They’re out there – silently observing the culminating years of their own malignant handiwork, manipulating confederates naively enlisted from within our midst to achieve their ends, busily hatching the chaos of our destruction from beyond the gulf of a single cold ocean they watch – with venomous purpose disciplined by boundless patience they watch, these intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic. Here a senator is compromised, encouraged, threatened, rewarded, there a congressman, there again a colonel or a general. A software company is quietly undermined and lends its name to the fiction that Crimea is part of Russia. Finally the big prize, the presidency of the United States, gained with advantage by the ultimate manipulation, an entire presidential election. The Enemy understands the goal, knows what is required to achieve it, becomes with each pass more sophisticated, more subtle, more forceful, more nuanced – more deadly.
This is the world of duplicity not unlike the one chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov grew up in. It was part of his daily reality in Soviet-era Azerbaijan. Then in 1991 dawned a decade of summer sunshine, a thawing of the cold hand of tyranny. But the malign eggs sown in the bad old soviet times hatched out, and a new tyranny came forth, born in the last century, taking full advantage of the silly human proclivity to bathe the past in hopeful nostalgia. Out of the ashes of tyranny was spawned a new tyrant, one who promised to make Russia great again.
Kasparov survived the new tyrant by dint of his established celebrity as former world chess champion. A little less celebrity and he would have ended his time in prison or worse – a bullet in the back of the brain. He has been and remains a vocal detractor of Vladimir Putin. As a lifelong survivor of tyranny he knows what it looks like, and tyranny seems to follow him wherever he goes. He cannot escape it, beginning in the Soviet Union, then from the Putin era he fled most recently to America to find himself in exile in the United States and in the midst of a new tyranny, his third king’s gambit, if you will. It is perhaps not so much testimony to Kasparov’s bad luck as it is the unerring reality that evil, grasping men will find a way to seize control no matter the circumstances. Kasparov, a man for whom pattern recognition has never been a problem, knows a tyrant when he sees one.
The latest in an endless catalog of quiet Republican surrenders to Putin’s tyranny is their flaccid GOP response to the DETER act, a bipartisan bill that would impose sanctions on Russia if it interferes in the coming 2020 election. Republicans aren’t exactly vocally against it, they’re just not all that interested in doing anything with it. “Donald Trump and his Republican defenders in Congress have followed his lead in declaring war on observed reality,” Kasparov writes. “Critical reports are ‘fake news,’ journalists reporting the facts are ‘enemies of the people,’ a phrase of Vladimir Lenin’s, debunked conspiracy theories are repeated, and public servants testifying under oath about documented events are dismissed as Never Trumpers.”
Kasparov at first saw the internet as an answer to tyranny, but for him it has become a mixed blessing. “The internet was supposed to shine the light of truth into every corner of the world, breaking the authoritarians’ monopoly on information. But it has also become a light-speed delivery system of lies and propaganda. The web has been chopped into pieces. Like a shattered mirror, each fragment reflects a different distorted image instead of a single reality.”
It is the unerring verdict of perhaps the greatest living chess mind that Donald Trump is a tyrant. Kasparov knows that tyrants also wait in the wings to fill gaps in power when that power fades. For now it is enough that we must rid ourselves of Donald Trump, where Kasparov sees Trump as a potential harbinger of a coming deadly Winter. Kasparov knows we must not relax our vigilance once we are rid of Trump. As a grandmaster of a game whose strongest piece is the queen – and sometimes the passed pawn – it is an open question who we will elevate to the highest national trust to lead us out of the mess we are currently in. But not even a brilliant chess mind like Garry Kasparov’s can see that many moves ahead.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.