That's a good question. It provides an excellent chance to demonstrate the methodology of Useless Dissident. That this methodology differs greatly from what would be considered 'fair' doesn't concern me. Rather I am interested in getting close to what is true.
Arnold Beichman, in his 1984 National Review review of Anatoly Golitsyn's New Lies for Old, told a joke:
It seems that two Jewish merchants and business competitors, Muttel and Yussel, living in a small town in czarist Russia, meet one morning at the local railroad platform, luggage in hand. Muttel asks Yussel, "So where are you traveling?" Yussel responds, "To Minsk." Angered by the reply, Muttel shouts: "You, Yussel, are telling me that you're going to Minsk so that I will think you're really going to Pinsk. But I know for a fact that you're going to Minsk, so why do you lie to me that you're going to Minsk?"Once we understand first the special place of disinformation in the Russian character; second the particular emphasis on false representation in Leninism; and third the advanced development of disinformation under the cynical, immoral, and post-Stalinist nomenklatura, my methodology begins to seem not so ridiculous.
Thus when Garry Kasparov writes an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which he claims that the United States should not make deals with Russia because it is on the brink of disintegration, my immediate inclination is to file it under what Golitsyn calls the "weakness and evolution pattern" of Soviet disinformation.
Of course, this is far too simplistic. Even if there was and still is a "grand strategic deception," as Golitsyn claims, there are still individuals and spontaneous developments; nothing is wholly determined. Yuri Bezmenov would say, "There is no grass-roots, period." But there are individual circumstances.
What are Kasparov's "individual circumstances"? Some call him the greatest chess player of all time-- that certainly makes him unique. Because he is widely known in the West, it would be hard for Putin to murder or "suicide" him if he were a genuine dissident. He would be in a unique position to be who he pretends to be: an opposition party leader in a country that has one party and pervasive police control over all public institutions.
On the other hand, a quick glance at Kasparov's enyclopedia entry reveals a profile that is also uniquely qualified to be an agent of disinformation. '84 Joined Communist Party, '87 CC Komsomol, '90 Helped found Democratic Party of Russia, Involvement in opposition parties, dissident marches, etc. Most Westerners hear that Kasparov has been involved in say, "The March of the Dissenters" and arrested and think about how great it is that he is willing to suffer for his political beliefs. I hear that and imagine a KGB dossier on a disinformation campaign called "The March of the Dissenters." But that's just the paranoid methodology for you.
Another facet of the methodology is the "useful dissident." A perfect example is Andrei Sakharov. He spoke out for intellectual freedom, not political freedom. He was openly a Marxist, a Leninist, a supporter of the one-party state! So the USSR says, "Look at how open we are, look at Sakharov speaking out for intellectual freedom." Did he know that he was helping the regime? Possibly, when it was too late. But anyone who writes a book called Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom is not a danger to a USSR trying to pretend that it is becoming open and Westernized, a place where the intellectuals ask the same questions they do in the West.
But see, just because Sakharov was a useful dissident doesn't mean he was dishonest. It means that he is not to be taken seriously. There were lots of genuine intellectuals in a very genuine civil rights movement in Moscow who were nevertheless committed Marxists, committed Leninists, considering themselves real Communists and the current rulers merely Stalinist pretenders. Yes, they were delusional, themselves poor victims of propaganda. But they were nevertheless genuine dissidents, not "KGB plants" or agents.
Nevertheless, even the greatest hardliners of the deception thesis seem to think that Kasparov is genuine. And I think a close analysis of his op-ed bares this out.
For why would the Russians want an influential Russian to speak out against new and renewed American-Russian relations just when their policies have been bearing fruit, and the new American administration is falling over itself in infantile sycophancy? (We'll talk more about that in a later post).
It is true that normally such statements as "it is no longer taboo in Russia to speak openly of the post-Putin era" and "in all likelihood Mr. Putin will not be around that much longer" could be interpreted as "weakness and evolution" disinformation from within a strong and cohesive unity, aimed at deceiving the West into complacency. Even as it contradicts what looks to be the current direction of American foreign policy toward Russia, a direction that favors Moscow, it would in fact work to further that direction because it gives an indication that Russia and its current government are weak and thus not to be feared.
In fact, one paragraph in particular Golitsyn would point to, I think:
Some may doubt the fragility of the Putin government. But there are plenty of examples in history of supposedly entrenched regimes falling quickly. In late 1989, many in the West were surprised to see the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Others didn't foresee the sweeping away of totalitarian regimes in Poland and Hungary.I'm not sure, but I would assume that Golitsyn would characterize those revolutions and sweepings away as largely deception and disinformation meant to deceive the West. Thus another possibility arises: that Russia, sensing Putin's unpopularity and perception as a criminal gangster in the West, is about to orchestrate his "fall from power" and the rise of a new party (that will actually be run by the same people).
It is important to remember that just because Kasparov is known as a dissident and opposition leader, and has been arrested and had his political offices raided, doesn't mean he is genuine. But it doesn't mean he isn't. In this case, judging from the extent of Kasparov's criticism of Putin (who doesn't tolerate mockery even in the form of disinformation) and the Kremlin's persecution of him, combined with his international prestige, it is safe to say that Kasparov is a genuine opposition leader and foe of the Russian regime.
Even if, in the end, his optimism about Putin's fall serves his enemies' interests.