Grandmaster Lev Alburt: «America does not live up to expectations of Vladimir Putin» continued.

Lev Osipovich Alburt celebrated 70 years in August this year. His life divided into two: the first half took place in the Soviet Union and the second in the United States of America.
In his Ukrainian homeland the Grandmaster from Odessa demonstrated remarkable success by becoming a triple champion. He won prizes in many international competitions and took part in the USSR Championships several times, which was, at that time, the most important tournament in the world. In 1979 left Russia for an overseas trip and never returned. He settled in New York.

On becoming an American, Alburt advanced through the leading U.S. Grandmasters. A thrice winner of the Championship of the United States, he represented America at many Olympiads. Alburt still plays chess and combines a successful coaching career with writing books. They occupy almost entire shelves, devoted to chess, in upscale bookstores in Europe and America.
In addition, Leo Osipovich has dedicated a good portion of his time fighting against Soviet Communism: the first money he earned went to Washington for the 1979 Sakharov Hearing and has, at the every opportunity, provided his Western colleagues with anti-Soviet literature. He participated in various demonstrations and forums, was familiar with Bukovsky and Amalrik, corresponded with Solzhenitsyn and was a member of organizations whose sole objective was geared towards regime change in his homeland.
For him, as for so many, the dramatically accelerated events leading to the collapse of the USSR were wholly unexpected. Today, almost a quarter of a century has passed since this steep turn in history and Lev Alburt remains interested in world politics especially his homeland Russia, its fate, and of course, its present. We thought it might be interesting for our readers to hear the American Grandmaster's point of view on matters that concern him now.

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Today, the American elite are united in their contempt for Russia («regional power», «oil platforms with rockets», etc.) and in their hatred for Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Such unity is extremely unusual in the United States: for example, when President Carter banned the supply of grain to USSR he was harshly criticized by the left and by the right.
Vladimir Putin = KGB; Boris Yeltsin = nomenclature; Andrei Sakharov = Stalin's hydrogen bomb. Officially, it is right; however, distorted by the nuances of current times, all three allegations lead to serious confusion.
In early 1990, Putin began working in the team of the future Leningrad Mayor, Anatoly Sobchak and soon become its first Deputy. Sobchak was then one of the five leaders of the anti-communist, anti-Gorbachev coalition. The fact that Putin and Sobchak, from all the possibilities, chose each other speaks volumes.
Sobchak’s confidence in Putin was fully justified in the days of the August putsch- Putin’s other serious choice. In 1996, Sobchak lost the post of mayor to his former Assistant, Vladimir Yakovlev. Judah Yakovlev's offer for the outraged Putin to stay in position was rejected, and a few months later, he became a member of Yeltsin's administration. A year later, when the criminal case was brought against Sobchak, Putin took his disgraced friend to France (an explicit break with Soviet tradition: 'push the falling').
In 2015, at the anniversary of the Armenian genocide-a «prohibited word» used by Putin even although he knew the Turks, with whom he had just signed several important agreements for Russia, would strongly dislike it. Just as in the case of rescuing Sobchak, Putin did what he felt was right regardless of what the outcome would be.
As President, Putin has managed to prevent the collapse of the country and give the exhausted people a sense of stability and hope for the future. He continues to encourage the development of a market economy and has even introduced 13% income tax, so beloved (and deservedly) by the American «Right». State revenues and the overall economy began to grow quickly (of course, high oil prices have helped).
Despite pervasive propaganda, residents of Russia/USSR always thought well of the West and considered themselves part of it. America was loved. Later, during the years of the USSR collapse, some theories even appeared that explained the similarity between Russians and Americans in nature, geography and history.
Americans, too, loved all that was Russian: literature, chess, ballet, High Summits, joint projects (such as the «Soyuz-Apollo»), teleconferences, and scientific exchanges. Finally freed from communism, Russians quite reasonably expected a blossoming of this Russian-American friendship. Alas, as the threat of nuclear war subsided so most Americans forgot about Russia. In addition, even the left wing was offended: a flight to Moscow ceased to be a journey to the bright Communist future.
In order to please America, Yeltsin's Government abandoned its dubious USSR clients like Cuba and North Korea, and even handed a map to the surprised Americans, detailing where the «bugs» were situated in their Moscow Embassy. Their answer: virtually nothing. A typical example: the Jackson-Vanik Amendment of 1975 related the trade between the United States and the USSR with the emigration from the Soviet Union. In 1992, emigration from Russia was absolutely free, but the United States law during the reign of Bush still remained not amended 10 years later. Russians who held very different views were stunned by the collapse of Yugoslavia, by the applause and help of the West -a clear analogy of the collapse of the Soviet Union. They were also shocked by the strong position of America against Serbia, (Russia's most loyal ally (and United States) in two world wars), because it was not consistent with the interests of the United States.
It is not surprising that the majority of Russians frowned upon America. Putin intended to change this. He believed in the common interests of the two countries and he liked the new United States President, George W. Bush. Putin was first to call Bush on September 11, 2001 and offered no empty words, but something very real and very right: help to «Northern Alliance» to defeat the Taliban, free transit for the US military (and other) goods, military bases in Central Asia; intelligence exchange. In other words, all that was needed, or could be needed by Bush in the fight against terrorism.
Putin kept all their promises, although some things, like the provision of bases, found objection amongst his aides in the army and in intelligence. Putin was ready to help his friend, even when this was contrary to the interests of Russia and Putin personally. Putin and Russian elites loved the ABM Treaty (Anti-Ballistic Missile), largely due to nostalgia for the days of U.S.-Soviet summits and the implied equality of the Superpowers.
When Bush decided to withdraw from the Treaty to build Reagan’s strategic missile defence, most of the Democratic Senators opposed, so too a few Republicans, amongst whom were 'old weapon watchdogs'. With the help of Russia, they hoped to stop Bush.
I remember hearing a television broadcaster asking Putin: «If America withdraws from the Treaty, Russia, of course, will respond to this with some asymmetrical action by increasing the number of missiles and warheads. In short, back to the arms race.»
«This is not so,» Putin replied. «Yes, we would like to keep the Treaty, but the United States has the right to get out of it. And any action by America, including the field of strategic defence, does not bother us. After all, America and Russia are friends. No, to the arms race.» After those words, Bush's opposition melted away like snow in the sun.
Thanks to his friend Vlad, George got his strategic defences.
Unfortunately, Bush saw Russia, not as America's equal but rather as an object for perpetual moralistic preaching. Moreover, on a personal level: can you imagine Bush saying anything like ‘I saw his soul through his eyes’ about Tony Blair or a Saudi Arabian Prince?
10 years ago, in the New York restaurant, «Russian Samovar» a Russian diplomat told me: «in our Government and diplomatic corps there is only one person who believes in the possibility of a Russian-American partnership. Since it is Vladimir Putin, we too are working in this direction. However, if Putin ever loses interest in America, Russian-American relations will be changed dramatically.»
Putin clearly was tired of tolerating American actions against Russia: NATO's eastward advancement-despite promises that this would never happen; America's support for any country or politician who present themselves as the enemy and possible victim of Russia. «Enough of double standards,» he said.
In 2008, United States sold (on credit terms, naturally) the weaponry to Georgia-(ever since Georgian-Russian relations have been extremely tense). A few months later, Russia sold weapons to Venezuela, worth about a billion dollars, that caused surprize and protest in the U.S. State Department. Russia responded: If the United States can give weapons to Georgia, why can't we sell arms to Venezuela?
Today, US-Russian relations are in a hazardous state. In his address to Congress, President Obama named Russia as the only country that is an enemy of the United States. The other enemy was the Islamic State (in an earlier speech, Obama mentioned that a third enemy was the Ebola virus). Obama boasted that the United States backed anti-Russian sanctions have led to the political isolation of Russia and its «collapsed economy» and promised that «there's worse to come».
Alas, the reality is very different from the predictions of President Obama. The Russian economy is far better than the economy of the Soviet Union ever was. Moreover, in the same week as Obama appealed to Congress, Putin signed important agreements in Turkey and Egypt, while Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu did the same in India. Even in Latin America, Russia has more friends than the United States.
If America continues with its anti-Russian action, at some point Russia may begin to support the worldwide enemies of the United States. However, so far, Putin has resisted the appeals of his aides and the vast majority of the Russia population to respond 'blow for blow', to 'repay the enemy with the same coin'. Perhaps he still hopes if not friendship or even partnership with America (like U.S.-Chinese relations), but at least for a 'cool world'.
America needs to cool inexplicable and unheeded incandescence passions and come to a mutual understanding with Russia, based on respect for the interests of both sides, before the current hatred freezes over and not accrete the institutions modelled in the first cold war.