04 Feb 2005 Gary Kasparov: With Whom Will the West Side?
Russian chess champion Gary Kasparov asks: In the coming battle for freedom within Russia, with whom will the West side?
Here’s part of what he wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
…The Duma recently passed a law that punishes foreigners who “show disrespect to the state of Russia.” Without a pause, the director of the federal agency in charge of the media stated that it’s time to filter Internet content. Criticism of Mr. Putin and his regime simply will not be tolerated. Censorship and repression are threatening to surpass oil and gas as Russia’s biggest exports.
Students and pensioners have recently taken to the wintry streets to protest. In a healthy democracy politicians would step in to lead an angry crowd. Not in Russia, where there’s no political advantage to being against any Kremlin policy, no matter how many voters are against it. The only vote that matters is Mr. Putin’s.
With the democratic opposition systematically pushed into the margins, real change will come from the people, not from the top. We are starting from scratch. In places like Russia liberty is more than a filler for speeches. Democracy is more than something that interrupts your life every four years. People born in free countries think that we are exaggerating the loss of freedoms when in reality things are even worse. You see Mr. Putin sitting at the table with the G7 leaders and assume he can’t really be all that bad.
This is not a plea for help, but a warning about what we’re going to have to deal with soon. The patience of the Russian people is wearing thin. With whom will the West side in this coming battle, the Russian people or the KGB?