Former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov has finally answered the question on everybody’s mind: How would President Donald Trump fair against Russian President Vladimir Putin in a game of chess?
“Both of them despise playing by the rules, so it’s who will cheat first,” Kasparov told a reporter in an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast. “But in any game of wits, I would bet on Putin, unfortunately.”
For the past 10 months, Kasparov has analyzed the president’s interactions with Putin, concluding that Trump is playing into the Kremlin’s wants while refusing to understand Putin’s goals. The chess master argues that former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama frequently miscalculated and helped the Russian president expand power, but they at least understood the strategic threat Putin posed—something he believes Trump lacks.
The president, Kasparov argues, operates in “a short-term environment” without “strategical calculations.”
“You can lose the war even if you have [an] overwhelming advantage—militarily, economically, technologically—if you don’t recognize you are at war,” Kasparov added.
Kasparov became the youngest men’s world chess champion at 22, using his stardom to voice support for the fight for reform in the Soviet Union throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s. After retiring from chess, he formed the United Civil Front movement, an opposition coalition in Russia, and attempted to run against Putin’s temporary presidential placeholder, Dmitri Medvedev, in 2008. Kasparov was barred from the ballot by a technicality intended to block opposition leaders, publishing the widely acclaimed Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped in 2015. From his home in New York, Kasparov studies Putin’s relationships with other world leaders, exacerbated by the lack of grand strategy from Western countries.
“We’ve yet to see political leaders who can think beyond their term in the office,” Kasparov concludes. “That’s what strategy means, because in democracy, you have continued [government]. A dictator doesn’t care what happens when he’s gone, so it’s all about survival.”