Dr. Bailey is entirely correct that there is no contradiction between chess-playing and paranoia. Chess is the ultimate paranoid’s game: every square on the board is equally important and no move is made without malicious intent. A disturbingly large number of great chess masters were paranoid, including Alexander Alekhine (Gary Gasparov’s favorite among past champions), Akiba Rubenstein, Aron Nimzovich, and of course Bobby Fisher. “Paranoid Russian” is a pleonasm, moreover. I cannot read Putin’s mind and hope that Dr. Bailey is wrong.

Still, everything Putin has done to date has been predictable, which is to say rational, including the destabilization of Ukraine. I am sure that it is predictable because I predicted it. There is no evidence that Putin is Hitler, as opposed to Lucky Luciano. And as Dr. Bailey observes, even paranoids have enemies: a substantial body of Western opinion thought that Maidan Square was a preparation for regime change in Russia. I would argue further that Putin cannot be Hitler even if he wanted to be, for a simple reason: he is dependent on China after the damage to his economic relations with the West and the collapse of the oil price. China leans towards caution in many theaters where Putin might act aggressively. Long term, to be sure, this is far more damaging to American interest than a loose cannon in the Kremlin.

(Copyright 2015 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Norman A Bailey is the author of numerous books and articles and recipient of several honorary degrees, medals and awards and two orders of knighthood. He also teaches economic statecraft at The Institute of World Politics and has experience on the staff of the National Security Council at the White House, in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and in business, consulting and finance. He is professor emeritus in the National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa, and a columnist for Globes, the Israeli business and financial newspaper.

Leave a comment