ABC Regional Online, Australia

Gary Kasparov

Sunday, 3 April 2005

This week on Sunday Profile, the world's greatest chess player Gary
Kasparov talks of his decision to leave the world of professional
chess and enter into the fray of Russian politics. Kasparov, who
has accused President Vladimir Putin of behaving like a 'tsar', is
determined to restore democracy in Russia and to thwart any plans
Putin may have to extend his term.

Listen in Windows Media format

Listen in Real Media format

Sunday Profile Transcript: April 3, 2005

Introduction:

Hello, Monica Attard here and you're listening to Sunday
Profile. Tonight Garry Kasparov, the world chess champion who's decided
to ditch the chessboard for a rather more unpredictable existence as
a politician in his motherland Russia.

Well Garry Kasparov became the world junior chess champion at the age
of 16. His first match in the Big League in 1985 was against Anatoli
Karpov and it was the longest in chess history. Indeed, authorities
called off the match after Karpov began showing psychological and
physical strains after 48 games. But 6 months later Kasparov won
a re-match, successfully defending the title against Karpov three
times. In 1996 he was the first world champion to win against Deep
Blue, the IBM Computer, though it has to be said that Deep Blue
struck back a year later. Even though younger prodigies have started
to make their mark, Kasparov is still the world's number one chess
master though having conquered all comers; Kasparov said his heart
was no longer in the game. Perhaps it's the search for a new passion
which has inspired him to take on a new opponent, Russia's President,
Vladimir Putin. Kasparov has entered politics. He thinks his career
in chess has set him up perfectly for the role of nemesis to the
all-powerful increasingly autocratic one-time KGB spy, Putin. The
man who once commanded the most overwhelming support of the Russian
people. Kasparov told me from Moscow where he's returned to take on
the Kremlin that under President Putin Russia's democratic games have
all but disappeared.

Kasparov:

I don't think they're under threat anymore. I think they're ceasing
to exist everyday and I think we have very steady records of
President Putin who inherited the country with democratic values,
with independent parliament, with independent media with elections
of the government and other officials and now all press is under his
control, parliament is just another branch of executive office and
direct elections of the governments is already cancelled. And all
his steps that are being prepared are giving us clear indications
that presidential elections will be turned into another farce in 2008
as well.

Attard:

Do you believe that president Putin will alter the constitution to
run again in 2008?

Kasparov:

I don't think we should say 'run again', it's...we're talking about
reappointment. Putin can't afford to leave the office because he will
be in real danger of being prosecuted for things he and his people
did during their stay in power. So I think that it's no longer a
question about election or running or having campaign, it's building
mechanisms that will allow them to stay in power as long as they want.

Attard:

Why wouldn't President Putin, if he has done things as you say that
are wrong, why wouldn't he do what his predecessor Boris Yeltsin did
and do a deal with the authorities to escape prosecution?

Kasparov:

Yeltsin's rule was very different because Yeltsin did anything wrong
against Russian democracy. In 1998 democracy nearly impeached President
Yeltsin and he was well criticised in different print media and TV
stations and he accepted it as the price of being leader of democratic
state. Putin had very different view on democratic institutions and
also he erased the boundaries between power and business and there
are many indications, there are many facts showing that Putin's people
enriched themselves by using power mechanisms so that's why for them
losing power means losing their fortunes.

Attard:

Let's assume that President Putin doesn't move to change the
constitution to run again in 2008, do you believe that he's in the
process now of handpicking a successor and who might that be?

Kasparov:

The only successor to President Putin is President Putin himself
and we could of course dream about President Putin stepping down
voluntarily and picking out successor which would be probably as bad
as him but at the end of the day he knows better than anyone else
that no successor could guarantee him and his people a good deal that
will stay. Probably Putin also gave some guarantees to Yeltsin and
Yeltsin's people but we could see that these guarantees evaporated
at a time when Putin needed it.

Attard:

Have you met him?

Kasparov:

No. I've met enough KGB colonels in my life; I don't think this
meeting will make any difference.

Attard:

I believe you would have in your time. Now you say that you will make
sure that a new president is elected in 2008, how will you do that?

Kasparov:

I think that it's a vital moment now for Russian democracy to convince
people that it's only our actions, our joined actions and protests
could force Kremlin to reconsider its plans to abolish presidential
elections and even we have a candidate that is not very much accepted
by my liberal standards, it's not about the quality of this president
or his or her political views but it's about the process of the
election itself. It's absolutely vital now for Russia to make sure
that democratic institutions will be resurrected and will go through
the election process.

Attard:

So are you saying that you'll be encouraging Russians to protest?

Kasparov:

There are many ways of showing your protest and discontent without the
actions of Kremlin. We already witnessed demonstrations against some
of the governmental actions in January and February but there are more
and more people in my country recognise the dangers of having their
governors appointed by Putin and having no influence in parliament
because Parliament today is also following instructions from Kremlin
and no longer represents its people.

Attard:

Now Garry Kasparov, you've left the world of chess although not
completely as I understand it and you've entered the political fray
in Russia, are you not frightened?

Kasparov:

Well, I'm not so naïve to ignore any potential threat to my well-being
but at the same time if you make a decision to fight for future of
your own country you have to consider all the consequences.

Attard:

And what do you think some of those consequences could be?

Kasparov:

I don't know but it's very clear that Putin and his people they well
probably use any means to stay in power but I don't want to think
about the worst scenario but I'm taking all the necessary precautions,
as much as I can do under these circumstances.

Attard:

So you have heightened security I assume?

Kasparov:

yes I have some security that could protect me against provocations
but of course there are more terrible actions that could not be
stopped by any security.

Attard:

Do you hope that your very high profile both in Russia and
internationally may go some way towards protecting you?

Kasparov:

Probably. I think it will be more difficult to deal with me as Putin
deals with Khordokovsky. It would more difficult to invent tales about
my participation in a number of crimes that are being now allegedly
thrown at Khordokovsky but at the same time, I wouldn't overestimate
the importance of my popularity in the country and abroad but at the
end of the day it's not as important because I believe that my presence
here could make some difference and it could encourage people. It's
more sort of about sending them the message that if I do participate
it may change something. If I do not participate it just tells them
that even the person with this kind of protection doesn't want to
challenge Putin's regime so that's why it's absolutely hopeless.

Attard:

So Garry Kasparov have you had any response, any reaction to your
return to Russia and to your decision to enter the political field,
from the Kremlin, from President Putin and his entourage?

Kasparov:

I could read out stories about me in the Kremlin controlled press,
I consider that's a message.

Attard:

And are they negative?

Kasparov:

Of course, yes. If they consider Kremlin it's all-negative. So far
it's just more of talking about my background and saying that I'm
not prepared for that and they're trying to ridicule my decision but
at the end of the day I could expect other stories because Kremlin
controlled press never stops short of inventing stories about Putin's
political opponents.

Attard:

Well can we talk for a minute about your preparedness to take on
this job? Why do you think that you, Garry Kasparov, excellent chess
player, master though you may be have any hope of changing the course
of events in Russia? At the end of the day, you're not even Russian are
you? Does that, do you think that goes against you in the first place?

Kasparov:

Depends what you mean 'not Russian'.

Attard:

Well you were born in Azerbaijan as I understand it.

Kasparov:

Yes I am born in Baku and I am half Armenian-half Jewish but my native
tongue is Russian, my culture is Russian, my education is Russian. At
the end of the day Soviet Union was the success of Russian Empire which
was multinational multi-confessional state and as long as w live in
the same state I'm part of this state as much as President Putin but I
don't have to run for Presidency in Russia to feel good about myself. I
already completed more than many people could have dreamed of...

Attard:

Indeed.

Kasparov:

But I think that my presence could make some difference and that's
what I always believed in my life. I have some strategical vision,
I could calculate some, few moves ahead and I have an intellect
that is badly missed in the country which is run by generals and
colonels and also I hope that my presence will help people to get
united. It's more of fighting for restoration of democracy rather
than campaigning for any high office and I don't have any insurance
that it will succeed. I think our chances are not looking great today
but the only way to fail for me is just not to try.

Attard:

Now it has been written of you by one particular chess writer that you
don't kindly to people who waste your time or say things that don't
make any sense, now I can imagine how true that would be of you in
a chess sense and I'm wondering how that's going to transpose into a
political sense in Russia. We see news footage this week of Vladimir
Jirinovski, the ultranationalist in the Duma, the Russian Parliament
in a fist cuff fight with other parliamentarians. Now that doesn't
seem to me to be something that you would tolerate very easily. Am
I wrong in saying that?

Kasparov:

I don't think that any scenes of Russian Parliament is a
reflection of Russian political life. Jirinovski is the best-paid
clown. All responsible to KGB and the man who he fought with belongs
probably to another faction of the same organisation. It's another
ultranationalist. So Russian Parliament today is a bunch of puppets
that just fall in with the instructions from Kremlin. The real
political life in Russia unfortunately is not in the parliament but
on the streets and in the media. So that's why today the only way
to restore democracy in Russia is to make sure that people could
influence the decisions of the parliament and Kremlin. Otherwise the
Russian political life will be reduced to the clowns fighting in the
parliament premises.

Attard:

Now you haven't ruled out taking a crack at the Presidency yourself
in 2008. Can you see yourself running for president?

Kasparov:

I'm not looking that many moves ahead. I believe that we need
a healthier position first. It's about stopping the bleeding. The
country is not yet ready to start a new campaign for presidential
elections because first we have to make sure that we have this
mechanism restored and we have election that looks like elections
not just appointment of the Kremlin candidate.

Attard:

What sort of democracy do you think Russians want? Do they want
democracy American style or British style? What do they want do
you think?

Kasparov:

I don't know. Unfortunately last few years and last two elections,
2000 and 2004 the opinion of Russian public was not asked properly
and I think it's probably premature to judge the form of Russian
democracy. I would rather to say it should look like French democracy
in a presidential republic with a really strong parliament rather than
British or German type. But Russians are dreaming about better living,
about the quality of the living standards, the economical hardship
and the fact that country's getting richer with these high oil prices
the living standards are deteriorating across our land. Those issues
are far more important for ordinary man than the structure of the
political system.

Attard:

Yes I was going to ask you because I've just returned from a year
or so in Moscow and it seemed to me that a lot of Russians see wild
capitalism and democracy as being essentially the same thing. Is that
the way, do you think that's the correct observation?

Kasparov:

I think Russians today have a distorted picture of capitalism,
liberal democracy and market economy. The only way to experience them
was just to go through the system that was created by Yeltsin and
enhanced by Putin and it's not capitalism, it's not liberal democracy,
it's not market economy, it's state monopoly and it's, there is no
free competition and most important elements of free market are not
installed in Russia. Virtually you can't see the boundaries between
the business and the government. No one knows where the business ends
and the government begins and vice versa and I think that it should
take some time before Russian people could recognise the virtues of
liberal democracy and market economy but we need first to make sure
that political system will be based on those principles.

Attard:

Do you think that recent events in the former soviet states of Ukraine,
Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, the displays of people power are having any
impact inside Russia itself?

Kasparov:

I don't know about Kyrgyzstan but definitely Ukraine had quite serious
impact on the many Russians. They could see that ordinary people in
Ukraine which is a bordering state, very close to Russia, the people
of this state are, they didn't want to tolerate anymore the power
abuse by Ukrainian officials and they not only protested but they
were successful and I think people in Russia are slowly recognising
the power of the protest, the power of the street manifestations,
the power of unity and they also recognise that at a certain point
the government could crack under this pressure.

Attard:

But they've had that experience before have they not? They've
experienced people power. They came out onto the streets in tens of
hundreds of thousands during the reign of Mikhail Gorbachev and at
the end they got Boris Yeltsin. Do you think they still believe in
the notion of people power?

Kasparov:

Yes but probably it's a demonstration of people power, they got Boris
Yeltsin, the man they wanted. It's just another story how these men run
the country but one could argue that first couple of years were quite
successful but the net result was that they removed communist leaders
and replaced them by a man who was popularly elected. I think it's a
long but steady somehow painful educational process. I think Russian
people are learning that democracy is not an alien thing; it's not
a western invention. It's probably the most affordable mechanism to
solve problems inside the country, inside the society because Putin
proved to all of us that democracy has a world of alternatives,
security forces and police and power abuse and that's why I think
eventually the people of Russia will embrace democracy as the least
costly institution to help them to solve their daily problems.

Attard:

Now you say that you want to see Russia join Europe. Do you think
that the Russians will embrace that as well?

Kasparov:

If majority of my compatriots could see economical benefit of joining
Europe it will happen. So far it's very hard to prove that joining
Europe or joining any other international organisation could change
their lives for better and that's why we have to make sure that they
just recognise the values of liberal democracy and market economy
first.

Attard:

Now it's been 15 years since the collapse of Soviet communism. To
what extent do you think Soviet reality still dominates Russia?

Kasparov:

Unfortunately we can't write them off. Some of the myth of the Soviet
time are still dominating the minds or many Russians. Now with the
60th anniversary of D Day Putin's government is trying to restore the
positive image of Stalin and they all try, they're trying to play with
this nostalgia of the time when the Soviet Union was one of the two
superpowers and the country looked very very strong and unfortunately
many people they tend to believe that there were many good things
that were lost in the past while disregarding the terrible crimes
committed by the Soviet regime. I think it will disappear with the
new generation coming into the political scene in Russia but first we
have to stop the propaganda, the shameful propaganda used by Kremlin
to rehabilitate these old types.

Attard:

Can I ask you, at a personal level: Have you always been interested
in politics?

Kasparov:

As a professional chess player in a communist country I was involved in
this political turbulence from early days because chess in the Soviet
Union was a very important ideological tool to parade the superiority
of the communist regime over the decadent west and that's why I learnt
that political factors, they're very important in the decision making
process in the chess world and as a chess player who could analyse
the reality that surrounded me I could make my own conclusions and it
didn't take long to recognise the shortcomings of the Soviet regime
and to see the values of the free world. And it was inevitable for
me to step into the political fight after playing these long endless
matches with Anatoli Karpov who was my greatest rival and also darling
of the system and I learned that fighting on the chess board could
also have an impact on the political climate in the country because
for many Soviet citizens in mid 80's the Kasparov-Karpov matches were
sort of a symbol of fight between new and old.

Attard:

Did you ever make peace with Karpov?

Kasparov:

We have reasonable relations as two professional players but our
political views are very different. Karpov was Communist Russian
Nationalist and I belonged to an opposite part of political spectrum.

Attard:

So you still haven't found, you never had a common language and you
still don't have one with him?

Kasparov:

No, we speak Russian both. That's our common language; I don't think
we have anything else in common.

Attard:

Garry Kasparov, you won't miss chess?

Kasparov:

I don't know. I don't want to give an answer that I'm sorry in
a few months or a few years time. It's quite difficult for me to
imagine my life without chess. So I didn't stop analysing games and
following games of my colleagues or ex-colleagues now or working on
my chess books and I hope that while I continue working on my great
predecessors this is the long series and I completed four volumes
now. Volumes five and six are on the way. I will be keeping my ties
with this game and I may play some exhibition games so I don't want
to quit the game of chess completely. I just decided and it's a firm
decision not to play competitive chess anymore.

Attard:

Because you have said that your mental powers were waning and that's
one of the reasons that you gave up.

Kasparov:

'Mental power waning?' Maybe you're right but I'm still number one and
I just recently won a major tournament ahead of my toughest rivals so
I think I had a few years ahead of me if I decided to stay. You know
people say 3, 4, 5 years but definitely 2 or 3 to play as successfully
as I played before. It was not about losing my mental power; it's
about not feeling good about my contribution to the game. I reached
more than I could have imagined in the game of chess and playing a
few years, winning a few more tournaments wouldn't add anything to
my own self-satisfaction. I sense that my energy, my experience could
be used somewhere else.

Attard:

Well good luck. Garry Kasparov I thank you very very much for your
time this evening.

Kasparov:

Well thanks for having me.

Conclusion:

And that was Garry Kasparov the one-time world chess master who's
left the game to take on President Vladimir Putin and that ends Sunday
Profile for this week. Thanks for listening and thanks also to Jennifer
Feller the producer and to Dan Driscoll for technical support. I'm
Monica Attard we're back next week so join me then. Coming up next:
Speaking Out.

Last Updated: 3/04/2005 9:36:00 PM AEST

--Boundary_(ID_TdTEjo9Xz2o/T9HEp0a4pw)--