In the world of chess, Garry Kasparov is a legend. He was the highest-rated player in the world for over two decades and is widely considered one of the greatest chess players of all time. In recent years, however, Kasparov has turned his attention to politics and has become a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. I’ve seen him on a plethora of stages, including at SXSW and TED. His razor-sharp analysis of a conflict that is very close to his heart is mind-boggling.
In a 2013 op-ed for the New York Times, Kasparov wrote about the situation in Ukraine and warned that “winter is coming” for Putin’s regime. He argued that the political situation in Ukraine was a sign of things to come for Russia and that the Russian people should be prepared for a long, difficult struggle.
Kasparov’s warning proved to be prescient. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea and tensions between Russia and Ukraine have continued to escalate. The conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has been ongoing since 2014, has claimed the lives of thousands of people and has displaced millions more.
2015 “Winter is coming”: the book
In his 2015 book “Winter is Coming,” Garry Kasparov explores the geopolitical landscape of the early 21st century and warns of the dangers of Russian aggression. With the ongoing war in Ukraine serving as a prime example, Kasparov argues that the West must take a firm stance against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his efforts to expand his country’s influence at the expense of its neighbors.
Kasparov begins by tracing the rise of Putin, who came to power in 1999 and quickly consolidated his control over Russia’s government, media, and economy. Through a series of increasingly authoritarian measures, Putin has worked to suppress opposition and maintain his grip on power, even as the Russian economy has struggled and the country has faced international isolation.
Despite these challenges, Putin has continued to pursue a foreign policy aimed at expanding Russian influence abroad. In 2014, this policy led to the annexation of Crimea and the ongoing war in Ukraine, as Russian-backed separatists have seized control of large parts of the country.
For Kasparov, the situation in Ukraine serves as a cautionary tale for the West. In the face of Russian aggression, he argues, the international community must take a strong stance and make it clear that such actions will not be tolerated. This means providing military and economic support to Ukraine, as well as imposing economic sanctions on Russia.
Europe: defend yourself
At the same time, Kasparov emphasizes the need for the West to take a more proactive approach to defending its own interests. This includes strengthening NATO and other military alliances, as well as investing in its own defense capabilities. By doing so, he argues, the West can help deter further Russian aggression and protect itself from future threats.
In the end, Kasparov’s book could have served as a warning about the dangers of Russian expansionism and the need for the West to take a strong stance in defense of its own interests, and that of its allies. But once again, we seem to have been blind for all the carefully laid out arguments.
As the situation in Ukraine continues to unfold, and the harshness of a war in winter becomes reality for the Ukrainian people, Kasparov’s prophetic words will likely continue to resonate with everyone concerned about the future of international relations and the potential for even further conflict.
Why do we not listen? Why do we not learn?