Kasparov: McCain strikes fear into Putinists
Alexey SAZONOV/AFP/Getty Images Russian chessmaster turned opposition leader (and FP contributor) Garry Kasparov doesn’t seem too broken up about Dmitry Medvedev’s landslide election victory in his latest Wall Street Journal column, but then again, his attention may have been elsewhere: It is election season again and the interest of the Russian people in the candidates ...
Alexey SAZONOV/AFP/Getty Images
Russian chessmaster turned opposition leader (and FP contributor) Garry Kasparov doesn’t seem too broken up about Dmitry Medvedev’s landslide election victory in his latest Wall Street Journal column, but then again, his attention may have been elsewhere:
It is election season again and the interest of the Russian people in the candidates has been high. There has been regular TV coverage, including debates. There is a tangible atmosphere of impending change. The election to which I’m referring is the U.S. presidential race. There is far more curiosity here in the Hillary/Obama debates than in the shuffling that is taking place in the Kremlin.
Kasparov laments that Russia has fallen off the radar screen in American politics and that none of the candidates are calling to eject Russia’s government from the G7. He also makes his candidate preferences pretty clear:
The Russian ruling elite is rooting for Hillary Clinton, who represents a known and predictable entity compared to Barack Obama. John McCain has been outspoken on behalf of democratic rights abroad, including Russia. Regardless of the doubts about Mr. McCain’s conservative credentials at home, the thought of him in the White House strikes fear into authoritarian leaders everywhere.
Given Kasparov’s overall political leanings, it’s not shocking that he’s a McCain man. The senator from Arizona has indeed been strident in criticizing Medvedev’s coronation as a “tragedy of history.” But Kasparov’s assertion that Clinton is somehow the Kremlin’s pick is a little bizarre. If anything, Clinton has gone somewhat overboard in attacking Russia on the campaign trail, saying that Vladimir Putin “doesn’t have a soul” and immediately dismissing his successor as a puppet before completely mangling his name. Kasparov seems unsure about Barack Obama — who also talks a big game on Russia — describing him as an “unknown quantity.”
Personally, I’m inclined to put this one in the “things that won’t change” category. The Russian menace plays well on the campaign trail, but the two countries have enough issues of mutual concern that the next U.S. president will have to deal with Medvedev and Putin, even while lamenting Russia’s democratic backsliding. I can’t see any of the current candidates disturbing the status quo to create the kind of change Kasparov is hoping for.
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
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