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March 3rd, 2014
05:01 PM ET

Garry Kasparov: This isn't Cold War chess, chess has rules – Putin doesn't care about rules

(CNN) – There is much debate now over whether Russian President Vladimir Putin's military moves in Crimea are just a show of force, or whether he seeks to reclaim that part of southern Ukraine.

To Garry Kasparov, a former world chess champion from the Soviet era and now a pro-democracy activist, it is "quite obvious" that Russia is serious. "I don't think Crimea's the end of the story."

Kasparov, in an interview with CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” said Putin “clearly has an appetite to – at least in his mind – to go after restoration of the great Russian empire. As much as he can grab, he would."

Kasparov, a council member of The Human Rights Foundation, left Russia last year.

He agrees with President Barack Obama’s assessment that the current standoff with Moscow is not "some Cold War chessboard."

"In chess we have rules, and clearly Putin doesn't care about rules," said Kasparov. "What he has been doing now in Ukraine – it violates international law, and international treaties Russia has signed before."

Obama said Monday the United States is examining a series of economic and diplomatic steps to "isolate Russia," and he called on Congress to work with his administration on an economic assistance package for Ukraine.

Obama: U.S. weighing steps to 'isolate Russia' over Ukraine crisis

But Kasparov says the United States and European leaders need to do more, saying diplomatic threats will not halt Putin's geopolitical ambitions.

"It's very unfortunate that now (Putin) is facing very weak leadership of the West, Europe and the United States. Simple words will not stop him from moving in this direction," he said.

Several other countries, including Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Britain, and Canada, are contemplating isolating Russia economically and diplomatically.

But Kasparov says that is not enough, and blames Obama's failure to follow through on his threat against Syria as one reason Putin does not fear real consequences.

"When Obama blinked on this red line, I warned that losing credibility of (the) U.S. presidency may have dramatic consequences," said Kasparov. "Unfortunately now Putin doesn't believe in any words, which means that the cost of containing (this) Russian dictator is growing."

If the international community waits to act, "the price will go up," says the activist.

"We just have to read history books to understand that (the) later we confront dictators, the higher the price the whole human race pays," said Kasparov.

But there no enthusiasm from the United States and Europe to send ground troops into the Ukraine. Kasparov said one way to weaken Putin, is to go after those who surround him.

The "most important target" of economic sanctions is the Russian ruling elite, which "cannot afford to lose access to Western markets, to Western capitals, to fortunes they have been amassing in the free world," said Kasparov.

"Let's hope it will be a Cold War with economic sanctions, and it will not go further."

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