No one in the West is doing anything to stop Vladimir Putin, and Gary Kasparov’s new book flashes with righteous anger about it.
Garry Kasparov’s Winter Is Coming is a hard book to read.
It’s not that the book is difficult or dull. In fact, it’s lively and readable, especially considering that its subject — Russia’s return to authoritarianism — is so depressing. It’s a book full of ugly events and heartbreaking realities that are hard to accept, especially for those of us optimistic that Russia would become a functional modern country when it finally emerged from the wreckage of the mad Soviet experiment.
Kasparov is one of the greatest chess players in history, a talent that earned him fame and reward toward the end of the old Soviet system. He stood at the top of the chess world for 20 years until 2005, when he retired to devote himself to the cause of Russian democracy. Winter Is Coming is told as a kind of short history of post-Soviet Russia intertwined with Kasparov’s own story of reaching the pinnacle of his game but finding himself drawn to politics as his hopes for Russia’s democratic emergence dimmed.
Like many Russians (and many Westerners, including me) Kasparov gave Russian President Vladimir Putin the benefit of the doubt when he took over from the ailing Boris Yeltsin. It seems like eons ago that anyone worried about Communism, but for Russians such as Kasparov and others who’d lived in the Soviet empire, the fear of a Communist revival was hard to shake, and this bought Putin a lot of breathing room early on:
I was troubled by the little-known Putin’s KGB background and his sudden rise to power by overseeing the brutal 1999 war to pacify Chechnya. But along with my countrymen, at the start I was grudgingly willing to give Putin a chance. Yeltsin had badly tarnished his democratic credentials during his 1996 reelection by using the powers of the presidency to influence the outcome, and I confess that I was one of those who thought at the time that sacrificing some of the integrity of the democratic process was the lesser evil if it was required to keep the hated Communists from regaining power.
“I simply could not imagine,” Kasparov wrote of Putin’s early rule, “that the constitutional framework would be targeted so quickly and so brutally.”
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Source: Can Putin Be Kept in Check?