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Tsar’s Gambit

(political special)

Do you think Vladimir Putin is an excellent chess player? My money is on YES and I might add that his prowess at the intricacies of this strategical game extends far beyond the 64 squares of a wooden board. He applies the game in his political style and maintains advantage multiple moves ahead of his opponents.

Years of experience working for the KGB doesn’t hurt either. “His rigid, severe style of playing is bureaucratic” to quote the “Queen’s Gambit” protagonist describing her Soviet opponent’s style of playing.


Green Men Defense


In 2014 Putin saw no advantage in conducting a full on offense to quash the Orange Revolution in Ukraine given the pressure and outrage of the West supporting the efforts of the Ukrainians. Instead he picked his own battle and engaged in an intricate and bureaucratic series of string pulling. He activated ten of thousands of his loyalists who gathered in Sevastopol to protest newly installed Ukrainian government. They waved Russian flags and chanted “Putin is our president!”. Sounds familiar? Then the protesters stormed the administration offices and demanded that a Russian loyalist Aleksei Chalyi be installed as the very first mayor of Sevastopol. Then they blocked Crimean parliament. Later on a group of unidentified armed men in green tactical uniforms seized the Crimea's parliament building and Council of Ministers. Putin claimed the men had nothing to do with his own military even though the mysterious “green men”, as they were later referred to, hoisted Russian flags on newly seized buildings. By the end of March Crimea was taken.



Check and mate! 



Orange Man Defense


Meanwhile a controversial and unstable real estate mogul and reality TV host with unclear ties with Russian oligarchs was about to announce his candidacy for the US presidency. Putin deployed his pawns very elegantly in this one. The spell he held over his rook has been strong and as of yet unexamined. His knowledge of political and cultural polarization in America was his great asset. Putin offered his help in defeating Hillary Clinton and the Trumps took it. 
Of course it wouldn’t be easy without the wide support of the American voters but with the greatest weakness of American voting system - The Electoral College, it could be easily hacked with some careful planning. All it took was to activate the machinery of disinformation on social media very precisely targeting the populations of swing states. Russian “troll farms” were put to work creating series of falsehoods about Clinton, and inflating the “image of Trump’s greatness”. The trolls knew exactly how to play the instrument of American Christian Nationalism. Q-Anon was born and the crowd of sycophants, later on known as MAGA, was created not by Trump but by Putin. Many moderate conservatives and billionaires joined in because it felt refreshing to install a "non-politician" who could shake up the stale system, help out with tax breaks and lift all the pesky regulations.


The rest was easy.

The rook moved predictably in a manner prescribed by the Tsar. The accusations of collusion couldn’t be supported. After all the collusion was what brought Trump his victory. The rook had no choice but to side with Russia against FBI during the summit in Helsinki just as he was completely silent in the face of a massive Russian cyber attack discovered later in December 2020.


January 6, 2021. The US Capitol.


When I look at the images from the siege I can’t escape noticing similarities with what happened in Crimea only a few years earlier. No. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

It almost feels like looking at two overlapping templates. The signature style of the master - the Tsar himself in how the events unfolded is painfully apparent. It might be time to acknowledge that the true flag that briefly replaced American one on the Capitol wasn’t really a Trump flag. In a terrifyingly symbolic way it was the flag of Russian Federation.


Check and mate!

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