The Legatum Institute was pleased to host renowned democracy activist and chess master Garry Kasparov for a breakfast discussion of his upcoming book ‘Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped’.
The title of Kasparov’s book is not just a nod to the hit TV series “Game of Thrones”, but a sombre warning. The strategist explained that although the 1990s were supposed to mark the ‘end of history’, renewed tensions between Russia and the West show that history is seasonal. Russia is now entering a ‘winter’, he argued, and the chances for peaceful democratic transition are almost non-existent.
Yet, come ‘spring’, this outlook will change. Today, Russian activists must plan and think ahead so that they do not miss the next opportunity for democratic transition—as they did at the end of the Cold War. “I don’t want to see another 1991,” said Kasparov, “I don’t want celebration without a game plan.”
The West must challenge Putin, though strong targeted sanctions and other methods of placing him under credible stress must be employed, because there is no negotiating with this leader.
The discussion was moderated by Anne Applebaum,Director of the Legatum Institute’s Transitions Forum.
About Winter is Coming
The ascension of Vladimir Putin–a former lieutenant colonel of the KGB–to the presidency of Russia in 1999 should have been a signal that the country was headed away from democracy. Yet in the intervening years–as America and the world’s other leading powers have continued to appease him–Putin has grown not only into a dictator but a global threat. With his vast resources and nuclear weapons, Putin is at the center of a worldwide assault on political liberty.
For Garry Kasparov, none of this is news. He has been a vocal critic of Putin for over a decade, even leading the pro-democracy opposition to him in the farcical 2008 Presidential election. Yet years of seeing his Cassandra-like prophecies about Putin’s intentions fulfilled have left Kasparov with the realization of a darker truth: Putin’s Russia, like ISIS or Al Qaeda, defines itself in opposition to the free countries of the world. He is still fighting the Cold War, even as Americans have first moved beyond it, and over time, forgotten its lessons.
Lest we be drawn into another prolonged conflict, Kasparov now urges a forceful stand—diplomatic and economic—against him. For as long as the world’s powerful democracies continue to recognize and negotiate with Putin, he can maintain credibility in his home country. He faces few strong enemies within his country, so meaningful opposition must come from abroad.
Argued with the force of Kasparov’s world-class intelligence, conviction, and hopes for his home country, Winter is Coming is an unmistakable call to action against a threat we’ve ignored for too long.”
About Garry Kasparov
Garry Kasparov spent twenty years as the world’s #1 ranked chess player. In 2005, he retired from professional chess to lead the pro-democracy opposition against Vladimir Putin, and ran for the presidency of Russia in 2008. In 2012, he was named Chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, succeeding Vaclav Havel. He has been a contributing editor to The Wall Street Journal since 1991, and his 2007 book, How Life Imitates Chess has been published in twenty-six languages. He lives in self-imposed exile in New York with his wife, Dasha.
The Transitions Forum is a series of projects dedicated to the challenges and possibilities of radical political and economic change.