Monday, November 15, 2004

Putin Said to Be Marching Toward a Dictatorship

Former Russian Chess Champ Kasparov Tells West Not to Ignore Putin’s “March to Dictatorship”
Created: 11.11.2004 14:41 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 14:41 MSK

Under President Vladimir Putin Russia is going to turn into an authoritarian state, ex-world chess champion Garry Kasparov said on Thursday.

In his article entitled “Putin’s Appeasers” published in The Wall Street Journal, he calls on Western countries not to ignore Putin’s “march to dictatorship”.

“The costs of this change for the Russian people and the world are high and getting higher. Not only are there real costs in security terms, but by failing to stand up for democratic values in Russia, the Bush administration gravely weakens its moral authority, opens itself up to charges of hypocrisy as it tries to make the case for building democracy in the Middle East,” Kasparov wrote.

He compared the relationship between the West and Russia with the situation in Adolf Hitler’s Germany quoting Neville Chamberlain’s remark that he could “do business” with Hitler. “From World War II to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and the ethnic cleansing of Slobodan Milosevic, history is full of examples of the West ignoring signs of impending explosion,” Kasparov wrote. He added that a possible meeting of G7 in Moscow in 2006 which will mean Russia’s full integration “will be worse than having the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936”.

Kasparov also compares Putin’s regime with Stalin’s. “The language used by the current Kremlin regime has not been heard in Russia since Stalin. Official talk of foreign meddlers and fifth columnists will send chills down the spine of any student of history. If this familiar train continues to run on schedule we can expect violent repression and purges next.”

The chess player and the chairman of the liberal Committee 2008: Free Choice said that Putin had started the second campaign in Chechnya, took over various media, put businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky in jail for having “resisted the Kremlin’s intimidation”, and “presided over rampant electoral fraud”. Kasparov also recalled Putin’s recent political reforms that will cancel elections for governors and give the president the power to dissolve regional parliaments.

“There is also a pending amendment that will allow the Kremlin to exercise direct control over the appointment of judges across the country. For several years Russia has been a democracy in name only; now it will cease to be even that,” he wrote.

“It is now clear,” Kasparov said, “that (Putin) will not step down voluntarily. When his regime ends it will end in bloodshed. Western leaders are hoping that their successors will be stuck with the bill. How much are we willing to pay?”