Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are involved in something of a bromance. Putin has praised Trump; Trump has praised him back. “I’ve always felt fine about Putin,” says Trump. No doubt. That is one statement out of Trump you can trust.
It was pointed out to Trump that Putin has killed people who have dared challenge him. Trump answered, “I think our country does plenty of killing also.” This is the moral equivalence — a false moral equivalence — that Republicans always decried. Indeed, it is one of the reasons I rejected the Left, long ago, when I was in college.
Now the GOP, of course, is nominating this view. For president.
Garry Kasparov is of a completely different cast of mind. He is the great chess champion, as you know, and the great champion of freedom, human rights, and democracy. Ronald Reagan meant the world to him, and to many others behind the Iron Curtain.
Kasparov is the chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, based in New York. Earlier this week, he was at the Oslo Freedom Forum, in Norway. I sat down with him there for a podcast, a Q&A: here.
We talk about Trump. And Putin. And the Kremlin’s murder victims — who include some of the best people of our time: Boris Nemtsov, most prominently. Putin and his gang are now trying to destroy the life and reputation of one of the greatest dissidents to come out of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Bukovsky.
FSB, KGB, MGB, NKVD, MVD – call it what you will, they’re all Chekists. The initials change, the work goes on. (One thing I admire about Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus, is that he keeps his secret police the “KGB” — clean and clear. No BS.)
Another attendee at the Freedom Forum was Vladimir Kara-Murza, the head of Open Russia, and a onetime lieutenant to Nemtsov. Last year, Kara-Murza was poisoned, à la Litvinenko. He fell into a coma. Unlike Litvinenko, he did not die. He woke up to continue his work for freedom. How much more time does he have? Lots, I hope. One hoped the same for Nemtsov.
In addition to talking about Russia, Kasparov and I talk about America: about what this nation has meant, and how it is changing. Appeasement costs lives, says Kasparov. A firm defense of freedom saves them. Elementary lessons have to be relearned and relearned, as the generations unfold.
Kasparov’s new book is called “Winter Is Coming.” But human beings have a choice, says the author — and this is especially true of Americans, who have manifold resources: You can try to appease and cajole dictatorships and terror groups, or you can confront them, as Truman, Reagan, and others did in the past. Your choice makes a major difference.
The Republican party ain’t what she used to be. It is Donald Trump’s party now. The presumptive presidential nominee threatens to withdraw from NATO, and to abandon South Korea and Japan. Trump folk may think this is cost-free to America — hurting only Europe, the Koreans, and the Japanese. If their man is elected, they may well learn otherwise.