In an interview with FOX News' James Rosen, Russian chess legend Garry Kasparov expressed his desire to “restore the culture of debate in Russian society.” The following is a transcript of that interview:
FOX News' James Rosen: Thank you very much for your time today. It is real honor for me to even meet you. My father taught me how to play chess by recreating your games with Karpov as they appeared —
Garry Kasparov: Wow.
Rosen: — in the New York Times. So we were big fans. Okay. I've heard what you've had to say here and elsewhere about cautioning us about using these terms, "elections" and "candidate" and "running." Is it more accurate in your mind, then, to say that what you will be doing between now and March is appearing in an advertising campaign for the virtues of democracy?
Kasparov: Absolutely. We are promoting the virtues of democracy. We're trying to sort of recreate the values of democracy in the minds of Russians. We're trying to show them the alternative. We'll try to create an alternative forum, some sort of "parliament," quote-unquote, where different views can be heard. We are fighting the motto of Putin's puppet Duma, where the speaker publicly said, Boris Gryzlov, that "Parliament is no place for discussions." So we need to restore the culture of debate in Russian society. We have to bring different groups together to demonstrate that it's time not to fight each other but to fight for the values of democracy, for the society where we can debate each other, and using not force but words.
Rosen: Since you will be estranged from the formal process of elections, do you plan to use any rather unconventional modes of communication, advertising — and sort of fight what you see as a corrupt system by going outside the system in some creative ways?
Kasparov: Oh, absolutely. We believe that —
Rosen: What will you do?
Kasparov: We believe we have to go outside the system and creating this alternative forum is one of the main ideas. Because recent Kremlin's actions expelled from political process not only the radical opposition but even those who are not 100 percent loyal to Kremlin. So probably 80 to 90 percent of the political groups in Russia no longer have a voice.
Rosen: But what will you do to be creative, and to draw attention, and to communicate in a new way?
Kasparov: Again, here is this — we have to use all the means that are available. So obviously we use Internet, we use mobile phones. But we have to recognize that people are listening to the alternative message. They're ready to listen to the opposition when they feel that the situation is terrible and they can no longer tolerate it. It's not yet happening in Russia, but I believe that this crisis, the overall crisis, is not far from now and we think that, to avoid a collapse of our country, we must create an alternative and to be ready for the moment when this regime will be no longer able to control the country. And for us, the political season does not end on December 2nd, 2007, when the so-called official parliamentary election is held; or on the March 2nd, 2008, the official date of presidential elections. We believe this fight will go for longer, some say much longer; some think it's a short period. But it's like a long-distance run. But sometimes — you know, we should remember, that somehow, in the middle of this run, we can be told that it's a 100-yards rush. So we have to be ready for the regime to be on the verge of collapse because it's so corrupt and so inefficient that it's bringing the country to a disaster.
Rosen: John Lennon and Yoko Ono used to try to make their points for peace in very unusual ways, just to draw attention, and to use their fame. So they would show up dressed in an actual paper bag and you couldn't see them, and things like that. That's what I was referring to with unusual theater and communications techniques.
Kasparov: Yeah, but, they — but Lennon and Yoko Ono, they live in a free world. So they could use different forms of expression, because they knew the press would follow them, and will communicate this message, will present this message in public. In Russia, we're dealing with a regime that understands that tight control of media is one of the key conditions of their survival.
Rosen: I have a lot I want to cover with you; I suspect I'm not going to get to it all. Let's talk — you've recently written a book, published a book.
Rosen: This is your first book?
Kasparov: No, I had many books, but this is the — you may call it the first mainstream book. Because it is not about chess, although the title is How Life Imitates Chess. But it's about decision-making. It's about tools that chess gave me to analyze my own decision-making process, and I'm sharing my own experiences as a decision-maker with the general public.
Rosen: Your style of chess has always been described as very aggressive and sometimes reckless. Why shouldn't the people of Russia believe that if, on some off-chance you were actually allowed to participate in a real election and you became the president of Russia, you wouldn't also govern in an overly aggressive and sometimes reckless way?
Kasparov: Look, they — I hope they will have a choice one day to reject my candidacy and that's what I'm telling all my critics in Russia. The day the Russian people have a chance to say "no" to Garry Kasparov that will be a big victory for us.
Rosen: I understand what you're saying.
Kasparov: Yeah, yeah.
Rosen: But assuming that came to be, why shouldn't we believe that life does imitate chess, and that you might behave recklessly and aggressively, instead of —
Kasparov: Yeah, I — yeah, look, I, I, uh, think, you know, there, there are many oversimplifications regarding my playing style and my, um, um, uh, "arrogance" at the chess board. I did what I knew best because it worked for me. But I could be very defensive. I could play very quiet positions. But the attacking element was the strongest part of my game. But in my book, I'm not arguing for everybody to follow the same path. It's about analyzing yourself. It's about your own mode of decision-making. Some people are much better in being aggressive. Like, you know, you have tennis players that have a very powerful serve and then rush to the net, but you have great players playing from the back line; both could be number one. It's about analyzing your own decision-making mechanism. And I knew, and I, I'm promoting this message that the most important quality is to be objective. You have to be objective about your own strengths and weaknesses. You have to be objective in evaluating your opponent. And you have to be objective of — in evaluating the position. If position demands you to be very quiet, very cautious, you must do it. And I never went against the demands of the position. So that's why I believe I, I know how to apply my chess expertise and my ability to adjust to different situations, to the current needs of my state.
Rosen: OK. We'll do some speed chess right now, and some last few questions —
Kasparov: [Snaps fingers] Okay!
Rosen: — because I know there are other journalists waiting to interview you. You fault the G-7 for according legitimacy to Putin.
Rosen: But aren't there some legitimate reasons for doing so — for example, the desire to cooperate with Putin in order to deny Iran a nuclear weapon? And isn't it the case that probably the United States is elevating that goal over the goal of letting reform proceed in Russia?
Kasparov: Did it help? The question is, if you, if you apply certain strategy, you have to look at the results. So the results of sort of engaging Putin into the process of negotiation and reducing the threat of Iran getting nuclear, or reducing tension in the Middle East, failed. Putin actually used it for his own benefits. Because his membership in G-7 — which is now, might be mistakenly called G-8, because G-7 stood for seven great industrial democracies, and Russia is definitely not a democracy, and you can doubt whether it's an industrial power — his membership added him a lot of legacy inside Russia, and of course outside of Russia. And I don't think that America and Americans' European allies received something even, some equivalent to this contribution to Putin's legacy.
Rosen: This is a personal question. I was surprised, in reading about you, to learn that Kasparov is not your birth name. And I first want to ask you: Do you identify yourself, do you think of yourself, as a Jew?
Kasparov: No; I'm Russian. My father was a Jew. My mother was an Armenian. But I was born in Baku. It's a multi-ethnic community; it's like melting pot, like New York, and I —
Rosen: But religiously —
Rosen: — what is your religion? No?
Kasparov: No. I, I would call myself a Christian, you know, sort of self-appointed Christian. But I, I'm very indifferent to that.
Rosen: Now you said earlier today that there is a dangerous misconception that the Russian people are too immature for democracy. But are there not some national characteristics of the Russian people that inhibit them from making strides toward democracy, and that cannot be blamed exclusively on Putin, such as continuing anti-Semitism?
Kasparov: I think that trying to find natural characteristics that might inhibit the nation from joining democratic club could lead us nowhere. I'm sure if, if, if the same characteristic were applied in 1945, Germany and Japan would never, would never make it to the club of the democratic nations. As for anti-Semitism, I think that Germany or Austria, and even France, they could easily compete with Russia on this very sad, sad record. I also think that the current history of democratic development on the global scale proves that there are no nations that are immune from democracy or nations that are doomed to stay under dictatorships. Korea: the same country, divided by two. One is the most brutal dictatorship, another one is flourishing democracy and market economy. China! You have China and Taiwan. So, in my view, you know, if you look around, so — we understand that it's not about traditions. It's about the willingness of the ruling elite and also the international situation and pressure that helps countries and nations move in the right direction.
Rosen: Very quickly, last two; let's make it brief. Number one: Is there something about immersion in chess, at the level that you got immersed in it, that warps you, or warps your personality, so that even every person that approaches you, you start thinking in some sort of 3-D conceptual chess model, or — ?
Kasparov: No, no. I use my chess knowledge and chess expertise only to analyze the situation and I, I do it very impartially. So I'm not haunted by the images of the chess pieces.
Rosen: And lastly: Do you regret, just for the sake of the historical record, that you never got a chance to play and defeat Bobby Fischer?
Kasparov: [Shrugs] Look, I, I belonged to a different chess epoch. Yes, I wish we could have played with Fischer, but I had many other great players of the past like Casablanca or Lasker that I would love, I would love to, to, to face. but I knew it would be impossible. And I — as much as I regretted Fischer dropping chess too early, I didn't think that it, it jeopardized my career at any moment of, the fact that I never met and played Fischer.
Rosen: Do you regard that you are the greatest player in the history of the game?
Kasparov: I, I don't want to make statements about greatest players in the history of chess. Because every world champion was a leader of his generation. And I did my utmost for staying on top for almost twenty years. But comparing me to Fischer would be unfair because we never met. Also comparing us to players, great players of the nineteenth century would be unfair because they learned in a different environment. Could you say that Einstein was a better physician than, ah, ah —
Kasparov: Could you say that Einstein was a better physicist than Newton because he knew much more than Newton or others that worked a hundred years before him? So I think it's, it's not fair to engage great players in sort of such a competitive scale.
Rosen: But you would've beat him! Let's be frank! C'mon!
Kasparov: [Shrugs] I don't know. This is, this —
Rosen: [Laughs] All right. You're a very good sport, as always.
Kasparov: Okay, thank you. [shaking hands]
Rosen: Thank you very much. I enjoyed this.
Kasparov: Thank you.