Winter Is Coming

Winter is ComingWhy Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped.

By Garry Kasparov

With the crazy state of the world today, I just haven’t felt like reading fiction. Craving news of Russia, as per usual, I gravitated toward this book, Winter Is Coming, by the famous Russian chess champion, Garry Kasparov.

After my very brief time in Russia in my twenties, I have always wondered: should I have stayed? Should I have tried to learn Russian really well and started some kind of business in Russia? My employer at the time had encouraged me to start a business tourism venture, where I would bring Moscow businessmen to the town of Vladimir. The idea was that I would promote the arts and culture of Vladimir to American businessmen or expats.

Even in my twenties with the huge sense of adventure I had back then, I didn’t think this was wise. I kept meeting people who didn’t seem quite trustworthy and with my language skills at only a low intermediate level, I was sure I was missing a lot of what was going on around me.

Mr. Kasparov seems to have confirmed my doubts in his book Winter Is Coming. I very likely would have gotten into trouble of some sort.

Since the recent Russian clashes with Georgia and Ukraine and the resulting territory grabs, I’ve been wondering as have others, just what is Mr. Putin up to?

Kasparov claims Putin is probably the richest man in the world. That by itself makes him interesting, especially given his roots growing up in poverty in Leningrad. Rags to riches stories are always interesting.

Kasparov’s disappointment with the West’s seeming lack of interest in the loss of civil liberties in Russia is apparent. We should step up and do more.

I was hoping for more info on Putin in this book, but instead I got a fair bit of lecturing by someone who understandably is quite emotional on the topic.

The text of the title Winter Is Coming suggests that something will happen and that the author will make some predictions based on some facts. The basic prediction was: Putin is bad. Watch out!

Ok, that’s fair, I suppose. But where will he strike next? What are his real aspirations? How likely is he to succeed? And what about the recent drop in oil prices? How is that affecting him? How strictly are the citizens of Russia watched now? With all the technology for eavesdropping have their lives turned into a version of 1984?

So while Winter Is Coming is an interesting book for someone way out of touch with current events in Russia, it didn’t fulfill the promise of its title. And the subhead: “Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped”—well, that’s a no brainer.  Of course enemies must be stopped. But how? And when? And is Vladimir Putin really an enemy of the free world, or just self-interested?  Who are all these enemies and are they colluding? Is there an organized conspiracy? What’s Russia doing with Syria? What’s the connection there? Oil?

There are soooo many unanswered questions.

I don’t expect fortune telling, but I was in the mood for some speculation.

Dan Carlin recently produced a podcast where he talked about Russia’s recent aggressions in Ukraine and speculated on the likelihood of the West standing up for one of the Baltic states if it were invaded by Russia. The question he posed was would we engage in World War III or would we turn a blind eye and ignore the aggression. And would Putin push his luck and try it?

I think Kasparov is answering this question in his book. Yes, Putin would try it and now is the time to stop him.

So all this makes Putin even more interesting. If Putin is the richest man in the world and he is already leading a superpower like Russia, what motivates a man to keep going? I mean, isn’t that enough? Why endeavor to enlarge an empire? What’s the motivation? Why doesn’t he rest on his laurels and enjoy the perks of his power?

Now I have to know more.

I hope that Winter is not coming, but I sense that it is. The world is a messy place and humans have a long history of violence. The horrors of World Wars I and II have been forgotten and U.S. citizens are lulled into a stupor by too much work, too many things, too much sugar, and too much television. Obviously many of us are completely ignorant of history—a fact made painfully evident by the popularity of a man like Donald Trump for president.

Ask Shakeel!

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