK: I’m fighting a Russian dictator. For me, it’s a very important semantic difference. Because the moment you say president, people think “Oh! You can just form a political party, you can run a political campaign, you can raise funds, you can do debates. Nothing of that type happens in Russia. You cannot do anything in the field of politics without a full approval from Kremlin. Those who are trying to oppose, they are either forced to leave the country, as myself, end in jail, as Alexey Navalny and hundreds of others, or even killed, like Boris Nemtsov, the former deputy Prime Minister, who was shot in Moscow in 2015. And the list of people who are eliminated by the regime is growing every day. I don’t want to mislead the audience to think that I’m only involved in fighting Putin and his dictatorship, because I do many other things. Apart from promoting the game of chess. I’m also involved in debates about artificial intelligence and about strategy and decision-making, and about cyber-security. I have a full life. But of course, the human rights element of this life is very important because this is what I do because I believe I must do it. It’s not the game of chess where you can win or you can lose, but at the end of the day you just play by the rules and you dare to win. Here, it’s something that you should do because that’s my duty, my contribution to the cause of democracy and humanity. And also, I believe that in the future Russia will have a tremendous impact on the future of the world. If Russia continues being a sort of a problem, continuing its hybrid war against the free world, and Putin’s list of crimes will be adding new and new victims every day, the world will pay the price. At the opposite side, if Russia becomes a free and democratic country, and could join the family of civilized nations, to become part of the global solution, that will help us look into the future with more optimism and confidence.

Veridica: In the book that celebrated 80 years of Spartak, there’s not a single mention about you. Are you worried about how you will remain in the history of sport, and not only in sport, in Russia?

GK: I’m not worried at all about my place in sports history or history. This is not for dictators to write history books. I read enough history books to know that dictators go to the dustbin of history. They belong in the historical garbage. Yes, temporarily, they could be successful. And, as you mentioned, in 2015, the book that was printed to celebrate the 80th anniversary of, some say, one of the most popular sport club of the Soviet Union, Spartak, to which I belonged since 1976, and was one, if not the most decorated member of the club throughout its history, my name disappeared. So, that’s the pickle. That’s always happened to people who opposed dictators. That’s a typical sign of any dictatorship. Its very natural instinct is to eliminate those who are against, those who have dissident views, from history books, from the pages of newspapers or publications. But now we live in a time where modern technology helps preserve the data. Even in the past, dictators never succeeded in rewriting history. And these days it’s just another sign that leaving our future in the hands of dictators and their cronies is dangerous. It’s not because they try to cross my name out of that, because they eventually go after the entire history. And as we know from classics, from Orwell’s 1984, dictators believe they can control the future by rewriting the past.

Veridica: You were vilified as a Western stooge in the pro-Kremlin media. Is this the classic Bolshevik kompromat? What do they say about you in Russia?

GK: I wouldn’t say it’s classical Bolshevik, because it’s for every dictatorship. Nazi Germany used the same tactics. Every totalitarian regime always tries to pretend that their opponents, those who are raising their voices against dictatorships, against oppression, and those who are supporting democracy and basic human rights, they are working for the free world. Obviously, they can change the definition of our so-called “employers”, but at the end of the day, you are part of a global Jewish conspiracy, capitalist conspiracy, you work for CIA, Mossad, MI5. I don’t care. I’ve always had my views, and I was never shy to express them. If you look at my record of criticizing the US presidents, you’ll find out that I was critical of Bush 41, Bill Clinton, or Bush 43, Barack Obama, of course, Donald Trump. And now, I just recently had a very critical article about Joe Biden. I stand by principles and by things that I believe are right. I don’t serve that personal interest. I don’t serve any country. I’m still a proud Russian citizen. I also have a citizenship in Croatia and I’m very grateful for the country that helped me found refuge when I had to leave Russia. I was in America, where my kids and wife are, three out of four of my kids are American citizens. But at the end of the day, I believe in some universal values. And I will defend them ignoring what Kremlin propaganda or Chinese propaganda will say about me, because I’m also highly critical about the Chinese communist dictatorship. I never stop talking about genocide in Xinjiang, or about oppression in Hong Kong or Chinese growing threat to Taiwan, to the independence of Taiwan, speaking openly against any abuse of human rights, whether it’s committed by friends or foes of America. The Human Rights Foundation, where I’m the chairman, I followed my hero, the late Václav Havel, who was the first chairman of the foundation, we are going after any regime that is violating human rights, whether it’s one that stands with the United States, like Saudi Arabia, for instance, or those who are standing on the side of Moscow, like Iran.

Veridica: You are the key organizer of the so-called Dissenters’ March street protests in 2006 and in 2007. You were arrested then. You became a powerful political voice, and even tried to run in the 2008 Russian presidential election. Is there now any real political opposition in Russia?

GK: If you want to talk about stooges, that was his puppet called Dmitri Medvedev, I’m sure many expert political pundits forgot the name. Putin had to leave because he wasn’t ready to violate the Russian Constitution yet, as he did later. He just wanted to gain more power and more momentum, to come back triumphally, as he did in 2012. But of course, anybody who wanted to challenge Medvedev, basically challenging Putin, was not allowed to have his or her name on the ballot. I knew that I didn’t have a chance to even appear on the ballot. Because they had so many bureaucratic blocks on the way. I announced my intentions just to demonstrate that even Garry Kasparov, the man who had great fame and was well-known across the country, was not able to go through even the most preliminary obstacles on the way of any opposition candidate. Yes, I was arrested, but only for five days. Actually, I was arrested a few times, but I spent in jail only five days. I was arrested and then released, and beaten. But those, I always say, were “vegetarian” times, because you could end up in jail for five or ten days. Today, for a peaceful protest, and I have to emphasize, everything we did in 2005, 2006, 2007 or today happening in Russia, it’s all peaceful. We never had any acts of violence from the side of Russian opposition. This is not like the unrest you see in some of the United States cities or in Europe, with burned cars and broken windows and looted stores. None. The only violence on the streets of Russia was and still is from the regime, from the riot police. But today, if you are peacefully demonstrating against Putin, you can end up in jail for five or ten years. You don’t have to go out in the street to get arrested. If you put a Tweet or you retweet something or you repost a blog, you can easily get a couple of years in prison for simply joining online the dissenting views. Russia today, and that’s important for people to recognize, is a fascist dictatorship that does not allow any dissenting voice in the country, demands 100% loyalty from Russian citizens and also has a very aggressive foreign policy, including open invasion of its neighbors. So, that’s answering you question: opposition? No. I applaud the heroic efforts of those like Alexei Navalny, who stook a stand. But they are in prison. The only place in Russia where you can oppose the regime is in prison, or from outside of Russia. We have more and more activists, forced to leave Russia, escaping Putin’s regime, and we are not planning to remain silent. In the last five years we have been organizing events in Vilnius with the Free Russia Forum. We just had the 10th Forum, online of course. And that now unites most of the Russians who are still opposing the regime and live outside of Russia, and those, also, who can join us online, although I understand there’s a huge risk now. The regime keeps some of the democratic “decorations”, like window-shopping, to pretend that Putin is still a president. They are very sensitive when we call him the name he deserves – he’s a dictator. They want to pretend that Russia is still a normal, democratic country that could enjoy the privilege of being a member of prestigious international organizations. And I think the sooner the free world recognizes the true nature of the Russian regime and takes a strong stand, not just words, but real actions, the better for all of us.

Veridica: President Biden called Putin “a killer”. He said about Putin that he’s a dictator and a petty thief. But Putin is popular in Europe, among some politicians, for instance Viktor Orban in Hungary or Marine Le Pen in France. What do you know about Putin and these guys don’t know?

GK: I wouldn’t call Putin a petty thief. Petty means small scale. Vladimir Putin amassed a fortune that has outgrown any political or financial fortune built in the history of the human race. Directly or indirectly, he controls today amounts probably close to 1 trillion USD. One thousand billion USD. When you look at the national Russian budget, which he controls, when you look at some the funds of the Russian government, when you look at the oligarchs’ fortunes, and most of them, if not all, are directly following his orders. It’s not surprising that we call Russia the “country of appointed billionaires”, so they know their worlds depend on Putin’s favor. But also, this fortune depends on him staying in power. Russia is a country where ownership means very little, if anything. The law doesn’t protect you. Only the power. It’s like mafia. A mafia state. I always say that every country has its own mafia, but in Russia mafia has its own state. I don’t think that any politician who is supporting Putin is not aware about this. You mentioned his open supporters, like Viktor Orban or Marine Le Pen. There’s no doubt, they are his clientele. Marine Le Open openly received funds from Russians and she expects more to come for next year’s presidential elections in France. Viktor Orban also has very close ties to Russia. When he loses power, because I still believe Hungary is a democratic country, we’ll know more about his clandestine connections to Putin. But my concern is not about those who are openly supporting Putin, but about those who are pretending they are still on the other side but they are willing to compromise, to do business, to continue relations, opening dialogue. When I hear president Marcon talking about “Sanctions were not effective, let’s start a new dialogue”. When I see the German Government led by Chancellor Merkel pushing hard for Nord Stream 2 and basically insisting that, no matter what happens in Russia, we have to do business through the pipeline. When we see governments like the Austrian one. Unfortunately, it’s a very long list of those who are always looking for normal relations. And that’s what’s surprising. Many of the top politicians from these countries end up in very well-paid positions in Gazprom or Rosneft. Like former Chancellor Schroeder who was working for Putin for many years. Or the former Minister for Foreign Affairs in Austria now landed in Rosneft. Again, it’s an endless list. I’m quite happy that in Romania, from my observations, Putin’s influence is probably one the least across Europe. There are very few countries where Putin’s cronies, political allies, have no real say for political affairs.

Veridica: You once said that Putin wants to rule like Stalin did, but also wants to live like Abramovich. What kind of regime is that? Is Putin the only ruler, or the Siloviki and the oligarchs also control the country? Is Putin controlling the secret police, the secret services or these guys – FSB, GRU and so on – are actually the guys that are actually controlling the system?

GK: I think this joke, that you recall now, about Abramovich and Stalin, is very much a description of Putin’s regime. They want to control everything, they don’t want any opposition. But they want to be rich, they want to live in luxury. That’s why it is not a typical dictatorship of the 20th century. There’s no ideology there. It’s more like a mafia that wants raw power for living in luxury, but also to protect it by using the most oppressive measures. It’s also about the future, about families. If you look at the Russian political class, you can see more and more kids, children, even grand-children of top politicians, moving in. It’s a hereditary rule now, which again, makes it a feudal state or more likely mafia. That’s the way they want to rule the country. They don’t want any opposition, any political freedom that could lead to a challenge to the system. Now, speaking about of the power of the dictator versus the power of the apparatus, there’s always a balance. Yes, there are other influential people in Russia, but Putin is in charge. The very notion that there are other people behind the scene who are pulling the strings just doesn’t stand any scrutiny. A dictator always creates a balance that is important for the system to survive. That’s why I always reject the sort of warnings “Oh, if not Putin, it could be worse”. No. It cannot be worse, because the most dangerous system is the system with one ruler. It’s all about him, and the system is built around him. He is the spine of the system. Yes, of course, he depends on other political forces, whether it’s KGB or GRU or other bureaucratic forces, the oligarchs. But they all know that he is all-powerful. He is like a demiurge. He can decide. But the reason he is so powerful is that he knows how to keep the balance. In a system like Putin’s or Stalin’s, or Hitler’s, it’s very important to keep the balance. Because you have competing factions. And the dictator, who doesn’t have the same legitimacy as the king or queen, because they have it from divine rights, it’s a tradition of centuries, or democracy, where you have elections. So, the dictatorship is a very subtle system where the dictator has to be cautious in keeping the balance and making sure that all the groups that are surrounding the throne are competing against each other and they stay under control. That’s why Putin is in charge. It’s also thanks to the very high oil prices, gas prices, and almost unlimited Russian national resources. He generated so much cash that he is capable of keeping these warring factions at bay. We don’t know the amount of money. We are probably talking about a couple of trillion dollars that have been siphoned out of Russia into the free world. And, by the way, the money is kept not in China, not in Iran, not in Venezuela, but in the free world. They know where to keep the money to make them protect it against potential corporations. He always managed to protect his funds, protect the interests of the Russian ruling clique in the free world, where they keep the funds, and also to protect them inside the country for whatever crimes they commit. The key element inside the system is loyalty. And they all know that. Loyalty is vital. As long as you are loyal to the system, you can steal in Russia, you’ll be protected in the free world. And that’s why it is very important for the leaders of the free world to make sure that the system of Putin’s rule will be challenged where it is most vulnerable. And they are vulnerable…Okay, a simple advice – follow the money! As long as they feel that Putin offers them the full protection, they will not go against him.

Veridica: What will happen to Navalny? What do you think? Why did he return to Russia, knowing that he will be arrested?

GK: Starting with your second question, I have to say I don’t know. Maybe he thought he would not be arrested. I always say that we may discuss the rationale behind his decision and we can question it. But we cannot criticize the decision itself. If someone shows an act of heroism as he did, I think it’s not ethical to challenge the decision itself. Whether he could do more to damage Putin’s regime staying free and abroad, I have no doubt about it. I think he probably overestimated the anti-Putin sentiments. They were already about to present this movie about Putin’s palace, maybe he thought about him disclosing acts of corruption that goes beyond the imagination of the people in the free world – we are talking about a palace of 1 billion dollars or more, that Putin only visited a couple of times, and by the way, that’s not Putin’s only palace, that’s what they could get data on and show it. Maybe he thought that would be the last drop for the patience of people in Russia. Maybe he expected more people on the streets. God knows. When he’s out of prison, and I hope he will be out of prison, he can tell us the story. But about his future, I’m certain that Navalny will not see the day of light out of his prison cell as long as Putin stays in power. Putin already believes he was weak for releasing Khodorkovsky in 2013, prior to the Olympic games in Sochi. I don’t think he will let Navalny go. How long Putin stays in power? I don’t know. Navalny just turned 45. I wish him health and strength, but I’m afraid that he has many tough years ahead of him.

Veridica: A former KGB general said in 2007 that you are on the blacklist of Kremlin and that you are the next target. Are you afraid for your life?

GK: Look, would it help? To be afraid? Let’s say, I’m concerned. But I know there is nothing I can do about it. If someone like Putin decides that you are next on the list, it doesn’t matter if you have protection or not. You go. I just do what I believe is right. That’s how Soviet dissidents acted and that’s what I learned: do what you must and so be it. I’m trying to be cautious, of course, by not visiting places where I know I could be arrested and then sent to Russia. Although we know these days that if you fly in the airspace of a country like Belarus, you could be taken away. That’s the latest act of international gangsterism committed by Lukashenko, the Belarusian dictator, which I have no doubt was fully sanctioned by Putin. This is the message. It’s basically the message they send to the world – we don’t care! We can sign all the treatises, but when we need to violate them, we will do it. When people say “Look at Roman Protasevich, the young Belarusian activist who was arrested and now he’s confessing” – he has been tortured. And I hear people from the free press – “They are so unprofessional. They tortured him and they didn’t hide the traces of torture”. What idiocy! What naivety! They are not hiding them because they want you to see he was tortured – this is the message! We can arrest anyone, just by landing the plane and committing an act of international crime, we can torture this person and we can make him and her confess all the crimes that were not committed, the illusion of crimes. And everybody should remember! There’s no protection. And again, look at Europe. We are talking about European flights, it was run by a European Irish company, flying from one EU country to another EU country, and has been hijacked. And so, what’s happened? Nothing. Blah, blah, blah, nonsense. He’s been tortured, and Europe is still trying to… “Oh, let’s impose more sanctions against some Belarussian bureaucrats”. You are having a terrorist regime – this is not Hamas, this is not Al-Qaeda, this is a terrorist regime in Europe. And what do you do? Answer: nothing. And Putin – he’s taking notes. Same way he took notes after Assad and other clans of his used chemical weapons, and no doubt received direct orders in 2013. And Obama after many big statements backed off. Chemical weapons, according to Obama, was a red line Assad couldn’t cross. He did it and America decided not to interfere. Europe: “it’s not our business”. It’s not your business, huh? What about the millions of refugees going from Syria to Europe after they had been gassed by Assad, carpet-bombed by Russian planes, and the result was Europe shifting far-right, because all these refugees created an atmosphere which was so useful for Orban, Le Pen. It’s always win-win for Putin. He always looks, like every dictator, he makes notes and he recognizes the moment when he can actually push another red line. And that’s why I’m worried, because dictators never stop until they’re stopped. And so far, we see no appetite in Europe, and very little resolve in America to take what is necessary to stop Putin.

Veridica: So, do you think Putin is a strategist, is he like a chess player? Does he carefully plan every move?

GK: No, I never said that. Strategy means you have a long-term plan. Putin is an opportunist. Dictators don’t have the luxury of being strategists. Strategy is for democracies. You can start planning things and you know that when your term is over, it is a continuity. The basic policies cannot be overturned just with a new administration. There could be some changes, but not total reverse. A dictator cares about what happens tomorrow. And Putin is a good opportunist. He doesn’t create conflicts. He looks at opportunity and grabs it. He is so opportunist that he saw in Europe the rise of the far-right parties and he helped it. He saw opportunities to sow discord in America, and he did it. He hasn’t invented Trump, but he used Trump. And now he’s just looking for new opportunities, because he needs to push. A dictator cannot stand still. He always needs to demonstrate that he is invincible, that he is in control. This is the way to project his power, both inside and outside of the country. And right now, unfortunately, I wouldn’t say he’s winning, but he’s doing fine. If there are any doubts about Putin being in control, look at Navalny – Navalny’s in prison. Look at Lukashenko – he’s still in power, and he can do whatever he wants. And Biden now is asking Putin to have a meeting, a summit. Putin proved again to the world that he is indispensable. No matter what happens on June 16 in Geneva, Putin has already won this round because he had the meeting. He doesn’t care what is the outcome of the meeting, as long as the US president is forced to meet him. Especially after calling him a killer. Putin said “Great! Fantastic! I’m a killer! And you have no choice but to meet me. Which means I’m in charge. Yeah, I’ve killed people, big deal. Nobody is going to charge me for that”. So, I’m concerned that, as every dictator in the past, Putin can get emboldened, more encouraged to continue his attacks against the free world, maybe against Ukraine, maybe his hybrid war against America. By the way, not surprisingly, since Biden announced that he would meet Putin, there were two attacks on the critical American infrastructure. One against the pipeline, one against the meat-packing industry. Both hacking attacks led to Russia. And because the American administration already announced the meeting, they tried to downplay it. Hearing this nonsense from Biden “Oh, we know that these attacks are coming from Russia, but are not connected to the Russian government”. Are you kidding me? Anything happening in Russia not connected to Putin? Come on. They are hostages of their own stupidity, of their own short-sightedness.

Veridica: Speaking about hybrid war, why are the Russians so good at weaponizing propaganda, disinformation, fake news, kompromat, creating fakes news, Potemkin villages. How come they are so good?

GK: Look, you are good at anything if you have been practicing it for years. The Russian intelligence services inherited it from Soviet services, from KGB. And KGB has been doing it since the beginning of Bolshevism. So, for nearly a hundred years they have been specializing in promoting lies, attacking the free world, coming up with all these fake stories. And of course, now, with the new technology, they are ahead of the game. It’s not just that they are so good, they have political will. They don’t care about the cost. They don’t care about reputation. They don’t have to ask Parliament, they shouldn’t worry about the free press going after them. In America, you have institutions, it’s a democracy. In Europe, there is public opinion, Parliamentary commissions, an opposition which is challenging the regime, the government. The free world still has power to stop it. But the only way to stop it is to understand deterrence is the way to go. Can America fight back by causing damage, beyond repair for Russian critical structures? Of course it can. The problem is if you don’t do it, if you just keep talking, the dictator loses any sense of fear. He can push, and push. And now just warning him isn’t enough. You have to do something. And so far, I saw nothing from America that could demonstrate the political resolve to take on Putin and to fight back in his hybrid war. Not the resolve that we saw during the Cold War, where America fought back. Yeah, there were setbacks, there were losses like in Vietnam. But overall, America succeeded in preventing communism from spreading around the globe.

Veridica: You spoke about loyalty as being the glue that keeps this kleptocracy alive – the Siloviki, the oligarchs and Putin on the top. It seems also that Putin proposed a deal to the Russians. “Look, if you keep away from politics and you don’t interfere in politics, I will provide you with a better quality of life”. Is this a real deal or is it presumed? What do the Russians really expect from the future?

GK: That was a kind of a deal twenty years ago. And it worked for the first decades. Because of the high oil prices, Putin could provide better living conditions for Russians. And until probably 2012-2014, that was on the table. That was a deal that secured the social apathy of the masses of population. And that’s why many of our actions, direct actions of dissent and demonstrations, failed. Because the majority just didn’t care. But things changed. After the occupation and annexation of Crimea, the war in Ukraine and the open hybrid war against the free world, it’s no longer the same deal. Today it’s not enough to stay out of politics. You have to be loyal. The early Putin regime was tough, but authoritarian. Authoritarian means - “you don’t get into politics, fine”. Totalitarian means that they have to control your thoughts. If you are not loyal enough, you’re already in danger. So many Russians now are in danger because they don’t know what kind of new red line they cross. You have a very powerful apparatus that is going after them. It’s like the Leviathan – they need more blood, they need more victims. So, they expand their operations. They cannot do the massive repressions, Stalin-like terror, they don’t have to. It’s all about terrorizing people and people’s minds and making sure that those that are not standing in line will be immediately punished. And also, the regime is losing resources. Yes, it still controls tons of money, an insane amount of money. But the bureaucracy is also growing. As I already mentioned, you have the top Putin cronies, the children, in some cases even their grand-children. The appetite of this growing clique is also becoming very hard to satisfy. So, they need more and more funds, which means less money goes down. If you look at the Russian population and at living standards, even in official Kremlin statistics, it’s not as good as ten years ago. And that’s why you see the numbers that are dwindling. The numbers of support. I’m not looking for some secret polls. Official Kremlin numbers show a dramatic drop in Putin’s popularity, in the popularity of his regime. And that’s why they are now shifting resources from these social views of the population into the full support of a terror machine. Again, that’s always happened with any dictatorship. And speaking now about Putin’s popularity, it’s probably outdated. Because we see the numbers are nowhere near they were five-six years ago and there’s no sign they will go back. By the way, Putin doesn’t care. Because he has such a powerful machine behind him, that he believes that by feeding this machine, and we’re talking about millions and millions of people, and by terrorizing the rest of the country, he can stay in power for a very long time. For him? Forever.

Veridica: A final question – what is your secret for being the best chess player in the world?

GK: I don’t think there’s a secret. I always wanted to make a difference. I wanted to play chess not just to win, though it was very important, but also to open new horizons, to go beyond the known. If you followed the earlier part of our conversation, I wanted to leave my mark on the game. And I wanted to do that not just with the whole career, but with each game. Each game was a chance to make a difference. And I never lost passion for the game. It’s very important that you are passionate about the game, you are passionate about your contribution to the game. And also, you never stop learning. The greatest danger is to rest on your laurels. It’s what I call in my book, How Life Imitates Chess, is that success is the enemy of future success. And I was never satisfied with what I got. I always wanted to find something new, to make even more difference. And as long as you have this drive inside of you, you recognize that winning one game, winning one tournament, winning one big match, is just a preliminary step to the next challenge, you are ok. And I realized at one point that I was running out of this force, and I thought it was time to go, because I stayed on top for too long. And I wanted to apply the same concept, the same principle to other walks of life, not that I expected myself to make the same kind of difference, but I thought that my experience, my analytical skill, my passion, my fame, could help other succeed, whether they were fighting for democracy, or understanding the nature of human-machine relations, or many other things where my expertise and my life experience could be of help.

Tags: Russia, Vladimir Putin, Alexey Navalny, Garry Kasparov, Aleksandr Lukașenko, FSB, GRU, Belarus

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Marian Voicu

26 minutes read
  • You cannot do anything in the field of politics without a full approval from Kremlin. Those who are trying to oppose, they are either forced to leave the country, as myself, end in jail, as Alexey Navalny and hundreds of others, or even killed, like Boris Nemtsov, the former deputy Prime Minister, who was shot in Moscow in 2015. And the list of people who are eliminated by the regime is growing every day.
  • Every totalitarian regime always tries to pretend that their opponents, those who are raising their voices against dictatorships, against oppression, and those who are supporting democracy and basic human rights, they are working for the free world.
  • I was arrested and then released, and beaten. But those, I always say, were “vegetarian” times, because you could end up in jail for five or ten days. Today, if you are peacefully demonstrating against Putin, you can end up in jail for five or ten years. You don’t have to go out in the street to get arrested. If you put a Tweet or you retweet something or you repost a blog, you can easily get a couple of years in prison for simply joining online the dissenting views. Russia today, and that’s important for people to recognize, is a fascist dictatorship that does not allow any dissenting voice in the country, demands 100% loyalty from Russian citizens.
  • Vladimir Putin amassed a fortune that has outgrown any political or financial fortune built in the history of the human race. Directly or indirectly, he controls today amounts probably close to 1 trillion USD.
  • Every country has its own mafia, but in Russia mafia has its own state.It is not a typical dictatorship of the 20th century. There’s no ideology there. It’s more like a mafia that wants raw power for living in luxury, but also to protect it by using the most oppressive measures. It’s also about the future, about families.
  • There are very few countries where Putin’s cronies, political allies, have no real say for political affairs.
  • The most dangerous system is the system with one ruler. It’s all about him, and the system is built around him. He is the spine of the system. Yes, of course, he depends on other political forces, whether it’s KGB or GRU or other bureaucratic forces, the oligarchs. But they all know that he is all-powerful. He is like a demiurge. He can decide.
  • The money is kept not in China, not in Iran, not in Venezuela, but in the free world. They know where to keep the money to make them protect it against potential corporations. He always managed to protect his funds, protect the interests of the Russian ruling clique in the free world, where they keep the funds, and also to protect them inside the country for whatever crimes they commit. The key element inside the system is loyalty. And they all know that. Loyalty is vital. As long as you are loyal to the system, you can steal in Russia, you’ll be protected in the free world.
  • I’m certain that Navalny will not see the day of light out of his prison cell as long as Putin stays in power. Putin already believes he was weak for releasing Khodorkovsky in 2013, prior to the Olympic games in Sochi. I don’t think he will let Navalny go. How long Putin stays in power? I don’t know.
  • When people say “Look at Roman Protasevich, the young Belarusian activist who was arrested and now he’s confessing” – he has been tortured. And I hear people from the free press – “They are so unprofessional. They tortured him and they didn’t hide the traces of torture”. What idiocy! What naivety! They are not hiding them because they want you to see he was tortured – this is the message!
  • Putin is a good opportunist. He doesn’t create conflicts. He looks at opportunity and grabs it. He is so opportunist that he saw in Europe the rise of the far-right parties and he helped it. He saw opportunities to sow discord in America, and he did it. He hasn’t invented Trump, but he used Trump. And now he’s just looking for new opportunities, because he needs to push. A dictator cannot stand still. He always needs to demonstrate that he is invincible, that he is in control. This is the way to project his power, both inside and outside of the country.
  • Biden now is asking Putin to have a meeting, a summit. Putin proved again to the world that he is indispensable. No matter what happens on June 16 in Geneva, Putin has already won this round because he had the meeting. He doesn’t care what is the outcome of the meeting, as long as the US president is forced to meet him. Especially after calling him a killer.
  • For nearly a hundred years, the Russian intelligence services have been specializing in promoting lies, attacking the free world, coming up with all these fake stories. And of course, now, with the new technology, they are ahead of the game. It’s not just that they are so good, they have political will. They don’t care about the cost. They don’t care about reputation. They don’t have to ask Parliament, they shouldn’t worry about the free press going after them.
  • Today it’s not enough to stay out of politics. You have to be loyal. The early Putin regime was tough, but authoritarian. Authoritarian means - “you don’t get into politics, fine”. Totalitarian means that they have to control your thoughts. If you are not loyal enough, you’re already in danger. So many Russians now are in danger because they don’t know what kind of new red line they cross.
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