We must be honest about the violent, imperialist nature of Russia past and present. Putin is the villain of this chapter, not the whole story. Russians must face the future humbled, either as part of the civilized world or as a hollowed-out Chinese supply depot. https://t.co/zg9nVnHzV6
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) May 19, 2023
This article is a reprint. You can read the original at Newsweek.
“Garry Kasparov has said that Ukraine winning the war Moscow started will lead to the collapse of Vladimir Putin‘s regime and usher in a new start for Russia.
“I’m pretty sure that within the next five years, Russia will end up smaller,” the former world chess champion, who is now involved in politics, told Newsweek. Describing the war in Ukraine as a “genocide,” the consequences of which “will be with us for decades,” he said that Russian territories such as the republics of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and Chechnya “very likely will walk away.”
“This is the process that stopped in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, but I think the collapse of the Russian empire is imminent,” he said. Putin has been open about his imperial ambitions, shown by his seizure of Crimea in 2014, the subsequent war in Ukraine’s Donbas region, and the full-scale invasion he launched in February 2022.
“Clearly the Russian empire must cease to exist. The question is whether the free world will work out a policy that will help other forces in Russia to preserve the chunk of territories that are Russian by majority and reform the state to become a future ally of the Euro Atlantic civilization—or will it be totally out of control?”
This is why he believes Ukraine should be given all the weapons it needs to win because that would end Putin’s regime “at a time where we still have some staples of the Russian governing mechanism that could be brought into a new system of governance.” He envisages Russia as a parliamentary republic or loose federation, “but we have to start from scratch.”
The former world chess champion turned to politics after his retirement from the game and created the United Civil Front, a social movement working to preserve democracy.
For years, he has warned about the threat Putin posed the world order, and in 2015 compared him to Adolf Hitler in his book Winter is Coming. The following year he co-founded the Free Russia Forum, which was declared an “undesirable organization” in February by the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office.
Three months after the start of the war, Kasparov co-founded the Russian Action Committee with exiled Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of the Yukos oil company, who was jailed for a decade until 2013 on charges decried as politically motivated.
The groups seek to build cooperation between the Russian anti-Putin diaspora and Western organizations and governments. While prominent Russian opposition figures are united against Putin, there appears to be little unity among many of them. The First Congress of People’s Deputies of Russia, is another group of opposition figures that does not have the backing of some Putin critics.
Meanwhile, Kasparov is dismissive of the non-systemic Russian opposition parties within his country, which he says act under the auspices of the Kremlin. For him, Russia’s opposition must be based on three principles: “The war is criminal, the regime is illegitimate. Crimea is Ukraine. As long as you are willing to say these three things, you have joined the alliance.”
Around 900,000 Russians are estimated to have left the country since the start of the war in February 2022, an exodus that gained impetus when Putin announced a partial mobilization in September.
Kasparov notes how many were upper middle class. Bringing them together in what he dubs a “virtual South Korea”—in contrast with the North Korea he says Putin has turned Russia into—might “create a staple for future Russian elite.”
He said to meet the challenge of replacing the thousands of officials in Russia currently calling the shots, “you may have already a pool of talent that might be helpful in this gargantuan task,” he said, although it would need the help of the West.
“The sooner we create this virtual Russian state in exile, the better the chances that we will have the solid staples for a new Russia after the collapse of the Putin regime.”
In building this new Russia, he said the West should not make the mistakes of the aftermath of the Iraq war, “in which the removal of the entire system, the law enforcement and all the Saddam’s element from the ruling structure, ended up with total chaos.”
There must be “some form of compromise which is yet to be found. I don’t have an answer to that right now, but I believe that’s the only way to move forward.”
Kasparov says after the war, there needs to be justice for those closely involved in the invasion of Ukraine, but they need to be distinguished from other Russian officials. “While you have a bunch of crooks and thugs ruling Russia, 90 percent of them are not war criminals and that’s exactly where you can have a split,” Kasparov said.
“If you want to make sure Russia doesn’t collapse, you have to demonstrate that the 10 percent that are connected to the war will be taken away,” he said, “then you create a gap which can be filled by people like me, Khodorkovsky and [Alexei] Navalny,” the latter who languishes in prison on charges condemned globally as politically motivated.
The clampdown on human rights in Russia has deepened since the start of the war. Independent media outlets have been shut down, thousands have been jailed, leaving opponents of Putin who cannot leave the country with few options.
Kasparov calls these people “heroes” and insisted “the moment will come when the system will collapse and then we need these people. We need this anger.””