The end of NATO is precisely what Putin, a master manipulator, is looking for. He knows NATO is weak. NATO is simply not ready for war and all U.S. tanks have been removed from Europe, yet Russia is preparing for war, is willing to strike as far as Poland and ready to strike 30 minutes before the alliance can even react.
Should Russia invade a tiny NATO member like Estonia, the Western powers will not be there in time. The anger will reach a boiling point, which is an understatement, to where all of Europe wants NATO out and a replacement. Enter the future European Army (See also here) from a German-led Fourth Reich… yet another story.
BRUSSELS – Chess legend Garry Kasparov was once the pride of the Soviet Union.
But 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall he lives in exile, accusing Russian leader Vladimir Putin of “strategic failure” and the EU establishment of “ignorance” in its dealings with Moscow.
Kasparov, who spoke to EUobserver on the eve of the Berlin Wall anniversary, said he will never forget the date it fell – 9 November 1989 – “because on that same day, four years earlier, I had just won the world [chess] championship”.
“What we are seeing in Russia is a resurgence of imperialism and nationalism in its most dangerous form,” he said, comparing Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Putin’s domestic propaganda to Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II.
“Just read what Putin has been saying in his [anti-West] speeches in the past year”.
“It’s 24/7 brainwashing of the Russian people … pure lies”.
With the EU and US imposing economic sanctions on Russia over its war on Ukraine, Kasparov said the West is more powerful than it thinks.
“Russian gas is one third of EU consumption. But Russia sells 80 percent of its oil and gas to Europe … If it all stopped, parts of the EU would freeze, but the Russian economy would fall apart”, he noted.
“The leverage is on the European side”.
Recalling European appeasement of Hitler when he annexed Austria in 1938, Kasparov said it would also cost less to stop Putin now than at a later stage.
But he added that some in the EU elite “don’t care about Ukraine and want to return to business as usual [with Russia]” for political or business reasons.
Italy and France have voiced doubt on keeping the sanctions in place.
But Kasparov reserved his sharpest words for Hungarian PM Viktor Orban and Czech president Milos Zeman, the most vocal sanctions critics, whose countries once rose up against Soviet oppression.
“They are committing crimes against the histories of their own nations. It’s an insult to the people who died in 1956 or 1968 from Soviet tanks, just as people in Ukraine are dying today”, Kasparov said.
In an insight into daily life under Putin, Kasparov, a 51-year old of Armenian-Jewish origin, spoke to EUobserver from the US because he doesn’t feel safe to go home to Russia.
“I could go back. But I don’t think they’d let me leave: It would be a one-way ticket”, he said.
He noted that he has never been threatened. But he said Russian security services tend to strike their victims instead of making threats.
“You suddenly find yourself being interrogated and put behind bars. At best”.
He pointed to Alexei Devotchenko, a well-known Russian actor and Putin critic, whose dead body was, on 5 November, found in his Moscow apartment amid signs of violence.
“I can’t tell you he was murdered for political reasons. But if something like this happens in Russia, you have to at least suspect Putin’s cronies”, Kasparov said.
“I can bet you, in any case, the police will never find those who did it”.
He noted that lawlessness at the bottom comes from lawlessness at the top.
“Putin has showed [by attacking Ukraine] that he has no respect for international treaties”.
“He has nothing to brag about at home – oil prices are low, the ruble is collapsing, the economy is stagnant – so the only thing he can offer to Russian people is fear of an outside enemy and fantasies of imperial greatness”, Kasparov said.
Looking back at his former role as a Soviet champion, he said Russian people are still receptive to nationalist propaganda.
“The collapse of the Soviet Union was painful. But, unlike in Germany, there was no process of reconciliation or lustration, of cleansing society of former Communist apparatchiks, and, most importantly, of the KGB”, he noted, referring to the Russian intelligence service, now called the FSB, where Putin began his career.
“The KGB remains a massive force in society”.
“There is no recognition of the fundamental sickness of the old system and of the crimes that the KGB committed inside Russia’s borders”, he added.
“The fact that Russia paid no real price for annexing Crimea has created a certain euphoria”.
Mad dog tactics
Kasparov’s advice to EU policy makers is to play the long game against the Kremlin.
He said the sanctions regime is damaging Putin’s standing inside the Russian elite.
“Europe must keep its resolve and must maintain the sanctions. Putin is gambling that they are temporary. He is telling his inner circle that they will be lifted in the next six or eight months”.
“It’s important to send the message that they won’t be lifted and to give full support to Ukraine. Body language is very important. But we are not seeing the right body language from the West”, he added.
He noted that EU states and the US have refused to arm the Ukrainian military because of Putin’s “mad dog” tactics.
The Russian leader’s wild comments that he could invade Poland and his bombers’ skirting of Nato airspace have caused fear that if he is cornered he might escalate the conflict.
“But the mad dog in politics is not the same as the mad dog in the street”, Kasparov said.
“The more ground you cede to Putin, the more dangerous he becomes … tomorrow the price of stopping him will go up. The day after it will be even higher”.
“There is a serious risk that he will do in [Nato member] Estonia what he is doing in Ukraine. Then we might hear the same voices we are hearing now: ‘Why should we die for some country we can hardly identify on the map?’ And that will be the end of Nato”.
Full article: Kasparov: Stop Putin now or pay the price later (EU Observer)