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On Putin

143Two years ago, had someone said Putin would invade Ukraine and then that he would annex Crimea that person would have been called crazy. How do I know this? Because I was that person! But it happened and it is still happening. With the collapsing Russian economy entirely dependent on energy exports and the price of oil so low, Putin is desperate for foreign conflicts so the his propaganda can be filled with anything except news about Russia.

The last 16 years are a long list of Putin doing things that people said Putin would “never do”. (Khodorkovsky, Litvinenko, Pussy Riot, Georgia, 2012 return, Ukraine, Syria, Turkey…) I don’t think he is desperate enough yet to cross a NATO border, but the idea that it’s “crazy” to suggest it might happen as things get worse in Russia is dangerously foolish. Putin has nothing to lose, no way back, and if he falls from power his fortune and likely his freedom or life will be lost. Dictators don’t have the luxury of thinking long-term or strategically, they have to worry about tomorrow while keeping an eye over their shoulder. I travel to the Baltics frequently and they have no illusions there about what Putin is capable of.

Garry Kasparov on GPS with Fareed Zakaria

ZAKARIA: If you listen to the version of history that Vladimir Putin believes — and there are many Russians who believe this — the problem is that the West was always trying to keep Russia down, that the West attacked Serbia, Russia’s ally, that the West criticized Russia about Chechnya, that the — that the West has expanded NATO to Russia’s borders.

In other words, that there was an attempt at — you know, there was a — there was a hostility that the West showed to Russia, triumphalism, and that that’s why Russia has had to react in this way that it has.

KASPAROV: Yes, well unfortunately, all these arguments we heard from Adolf Hitler when he just — he was trying to explain, you know, why Germany behaved as it — as it did. I’m not talking about 1939, 1930 — 1940, but about ’33, ’34, ’35.

And by the way, the harsh conditions imposed on post-World War in Germany by the Versailles Treaty are nothing could be compared with very preferential treatment offered to Russia under Boris Yeltsin by the United States and Europe. There were credits, there were — they were — the doors were opened. Russia was accepted in G-7, turned to be G-8, not being, you know, a normal democracy and not the greatest industrial power.

So the — there was a good credit line, both financial and political. And as for the expansion of NATO, look, eastern European neighbors of Russia had some bad memories. And nobody doubts now in Estonia or Latvia that if not for NATO membership, Putin’s tanks could be in Tallinn and Riga today.

ZAKARIA: Really? You believe that?

KASPAROV:  Look, I think that NATO is the only — the only thing that protects them, because Putin definitely looks for the weak spots on the map and he believes that, you know, if it’s — if he can grab it, he does it.

What Will America Stand for in 2016? | Op-ed | Daily Beast | 01.02.2016

After two two-term presidents with diametrically opposed ideologies on foreign policy and domestic affairs, America is facing an existential challenge. Is it to be just another country, one more nation-state that just happens to be much richer and stronger than any other? Or is there still a case and a cause for American exceptionalism that says that the only nation founded on the idea of freedom has the obligation to use its immense wealth and power to promote that freedom elsewhere?

My personal answer isn’t much of a surprise since it’s one that I share with nearly everyone who has lived in an unfree state or who has had their freedom mortally threatened. I grew up in the Soviet Union in a mixed family—and I don’t mean my Armenian-Jewish heritage. My Baku relatives included die-hard Communists who would excuse nearly every catastrophe and shortage as the fault of flawed individuals, not the state or the system. They lived in a fragile truce with my father and his brother and cousins, natural skeptics who wanted me to grow up without illusions.


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