"As long as Putin is in power, there will be no peace," said the chess champion

Garry Kasparov is a legend. He is the youngest world chess champion in history. He is described as a genius and the best chess player of all time. He ended his racing career in 2005. He is one of the fiercest critics of Vladimir Putin. He even left Russia because of disagreement with what was happening in the country. Kasparov is a human rights and political activist, regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal. Only in front of Marina Tsekova and for NOVA’s audience Kasparov commented on Putin's actions in Ukraine and the possibility of usage nuclear weapons.

Interviewer: Hello, Mr Kasparov! Thank you very much for taking your time to speak to NOVA’s audience!

Garry Kasparov: Thank you!

Interviewer: First of all, has this world surprised you in any way?

Garry Kasparov: Watching human suffering and the war crimes on that scale is always a surprise. But I was not surprised that Vladimir Putin had started this war because I predicted it years ago. I had no doubt that at one point he would try to solve what he called “Ukrainian problem” because for him, Ukraine was the same as Poland for Stalin. It was an obstacle on the way of his geopolitical ambitions. And Putin never accepted Ukraine as an independent sovereign state. So it was just a matter of time. And his annexation of Crimea in 2014 was a signal that he was looking for a good moment to actually jump and grab the rest of the country. By the way, I bluntly said it in my book “Winter is Coming” which was published in 2015. But for so many years, nobody wanted to hear these warnings, preferring doing business as usual.

Interviewer: What do you mean? Who downplayed the threat? Who did let all that happen?

Garry Kasparov: It's easy to say who didn't because the list is too long. Nobody wanted to recognize the existential threat Putin represents for the free world because it was a lucrative business and we had to give them credit for building the most sophisticated network of agents ever seen in history. This network includes top politicians like Gerhard Schroeder and many other top politicians from Western countries, captains of business. And this network helped him to spread his influence and it created an image of Russia which was far from being true, but helped him to push his grandest agenda without being stopped at the time where we could stop him at rather low cost.

Interviewer: Is there way back? The world is imposing sanctions on Russia, it is trying to isolate Russia or it's not enough?

Garry Kasparov: I could say it is good enough. But first we should recognize whether there's a will to use this war and crimes committed by Putin's troops under his command to get rid of the Russian dictator. Because unlike in chess, this war has no tie. You cannot end up as a tie. Either we win or Putin wins. And as long as Putin stays in power, there will be no peace and we have a unique opportunity now to deliver the deadly blow to put this dictatorship. Of course, it comes at a very high cost. Ukrainian lives being sacrificed as we speak now and it's not only men on the front line - those are women and children who have been bombarded by Putin's air force. So while I'm satisfied with the sanctions imposed on Putin's regime, I'm still not sure that we have political will to finish him off. It's one of the key conditions elements of this war was the isolation, total isolation of Putin's regime from the rest of the world. And we are still seeing these kind of negotiations. Russia is still part of the so called Iranian deal that Americans are so eager to sign. And unless we reach this stall blockade, technological, financial, economic and diplomatic, Putin regime may still survive, which means that they will go back at one point to continue this war and also because вe have to do absolutely everything in our power to support the Ukraine Army that is fighting so heroically. And it's increasing massive damages to Putin's war machine. I can bet you that many of the Western governments now that are just imposing sanctions would go back to negotiating, trying to rescue what was still possible, recognizing another produce Congress saying they did in 2014.

Interviewer: It means that you think NATO should interfere in the war?

Garry Kasparov: It's a tricky question. Nobody asked boots on the ground. What is being asked is to close the skies. And it's as much military as humanitarian duty of NATO now because we know that the control of the skies gives Putin an opportunity to continue. After failing to win war in a few days, he shifted this campaign to the terror. The same had been done in Aleppo. Remember carpet bombing in 2000? I understand the risk of no fly zone that could lead to a confirmation in the skies between NATO and Russian planes, I still think it's not just a moral duty but a logical move now. Yes, I heard President Biden assuring European Nations that it is safe under the American umbrella, that we would fight for each inch of NATO's territory. But after the debacle in Afghanistan and the Americans failure to convince Putin not to attack Ukraine, so many negotiations, summit in Geneva, all the talks and high level visits of American officials to Moscow... So they fail to stop Putin which means that Putin didn't take their words very seriously. So my suggestion is that we have to stop paying attention to what Putin is saying and make sure that the generals and admirals who will have to carry out his criminal orders and would use nuclear weapons will take the risk to see NATO's answer. We are demonstrating weakness as we don't help Ukrainians limit their sky. That's a bad signal. And that means that we will pay a higher price to stop Putin because of his indecisiveness and coverage.

Interviewer: But NATO leaders say that if we close the sky we will start the World War III. Isn’t it a legitimate argument?

Garry Kasparov: This war is already on. Probably they missed this moment imposing these kind of sanctions on Russia. It is a war and Putin is at war. You have to hear what Russia's propaganda has been saying for years - the country is at war not with Ukraine, but with NATO and America. He has been saying it and the goal is not just to subdue Ukraine and to destroy its sovereignty. The goal is to demonstrate to the world that he can do whatever he wants because his crimes are protected by his nuclear weapons. So I don't know how these people can watch the suffering of the Ukrainian leaders and civilians. It's amazing that the most powerful military machine in the history of mankind is now silently watching war crimes on an industrial scale just from the front row. Confrontation is inevitable if Putin wants it. And it's not about Putin's decision to start this confrontation only because he will still have to find Russian pilots that will be willing to sacrifice their lives for his geopolitical apprentices. At the end of the day, it's not Putin who will be in the Russian plane shut down by NATO. I don't believe that the Russian generals, officers and soldiers are willing to die for Putin. Because they were told it would be an easy walk and now they're stuck. And if NATO shows firmness it will be a huge boost for the Ukranians. And also it would be a huge psychological shock for all Russian troops who already are demoralized.  

Watch the full interview with Garry Kasparov for NOVA in the video above.