Wednesday, I went to see former Chess World Champion and current Russian Human Rights Champion Garri Kasparov receive the grandly named Herbert Pundik Freedom Prize. Kasparov proved to be a fairly eloquent speaker, and he managed to summarize the enlightenment ideal of Human Rights very precisely, and underline its importance once more.
What surprised me though, was the tenacity with which he attacked not only the current Russian government, but in fact the whole mindset of the new Russian autocrat ruling class. Basically, he argued that they’re milking the country, the oil, the gas, whatever they can get, for all that it’s worth, pulling that money out of Russia and reinvesting it in Europe, constantly looking to the day when they will be recognized for what they are and ousted from power.
Kasparov claims that the Russia of today has no coherent policy internally or globally apart from creating the best possible terms for making money. “Money, not power is Putin’s agenda.”
I’ve read a bit about how Noreena Hertz has described the capitalization of Russia, and that was fairly shocking in its own right. And while things have stabilized politically, they certainly haven’t improved socially or economically for the majority of the Russian people.
Indeed, Kasparov claimed that if new democratic reform doesn’t come to Russia within the next 5 or 6 years, the whole country is going to implode, as Putin continues to dismantle the Russian state and its services, including its army.
In short, Kasparov is trying to educate the Russian people on the principles of western, liberal democracy, to which they have been unaccustomed. And he would very much like the Western countries to stay out of his way. The best they can do is to acknowledge his efforts, and not acknowledge Putin as an equal as they have done by inviting him to the G7.. er… G8 summits.
Whatever the outcome of Kasparov’s struggle, it will be interesting times in Russia in the coming years.