‘Winter is here’: Chess champion Kasparov warns war in Ukraine is a test for democracies


FULTON, Mo. — The invasion of Ukraine has awakened free nations to the threat posed by Russia and Vladimir Putin, but whether they will maintain that resistance to dictators is an open question, the former champion of the country said Friday. chess world Garry Kasparov during a speech at Westminster College. .

On the Missouri campus where Winston Churchill warned in 1946 that the Soviet Union was consolidating its hold on Eastern Europe behind an “iron curtain,” Kasparov said it was time again to confront the evil of authoritarianism.

Churchill’s speech, “The Sinews of Peace,” helped inspire President Harry Truman’s policies of containment and the creation of NATO. Kasparov, a longtime critic of Putin, said a “grand alliance” of democracies can show dictators that freedom, not profits, will define their future relationship.

In 2015, Kasparov wrote a book called “Winter is Coming” warning that the weak international response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea would embolden Putin.

“Today there is a clear and present danger,” Kasparov said. “Winter has arrived. It is still unclear if the free world is willing and able to meet this challenge.

Kasparov, who left Russia in 2013 as his political activity made life there increasingly uncertain, made the remarks while giving the Enid and R. Crosby Kemper lecture at the Westminster-sponsored 39th International Churchill Lecture. He gave his half-hour speech in the restored church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, which was bombed in London by the Nazis during World War II and moved to Fulton to house the National Churchill Museum.

Garry Kasparov delivers a speech on the aftermath of Putin’s aggression against Ukraine Friday, Oct. 7, 2022 inside St. Mary’s Aldermanbury at the National Churchill Museum at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. Madeline Carter/Missouri Independent

At the start of his speech, Kasparov recognized other dissidents accompanying him who are fighting for freedom in their home countries, including Syria, Venezuela and Iran.

In Iran, women have taken to the streets to protest against strict Islamic controls on their lives.

Russians should be on the streets to protest Putin, Kasparov said.

“If only Russian men were as brave as Iranian women,” he said.

Kasparov grew up under communism in the Soviet Union and became the youngest world chess champion in 1985 at the age of 22. He was the highest rated player in the world when he retired in 2005.

He entered politics after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“It was a glorious day, a day of celebration and a huge step forward for global freedom,” Kasparov said. “The problem was the next day.”

Unlike Churchill and President Harry Truman, who brought Churchill to his home country for the 1946 speech, world leaders did not act to preserve the freedom won at the end of the Cold War, he said. he declares.

“In 1991, unlike 1946, we had managers instead of leaders,” Kasparov said.

He’s been warning about Putin’s rise since 2001, Kasparov said. But Western Europe and the United States were more interested in housing, seeking profit from Russia’s revived economy and ignoring growing repression.

In the 1930s, he noted, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler’s peacemakers in Britain and France sought peace at all costs.

“It was a brutal lesson to learn how high that cost was,” Kasparov said.

Now, he said, Ukraine is paying the price for appeasement of Putin.

“Ukrainians have reminded us of what it is like to fight for your land, your freedom, your family,” he said.

Speaking to reporters after the speech, Kasparov said the US administrations of both parties were to blame for not being tougher on Putin. But he said President Joe Biden’s administration was doing the right thing to support Ukraine.

He fears former President Donald Trump will win another term in 2024 and back Ukraine. Trump supporters in Congress are voting against aid to Ukraine and his cheerleaders on Fox News, especially Tucker Carlson, are telling Trump supporters that Putin is justified in the war.

Garry Kasparov answered questions from the press outside St. Mary Aldermanbury at the National Churchill Museum at Westminster College in Fulton. Madeline Carter/Missouri Independent

“I couldn’t believe I would hear Russian propaganda speeches on American television,” Kasparov said. “I’m still waiting for the real supporters of Ronald Reagan to take over their party.”

Kasparov joins a distinguished list of international leaders who have used Westminster as a place to honor Churchill, including Reagan, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and former Polish President Lech Walesa.

Kasparov paid tribute to Churchill in the title of his speech, calling him “The New Sinew of Peace”, and made several references to the inspirational British warlord.

Few outside and many inside, Britain held out hope of a victory over Hitler after the defeat of France in 1940. But Churchill rallied his nation and resisted until that the Soviet Union and the United States are drawn into the war.

On June 4, 1940, in a speech to Parliament, Churchill promised that “we will defend our island, whatever the cost”.

In February, when Russia invaded Ukraine, many expected a quick defeat, and the United States offered to transport President Volodymyr Zelensky to safety. Zelensky gave the modern equivalent of Churchill’s words, Kasparov said.

“The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a round,” Zelensky told the US, according to the embassy in Kyiv.

Churchill’s great-grandson Jack Churchill, who attended the speech, said he ‘100 per cent’ agreed with Kasparov on the need to confront Putin and for democracies to band together as they did did after the 1946 speech.

“I am very proud that my great-grandfather is an inspiration to the next generation of people fighting for freedom and democracy,” Churchill said.

It is vital that the United States does not diminish its support for Ukraine, Kasparov said in his speech. The United States, “the arsenal of democracy” during World War II, assumed this role for Ukraine.

“An America that does not stand up for freedom everywhere will see decay at home, a process that is already underway,” Kasparov said.

Weapons provided as aid and the additional costs to consumers because the war has disrupted energy supplies are a godsend, Kasparov said.

“Who are we to complain about the price of gasoline,” he said, “while Ukrainians are paying in blood for our sins?”

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