The Labyrinthian International Geopolitics of the Libyan Conflict
by Peter Lee
The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 31 No 2,
August 1, 2011
Images and captions added by Color Revolutions and Geopolitics
Western self-regard was on full display in a United States headline describing the Libya Contact Group (LCG) meeting in Istanbul over the weekend of July 15. It read: World leaders open Libya talks in Turkey.1 Well, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was there. Much-diminished leaders of 19th-century world powers Britain and France - and Italy - were there, too. But attendance from the BRIC countries was patchy: Russia, boycotted the talks. China declined to send a representative. Brazil and India only sent observers, which meant they had no vote in the proceedings. South Africa didn't attend, and blasted the outcome of the meeting.2
The unambiguous American template for Libya - and the LCG - is Kosovo, another humanitarian bombing campaign cum secession exercise led by NATO while sidelining the United Nations to a subordinate role.
US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg invoked the Kosovo precedent - and a prolonged diplomatic and sanctions campaign that grew out of a "humanitarian military action" - in testimony before the US Congress on Libya:
Our approach is one that has succeeded before. In Kosovo, we built an international coalition around a narrow civilian protection mission. Even after Milosevic withdrew his forces and the bombing stopped, the political and economic pressure continued. Within two years, Milosevic was thrown out of office and turned over to The Hague.4As a matter of fact, the Libya adventure mimics the Kosovo action in general legal flimsiness and its inflammatory deployment of exaggerated claims of massacre and atrocity, but differs in some revealing specifics.
The justification for diplomatic and political intervention on the issue of Kosovo was relatively robust, growing out of the EU’s understandable desire to put a lid on the chaos and instability in its Balkan backyard, and a lengthy history of bilateral and multilateral negotiations between Serbia and its local and European interlocutors.
The NATO air war versus Serbia, on the other hand, although understandable as an expression of the international community’s exhausted patience with Milosevic’s serial mendacity and skullduggery in the use of military and militia assets against his victims, is not easy to defend either under the NATO doctrine of joint defense or the temporary waiver the UN gives for states or regional groupings to engage in immediate military action to defend themselves against an imminent threat when getting prior UNSC approval is impractical.
The NATO air attack on Serbian targets was triggered by Serbia’s refusal to sign the Rambouillet Agreement—which would have given Serbia’s explicit endorsement of the injection of NATO ground forces in Kosovo—a rather dubious casus belli.
The demands appear to have been deliberately pitched so high as to be assure their rejection, thereby highlighting Serbian intransigence (which only slightly exceeded Kosovar intransigence) so that NATO would finally do what perhaps it should have done earlier in the much more clear-cut case of Serbian aggression against Bosnia: vigorously bomb Serbian military positions. In the matter of Libya, the situation is reversed.
Military action (leaving aside the question of what particular kind of military action) is clearly permitted by the remarkably accommodating UN Security Council Resolution 1973. In calling for protection of civilians, UNSCR 1973:
Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory, and requests the Member States concerned to inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take pursuant to the authorization conferred by this paragraph which shall be immediately reported to the Security Council.The wording for the no-fly zone is equivalent. In other words, any interested power can attack Libya as long as it writes a prompt letter to Ban Ki-moon and keeps boots off the ground. Of course, the resolution specifically excludes only foreign “occupation” forces, giving the UK and France ample room to send in special forces as advisors/auxiliaries to the overmatched Benghazi rebels.
The passivity of the UN has been complemented by considerable overreach in the military effort against Libya. With the destruction of Libya’s air assets, the no fly zone issue is moot. At the same time the “civilian protection” mandate has been stretched to cover offensive air operations assisting the rebel drive to conquer western Libya.
As to the diplomatic element, the resolution
[s]tresses the need to intensify efforts to find a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people and notes the decisions of the Secretary-General to send his Special Envoy to Libya and of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to send its ad hoc High Level Committee to Libya with the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution.There is no mention, let alone endorsement, of a Libya Contact Group. However, by endorsing parallel efforts by the UN Special Envoy and the African Union (AU), the resolution implies that there is to be no coordinated negotiation effort and the UN has effectively abdicated any central role in negotiating an end to the crisis.The attacking powers have exploited the UN’s latitude on the negotiation front to assemble their own political initiative, the Libya Contact Group.
The situation in Libya appears to be the reverse of Kosovo: instead of a military effort supplementing a negotiation strategy, a negotiating strategy is being cobbled together as an adjunct to military operations. On the one hand, this rescues the Libya operation from the prolonged and deadly dithering that characterized the West’s efforts to sort out the Yugoslavian mess. On the other hand, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has little to show for its multi-year attempt to handle the political brief in Afghanistan.
As a look at NATO decision-making indicates, militarized policy-making through the Libya Contact Group is likely to provide no more than the illusion of international consensus and accountability. NATO's political policy on Libya is in the hands of the "North Atlantic Council" or NAC; for obvious reasons this crusaderish piece of nomenclature is not often invoked in the Libyan situation.
A 2003 paper by the Congressional Research Service described the decision-making process in the Kosovo air war in ways that are suggestive of the Barack Obama administration's template for the Libyan operation:
The NAC achieves consensus through a process in which no government states its objection. A formal vote in which governments state their position is not taken. During the Kosovo conflict, for example, it was clear to all governments that Greece was immensely uncomfortable with a decision to go to war. NATO does not require a government to vote in favor of a conflict, but rather to object explicitly if it opposes such a decision. Athens chose not to object, knowing its allies wished to take military action against Serbia. In contrast to NATO, the EU seeks unanimity on key issues.5Inside NATO, it appears that most countries choose to opt out in order to adhere to their diplomatic, doctrinal or political concerns, but not raise a formal, explicit objection. For instance, when NATO took over the Libya mission, a US State Department official noted that the
. . . Germans have made from the very beginning a very clear - a clear statement that they would not participate militarily with their own troops in any operation. But they've also made clear that they would not block any activity by NATO to move forward.6In short, it appears that NATO countries vote as a bloc when it comes to LCG matters despite continuing differences among members.
GCC decision-making is even more opaque, but it is not unreasonable to assume that the smaller states are voting in a bloc with lead member Saudi Arabia on the Libya issue.
NATO and the GCC hammer out their position before the LCG meetings, which then provide political window-dressing to convince Western opinion that a legitimate international process is going on.
China and Russia recognize the LCG as an effort by the proponents of military intervention in Libya to advance their agenda and keep further Libya discussions out of the UN Security Council where China and Russia - which were spectacularly burned by Resolution 1973 – would have the opportunity to sidetrack the NATO/GCC-led campaign.
China does not have large economic interests at stake in the Libya fight. It had a significant exposure to Libyan infrastructure projects, particularly a multi-billion dollar contract to build 28,000 apartment units, but only minor involvement in the Libyan oil industry.
In the original vote on UNSCR 1973, China abstained. This apparently had much to do with concern about antagonizing the United States, Saudi Arabia and others. Saudi Arabia, China’s main oil supplier and implacable foe of Gaddafi, was aggressively pushing a hard line against Gaddafi at the Gulf Co-operation Council, the Arab League and the United Nations (link).
China has been relatively circumspect in its criticisms of the LCG, in part out of deference to Turkey, which has been doggedly promoting an Islamic and non-aligned style of Libyan engagement inside the councils of NATO and the LCG. Nevertheless, Beijing politely declined Turkey's invitation to join the Istanbul meeting - thereby refusing to add a further veneer of political legitimacy to the exercise - "because the function and method of operation of this contact group need further study".7
In rejecting the Turkish invitation to join the meeting in Istanbul, the Russian Foreign Ministry reiterated its objections stating that, “the Russian approach to this issue has not changed. We are not a member of the Group and do not participate in its work. This applies to the upcoming meeting in Istanbul as well.”9
In sum, the LCG is not a united effort by "the leaders of the world"; it is an effort to circumvent the UN Security Council, largely coordinated by Atlantic ex-colonial powers and anxious Arab autocrats who are most deeply committed to the bombing campaign to eliminate Gaddafi.
That effort is not going particularly well. NATO has strayed well beyond its "protect civilians" UN mandate to conduct air operations against Gaddafi's forces and targets of dubious military legitimacy for the past four months.
For all their LCG support, the Libyan rebels have been unable to drive Gaddafi from power and thereby demonstrate the potency of Western arms, sanctions, embargoes, and self-righteous bluster, even against an isolated Third World potentate.
Alexander Cockburn has punctured the rebels, the media and European delusions that this would be a quick and politically advantageous war:
In a hilarious inside account of the NATO debacle, Vincent Jauvert of Le Nouvel Observateur has recently disclosed that French intelligence services assured [President Nicolas] Sarkozy and foreign minister [Alain] Juppe "from the first [air] strike, thousands of soldiers would defect from Gaddafi". They also predicted that the rebels would move quickly to Sirte, the hometown of the Qaddafi and force him to flee the country. This was triumphantly and erroneously trumpeted by the NATO powers, which even proclaimed that he had flown to Venezuela. By all means opt for the Big Lie as a propaganda ploy, but not if it is inevitably going to be discredited 24 hours later.
"We underestimated al-Gaddafi," one French officer told Jauvert. "He was preparing for forty-one years for an invasion. We did not imagine he would adapt as quickly. No one expects, for example, to transport its troops and missile batteries, Gaddafi will go out and buy hundreds of Toyota pick-ups in Niger and Mali. It is a stroke of genius: the trucks are identical to those used by the rebels. NATO is paralyzed. It delays its strikes. Before bombing the vehicles, drivers need to be sure whose forces are Gaddafi's. ‘We asked the rebels to [provide] a particular signal on the roof of their pickup truck, said a soldier, but we were never sure. They are so disorganized ...' "10In fact, it appears that an important purpose of the Istanbul meeting was to jump start the ineffectual efforts by the Libyan rebels and, in particular, deal with calls by Turkey and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) for a ceasefire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (approximately August 1 to August 29 this year).
Ramadan is traditionally a time of fasting and peaceful reflection. In Libya, it would also undoubtedly be an opportunity for Gaddafi to regroup his forces and engage with the myriad interlocutors and negotiators - in addition to the African Union, France and Italy were also reportedly meeting with Gaddafi's representatives – in an effort to end the embarrassing mess.
Both Turkey and the OIC - as well as otherwise disengaged Islamic power Indonesia - have warned NATO that continuing the bombing campaign during Ramadan would be a dangerous political miscue. Therefore, to guard against the dread prospect of peace breaking out in unwelcome ways post Ramadan – that is, with Gaddafi remaining in Tripoli without having received the necessary chastisement by the powers - the LCG recognized the Transitional National Council (TNC) headquartered in Benghazi as the legitimate government of Libya and declared that Gaddafi's regime had lost its legitimacy. This was despite the fact that the TNC probably controls less than half of Libya's sparse population and vast territory while Gaddafi is still apparently in firm control of the western half of the country with most of the population and the capital.
Foreign Policy's Joshua Keating noted that, before Libya, only twice has the United States declined to acknowledge the legitimacy of a nation's ruling power. The first came in 1913, when president Woodrow Wilson, who objected to the unsavory (and suspected anti-US business) tendencies of Mexico's strongman Victoriano Huerta, refused to recognize his government until it collapsed, courtesy of Pancho Villa and the US occupation of Veracruz. The second is China. The US not only refused to recognize the communist conquest of the mainland for 50 years; it also countenanced Chiang Kai-shek's pretensions to rule all of China, even as he exercised sway over Taiwan alone.11
Recognition of the TNC supposedly served the purpose of unlocking the frozen assets for the Benghazi forces, which were officially blessed as freedom-loving, not riddled with al-Qaeda sympathizers, and committed to honoring previous foreign contracts in Libya, thereby reducing the cash-strapped Western forces' financial exposure to the Libyan imbroglio in general and the TNC in particular. This is not unrelated to the fact that the Western powers, notably the US and Britain but also the EU generally, while laboring through recessions, cutbacks in government services, and political gridlock, have taken steps to minimize the stated cost of the Libya intervention.
Brad Sherman, a US Congressman from California - and an accountant - pointed out that the US has decided to count only marginal expenditures as costs of the Libyan conflict: that means direct costs such as munitions and fuel consumed and combat pay disbursed, leaving a misleading impression of how much it costs to pound even a third-rate power into submission.
United Nations ambassador Susan Rice, one of the architects of the Libyan ‘humanitarian intervention’, countered with the assertion that all those US seamen and airmen would be getting paid anyway even if they weren't bombing Libya: "The Libya mission is not one that falls under UN accounting or US budgeting. It is something we are undertaking in a national capacity."12
[Since this is not officially a war, the Obama administration has insisted that it is under no obligation to report its costs to Congress. The US wrote a letter to Congress describing its DoD accounting, and France and the UK have estimated the costs of their contributions at irregular intervals. UK: EP 260 million as of June 24 (link); France Euros 160 million by July 13 (link).]
In any event, there is no obvious political constituency in Europe or the US for pouring foreign dollars into Benghazi. Sherman, for instance, proposed that the operation be funded by confiscating Gaddafi's frozen assets in the US[ms6] , reminiscent of US efforts to pay for the Iraq War with Iraqi oil revenues. The desire to make Gaddafi pay for the war against him by seizing his frozen assets is widespread. Nevertheless, a hitch remains: countries such as Canada have laws on their books that prevent them from unfreezing Libyan assets until the UN Security Council gives its OK - a virtual impossibility given Russian and Chinese opposition to the West's adventurism.13
In an uncanny reprise of the enthusiasm for financial derivatives that plunged the world into the Great Recession, the LCG is encouraging interested states such as Canada to evade the UN process by lending cash to the TNC, with the loans collateralized by frozen assets.
In a further sign that the US is not confident that the TNC can run its finances any better than it runs its war (and perhaps has achieved a belated awareness of the risks involve in lending ready cash against illiquid assets) it declared that most of the $30 billion in Gaddafi assets in the US were illiquid, i.e. real estate, hence a mere $3.5 billion could potentially be funneled to the TNC.14
Nevertheless, Western financial creativity, once again deployed in the absence of Western hard cash, will undoubtedly succeed in forestalling the collapse of the Benghazi authority for the foreseeable future.
The second purpose of the Istanbul meeting was to cut the legs out from under other negotiators - such as the Gaddafi-friendly African Union, which was holding talks with regime representatives in Ethiopia and, for that matter, the French, who were sowing epic confusion through equivocal secret contacts with Gaddafi's representatives - by setting up a single, publicly-endorsed channel.
Apparently, despite its new-found ascendancy as Libya's legitimate ruling authority, the Transitional National Council does not, in the opinion of the LCG, have the wherewithal to engage in direct negotiations with Gaddafi's rebel bastion in Tripoli.
But the TNC was not the only organization to receive the back of the hand treatment from the Libya Contact Group. The UN also got a slap.
The problem has apparently been rectified. It seems that Ban Ki-moon, the ever-pliant UN secretary general, has agreed to put the LCG program into effect without the inconvenience and embarrassment of a UN Security Council discussion or vote, as Bloomberg reports:
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be the only person authorized by the contact group to negotiate with both sides in Libya. Ban will set up a board of two to three interlocutors from Tripoli and the rebel-held town of Benghazi, Frattini said.16
On Thursday it emerged that the western-led coalition confronting Colonel Muammer Gaddafi was beginning to examine the possibility of offering him a face-saving deal that removes him from power in Tripoli but allows him to stay inside Libya as a means of bringing a swift end to the conflict.
As some 40 nations prepare to meet in Istanbul on Friday to discuss progress in the NATO-led operation against the Libyan leader, Britain, France and the US continue to state publicly that the war can only end with Col Gaddafi's physical departure from Libya.
But behind the scenes in Paris and London, senior officials are discussing whether the international community and the Libyan opposition could offer a deal that sees Col Gaddafi surrendering all power while going into internal exile in Libya.
For several days, French officials have made clear that Col Gaddafi could stay in Libya if he makes a clear statement that he will abdicate all military and political power.17In the best tradition of Western peacemaking, it appears that a Ramadan ceasefire will be preceded by a two-week barrage of bombs and missiles that will demonstrate both to the Gaddafi regime and world opinion that, despite its abject and obvious desperation to disengage, the NATO/GCC coalition is still a force to be reckoned with, even as it hastens to fulfill its publicly-stated ambition to be "out of there" by September.
The most plausible roadmap for Libya's post-conflict (or perhaps more accurately, mid-conflict) future is Turkey's roadmap, which foresees a Ramadan ceasefire, Gaddafi leaving power but not the country, and a constitutional commission.
As floated in the Turkish media, "the core of the commission would consist of five people: Two from Tripoli who would be accepted to Benghazi, two from Benghazi who would be acceptable to Tripoli and a fifth who would be named by those four who would set up the basis for a new constitution in Libya."18
A prompt ceasefire and a negotiated settlement do not leave the TNC with a very attractive hand. It controls less than half the country (albeit the predominantly oily half). Furthermore, it is unlikely to perform outstandingly in any nationwide democratic contest that would involve canvassing for votes among the inhabitants of western Libya, a certain number of whom are likely to regard the TNC as venal and incompetent eastern adventurers who conspired with foreign powers to bomb and sanction the residents of Tripoli into misery and poverty.
However, if the West's Libya fatigue holds and the war doesn't re-ignite, the TNC may find itself lording itself over Benghazi in a de facto partitioned Libya, using its advantageous location vis-a-vis Libya's oil reserves to sustain its economy and its diplomatic standing.
In an indication of world resignation to a divided Libya, even China and Russia, who regard the TNC as a travesty and calamity, have pledged money for "humanitarian assistance" to "the Libyan people".
TNC Executive Board Chairman Mahmoud Jibril visited Beijing in late June for a meeting that Beijing used to announce that it had decided to engage with the TNC as “a powerful opposition force” and highlight the PRC’s hopes for a mediated political solution to the Libyan conflict through the African Union mechanism (link).
On the heels of a Russian announcement that it was sending 36 tons of aid to Benghazi, a terse announcement from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated on July 11:
Q: The prolonged war in Libya deteriorates the humanitarian situation there. Will China consider providing humanitarian assistance to Libya?
A: In a bid to alleviate the humanitarian disaster faced by the Libyan people, China has decided to provide 50 million RMB [US$8 million] worth of humanitarian assistance to them.20This may be symbolically important, but - considering that the TNC has consistently declared it needs $3 billion in cash to keep the doors open in Benghazi – the offer amounts to little.
On the other hand, China made its feelings about the LCG clear as it publicized a phone call by Hu Jintao to South African president Joseph Zuma endorsing the AU peace process. The AU initiative appears to differ from the LCG/Turkish initiative in one crucial aspect: it recognizes the continued legitimacy and sovereignty of the regime in Tripoli.
As for the West, it can content itself with the observation that, if it wasn't able to save Libya, at least it was able to cripple it. It is a pattern that the West has repeated in its engineered partition instead of national reconciliation in Kosovo and Sudan, and in midwifing the fragmentation of the Soviet Union into a suspicious Russia and a host of new NATO members.
It is another lesson in US "nation-building" - born of a characteristic disregard for sovereignty, circumvention of the United Nations, a cavalier attitude toward international law and a reckless deployment of military power – to which China, one of the last remaining multinational empires, is likely to pay close attention.
Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with US foreign policy.
This is a revised and expanded version of an article that appeared at Asia Times.
Recommended citation: Peter Lee, "The Labyrinthian International Geopolitics of the Libyan Conflict," The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 31 No 2, August 1, 2011.
1 World leaders open Libya talks in Turkey, The Raw Story, Jul 15, 2011.
2 Zuma, Cameron Set to Clash, IOL News, Jul 16, 2011.
3 Libya Contact Group: Chair's statement, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Apr 13, 2011.
4 Assessing the Situation in Libya, US Department of State, May 12, 2011.
5 NATO's Decision-Making Procedure, CRS Report for Congress, May 5, 2003.
6 Teleconference Background Briefing on North Atlantic Council (NAC) Discussions on Libya, US Department of State, Mar 24, 2011.
7 Russia not to attend Libya Contact Group meeting July 15, ITAR-TASS News Agency, Jul 13, 2011.
8 Russia denounces Libya contact group as 'illegitimate' , Telegraph, May 13, 2011.
9 Russia not to attend Libya Contact Group meeting July 15, ITAR-TASS News Agency, Jul 13, 2011.
10 NATO's Debacle in Libya, Counter Punch, Jul 15, 2011.
11 A Wilsonian move by the White House in Libya, Foreign Policy, Jul 15, 2011.
12 Democrat says Libya costs run much higher, Washington Times, Apr 7, 2011.
13 Canada mulls ways to fund Libyan rebels with frozen Gadhafi assets, Jul 16, 2011.
14 Summary of the American and International Press on the Libyan Revolution - Morgan Strong, Tripoli Post, Jul 17, 2011.
15 UN Envoy to Lead Libya Talks, Al Arabiya News, Jul 16, 2011.
16 Libyan Rebels Get U.S. Recognition Without Keys to Qaddafi's Frozen Cash, Bloomberg, Jul 15, 2011.
17 Click here for text.
18 Turkey seeks Libyan truce before Ramadan, Hurriyet Daily News, Jul 14, 2011.
19 Libyan TNC vows to continue military action in Ramadan, People's Daily, Jul 16, 2011.
20 Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei's Remarks on China Providing Humanitarian Assistance to Libya, Chinese Foreign Ministry, Jul 11, 2011.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Monday, August 8, 2011
Colorful Revolutions and the CIS: “Manufactured” Versus “Managed” Democracy?
By Graeme P. Herd
Images and Captions added by Color Revolutions and Geopolitics
Leaders of post-communist regimes seeking to defend themselves against purportedly Western-“manufactured” democratic revolutions may opt for authoritarianism in the guise of “managed” democracy.
The Ukrainian run-off presidential elections of November 21 and December 26, 2004, had a profound impact on orthodox assumptions underpinning the expected patterns of political power distribution and succession in the post-Soviet region. Many analysts, looking at the events in Ukraine, wondered whether any other state in the post-Soviet region might also experience a “revolution.” Others asked whether the events in Ukraine were genuine expressions of people power or were orchestrated and manufactured by external forces adept at the dark arts of “revolutionary technology.”
After three rounds of voting, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych ultimately lost to former prime minister Viktor Yushchenko by more than 2.2 million votes, receiving 41 percent to his 52 percent.1 What explains Yushchenko’s victory? Constitutional reforms changing the balance of power between president, government, and parliament were crucial in ensuring political stability, and so was the decision of the military and security structures to remain neutral and stay out of politics.2 The transfer of the locus of power from presidency to parliament—via a constitutional amendment to take effect in late 2005 or early 2006—appears to have provided Ukraine with a new system of checks and balances that allows self-interested financial-industrial power groups to align with—and resign themselves to—a Yushchenko presidency. President Leonid Kuchma’s decision not to use force to disperse the crowds of pro-Yushchenko supporters, the role of external mediators, and decisions by the Supreme Court of Ukraine were critical factors in the “soft landing” that followed upon what is now termed the Orange Revolution. The lack of appeal to Ukraine’s citizenry of the “Russian businessmen and bureaucracy currently run[ning] the country” was another key factor behind Yanukovych’s defeat.3
Analysts, journalists, and politicians in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) presented the Ukrainian election as another worrying example of the Western attempt to “manufacture democracy” in the former Soviet region. Under the guise of mass popularity (“unpaid spontaneity” being considered a political oxymoron), they maintain, the revolution was underwritten by Western-funded international organizations that advocate democracy, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as U.S.-funded NGOs such as Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the George Soros–funded Open Society Foundation. Diplomatic missions (in particular U.S. embassies and U.S. Agency for International Development projects and programs) are also seen as vital to the deployment of the revolutionary technologies that have facilitated regime change. This understanding of the role of national, international, and non-governmental organizations as willing and able to act in concert suggests that other post-Soviet states will be targeted for regime change in a systematic and coordinated fashion, and in accordance with a secret strategic blueprint for change.
Proponents of this view cite as evidence the series of grass-roots revolutions that have taken place in recent years, beginning with Serbia in 2000, Georgia’s Rose Revolution in November 2003, and now the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in November 2004. These revolutions all have certain features in common. Specifically, the driving force in each case was a youth protest movement with catchy slogans and logos. In Serbia it was Otpor (Resistance) with the slogan “Gotovyi!” (He’s Finished!) and the logo of a black fist on a white background. In Georgia the youth movement was called Kmara, which doubled as the slogan “Enough,” and the logo was a black fist against a yellow background. In Ukraine Pora! doubled as a slogan meaning “It’s time!” The catchphrase was complemented by a new anthem: “Vstavai!” (Arise!) and the ubiquitous orange scarves.
|CNR founder Ivan Marovic|
As proved by experience, revolutions occur in states with weak leaders and strong oppositions. Establishing contacts with various international foundations and securing funding happens according to a familiar scenario. One only has to remember how active the Soros Open Society Foundation is on former Soviet territory. Also take, for example, U.S. ambassador Richard Miles, who managed to do his job both in Belgrade and in Georgia. Further down the line, the streets get engaged in the regime-change process encouraged by businesspersons and oligarchs dissatisfied with incumbent regimes.6
|Zubr (bison) from Belarus|
|GW Bush and Ukraine's Viktor Yushchenko|
|Table 1: click to enlarge|
Itogi magazine’s Andrei Vladimirov summed up the problem as follows: “The day before yesterday: Belgrade. Yesterday: Tbilisi. Today: Kyiv. Tomorrow: Moscow.”14 Based on this understanding of events in Ukraine, and placing the Ukrainian revolution in the context of similar revolutions in the Balkans and the South Caucasus, many analysts in the CIS have begun to examine the implications such events will have on their relations with Ukraine and with the West. They are asking, as well, whether such events may spread more broadly to the other CIS states and are considering some of the likely consequences for foreign and security policy-making in these countries.
|Map of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), through 2008|
The debate has been sharpest in Russia. “Russia cannot afford to allow defeat in the battle for Ukraine,” warned commentator Vitaly Tretyakov. “Besides everything else, defeat would mean velvet revolutions in the next two years, now following the Kyiv variant, in Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and possibly Armenia.” 15 Andrei Ilyashenko, political commentator for RIA-Novosti, agreed, arguing that the events in Ukraine would directly affect electoral strategies and the political succession throughout the CIS: “We may see a series of Rose Revolutions in post-Soviet republics in the next few years. The former Soviet elite standing at the helm there will have to hold elections eventually. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan may follow the Ukrainian example, and the West will hardly accept a smooth transition of power to the establishment heirs there.”16
|Leaders of CIS member states meet in Moscow|
In Ukraine we are seeing yet again the implementation of an American “velvet revolution” plan or, rather, a special operation to replace a regime that does not suit the United States, a process that had already been successfully tested in “banana republics” and was then transferred to the countries of Eastern Europe and Georgia. In just the same way as in past instances, diverse international structures and institutions have now been brought in to “unravel the knot.”17These geopolitical sentiments are endorsed by Rossiiskaia gazeta, a government-controlled newspaper, which asserted:
What we are seeing in Ukraine is a continuation of the West’s strategy, aimed at a political takeover of the post-Soviet space. . . . I am sure that the political takeover of Ukraine through Yushchenko and his camp is indeed directed against Russia and its interests. While so far the West has been pursuing the strategic and economic expulsion of Russia from Eastern Europe, it has now embarked on concrete actions on the territory of the former USSR, where our interests are embedded much deeper and stronger.18Gleb Pavlovsky, president of the Moscow-based Foundation for Effective Politics and a political consultant to Viktor Yanukovych’s campaign team in Ukraine, has drawn parallels between U.S.-sponsored regimes in Latin America during the cold war and recent U.S. actions in the post-Soviet region. He places the events in Ukraine within a wider pattern of U.S. superpower foreign policy behavior and practice dating back to the cold war.
In the 1960s there was the Peace Corps in Latin America, a motley assemblage of idealists, spin doctors, and specialists in acts of sabotage. And there were similar Soviet projects. There was a lot of it about. And in general, it’s only us who find surprising the organization of revolutions from outside. In Latin America nobody is surprised by this, it is taken as a fact of life, although not necessarily welcomed.He added that there is a “transfer of a certain continental model to another continent,” but noted one important difference in this sea of similarities:“Now this is being done in the era of media technologies.”19
The implications of these developments for Russia’s power, prestige, and image are beyond debate—they are perceived as negative. The Russian media interpreted the Ukrainian presidential elections as a foreign policy Waterloo, a “political Stalingrad”—Russia’s worst foreign policy defeat in the post-Soviet period. According to Viacheslav Kostikov, a former Kremlin spokesman, the events in Ukraine “can be seen as a planned strike against Russia aimed at creating ongoing instability on its southern borders. If this is pulled off, Russia will come up against a whole range of very complex problems— financial (the place of our capital in Ukraine), economic (linked to oil and gas pipelines to the West), political (questions of integration), military (the status of our fleet in Sevastopol), and demographic.”20
Russia’s defense minister, Ivan Ivanov, maintains that protecting the CIS is Russia’s top foreign policy priority. About 25 million Russians live in the post-Soviet space, and they share largely common histories, traditions, and cultures. He noted that almost all the citizens of the CIS speak Russian: “Our economies are inextricably linked. With few exceptions, there is no visa regime, as a result of which tens of millions of citizens of the Commonwealth essentially work and live in Russia, supporting their families and sending back home funds that many times exceed the national budgets of some CIS countries.” Russia subsidizes most of the CIS states through energy supplies. “These are precisely the reasons why we react and will react the way we do to exports of revolution to the CIS states, no matter and what color—pink, blue, you name it—though, of course, we recognize that Russia and we understand that Russia has no monopoly on the CIS states.” He went on to note, “Yet someone has not abandoned stereotypes of the past, which is proven by the reaction of certain circles in Europe and the USA to the political crisis in Ukraine.” Even before the presidential elections in Ukraine, “there had been clear signals that the West would not recognize the ballot results if the wrong candidate won the elections.”21
Even before such statements represented Russian official policy, Aleksei Malashenko, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, had predicted a “tightening of the screws” as a probable reaction to the events in Georgia and Ukraine.
In tightening screws, you can break the thread. And therefore the elites need to learn more complicated games of patience. Forewarned means armed.The experience of Georgia and Ukraine is invaluable for those who wish to retain their power or to hand it over to their successors. Mistakes in Ukraine and in Georgia, failure in [the] Dniester region [Moldova] and the protracted Chechen war—all of this does not promote the authority of the metropolis [Moscow].22Fear persists that Russia will one day find itself surrounded by states that are members of NATO and the EU. According to the Moscow-based political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky, “Russia’s foreign policy is going towards a confrontation with the West. All politicians, including Putin, are obsessed with the idea that the West is encircling Russia, taking away the near abroad from Russia.” In his view, Putin considers Ukraine to be a personal setback. Russia’s president also accused the United States of being a “pseudo-democratic” dictatorship and lashed out at the “colonial” behavior of the West in Eastern Europe.23
Gleb Pavlovsky has analyzed the weaknesses and limits of Russia’s ability to shape events in the Soviet successor states. In Joseph’s Nye’s terminology, Russia lacks ideological, or “soft,” power. Therefore, “If Russia wants to rally other countries to its side on a grand scale, it needs some very strong arguments of a philosophical nature; appeals to the stomach, the economy, a common economic territory, and pipelines connecting brother-peoples are not sufficient.” Pavlovsky points to the popular “Russia as Third Rome” project that the tsars used to justify their policies. Russia “was meant to be the one and only correct, Orthodox state—standing in ideological contrast to the rest of the world. Lenin and Stalin based the “Soviet empire” on a different but similarly persuasive ideological foundation. “But what can we offer today to Ukraine and other products of the Soviet semicollapse?” asks Pavlovsky. “Anyone setting out to build a ‘new empire’ needs some equally substantial internal foundations of ideology, and no less substantial foreign policy intentions. So far, Russia has neither. The baggage-train of higher ideas contains only two projects: doubling GDP (which would just about let Russia catch up to Portugal in per capita terms), and reinforcing the hierarchy of governance.”24
Countering the Ukraine Scenario: The Belarus Option?
How the Kyiv election will affect Russia’s domestic political order and its foreign policy, particularly within the CIS, is widely debated by political analysts and elites in Moscow. One analyst holds that if revolutions that are 100 percent imported fail to take root in foreign soil, then it follows that external factors can only act as catalysts. Therefore “some internal prerequisites do need to ripen. Thus, the question in principle becomes this: does Russia have immunity to the ‘orange virus’?”25 Ways and means to stop the expected chain reaction of domino democratization are a concern throughout the CIS. Many analysts argue that only stern preventative and preemptive counter-measures will stem the tide of revolutionary proliferation.
|After Ukraine, CIS states moved to immediately inoculate their societies from catching the "orange virus"|
Democratic Party faction in the State Duma, sees dire consequences and implications for Russia’s political elites.
First, if we lose Ukraine that will set a precedent. We should understand that things won’t stop in Ukraine. Russia will be the next stop. The same technologies and the same situation will be applied. It is folly for Russia to assume that nothing like it can happen here. The separatist process will begin with Kaliningrad; in a year or two the young people there will take to the streets and say: We are fed up with living in hostels with a single toilet at the far end of the hallway, let the Germans fix things and we want to be part of Europe. And then it will be a domino effect that will reach Moscow too. We should understand that the “bell tolls for us.” . . . But in March 2008 it will be systematic and organized. And a rehearsal for us will be in Kaliningrad. If we don’t understand it, we must be hopelessly dumb.Mitrofanov continues, “The impact on Russia will be far-reaching, and it will in any case be negative. The screws will be tightened with lightning speed. Policy will be tougher. Totally controlled elections, a docile CEC [Central Election Committee], docile courts, and docile media. In this way, any decisions can be enforced.”26
Boris Nemtsov, leader of Russia’s political right, does not agree with this characterization of the Ukrainian presidential elections but fears that Russian political strategists and campaign managers will learn the wrong “lessons” from the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election and try to apply them to the March 2008 presidential elections in Russia: “I am afraid that Russia will draw the opposite conclusions, namely, that censorship should be tightened, the opposition should be squeezed and so on. These will be fateful mistakes that may precipitate a revolution in Russia.”27 This prediction notwithstanding, representatives from the liberal Yabloko party and the Union of Right Forces, at a meeting of the All-Russian Civic Congress with the theme “Russia for Democracy and Against Dictatorship,” agreed that Russian society was not ready for “street democracy.” Nemtsov himself conceded, “There can be no Orange Revolution here. First of all because the ambitions of our politicians, including myself, are inordinately high and, unfortunately, have been put above Russia’s national interests.”28 Valerii Solovei of Rodnaia gazeta added, “The Ukrainian model of regime-toppling (through elections and street revolution) may be applied to Russia. There are no problems with money for it. The only problem is with the people.”29
The critical question, then, is, which former Soviet republic is most likely to see a repetition of the Ukrainian events? Viacheslav Nikonov offers a stark answer: “In all of them where for some reason the West is dissatisfied with the regime. Virtually all the CIS countries— apart from Georgia—fall into this category. Each country will decide for itself, of course, how to safeguard itself against such crises. But what has happened in Kyiv will fuel (despite the wishes of Western circles) increasing isolation or self-isolation on the part of these states.” Consequently, Nikonov predicts, governments will try to limit their citizens’ exposure to Western influences. “It is no secret,” he writes, “that funding and organizational support for [Viktor] Yushchenko’s election campaign and subsequent events were provided via a complex network of various kinds of non-governmental, public, and human-rights organizations financed by numerous Western foundations or philanthropic outfits. Now all such institutions will start to be seen in CIS countries as a threat to internal security. This will lead to a tightening of control over their activity and activists. In addition, I predict problems for opposition, liberal, and even Communist forces in all these states.”30 Sergei Markov, director of the Institute for Political Studies in Moscow, is even more specific: “I think the ‘Orange Revolution’ in Moldova is about 80 percent ready; in Kyrgyzstan it is 40 percent ready, and in Kazakhstan it is 30 percent ready.”31(See Table 2.)
|Table 2: click to enlarge|
The Lukashenko government is still carefully monitoring and controlling the opposition. On October 11, 2004, Aleksandr Dabravlovski, a parliamentary candidate and deputy chairman of the opposition United Civic Party (UCP), was investigated for illegal actions and disqualified from running in the October 17 election.33 On December 28, 2004, twenty opposition youth activists from UCP regional and city organizations were detained in Minsk for participating in an unauthorized demonstration to celebrate the victory of the Orange Revolution in neighboring Ukraine.34 In addition, in mid-December 2004 Lukashenko appointed Viktor Sheiman to head his presidential administration. Sheiman is best known as the alleged mastermind of the assassination of four of Lukashenko’s opponents between 1999 and 2001. On the occasion of the appointment, Lukashenko said, “The latest events in neighboring countries have shown the importance of a strong and authoritative power as a factor for preserving stability. Once the authorities begin to display hesitancy, passivity, and weakness, destructive forces immediately make use of this. Young people led by them, the crowd, and endless rallying paralyze the state and lead to anarchy and a grave crisis for the entire society.”35
Stanislav Belkovsky, head of Moscow’s National Strategy Institute, is more nuanced. He expects Russia’s reaction to events in Kyiv to be muted “for the simple reason that nobody at the Kremlin recognizes a defeat. A self-justification has been provided already: we raised Yanukovych from a coalmine of Donetsk to the summits of power, did our best for his victory, but America interfered in this cause with Yushchenko and its resources proved to be more extensive than ours.” However, with regard to Russian domestic politics, “The anxiety is evident and will be expressed in the future in the form of screw tightening. The laws on protests and referendums will be toughened, independent trade unions will be dispersed, unfavorable parties will be finished. Most likely, an attempt will be made to propagate the image of the external enemy represented by
the West.” In Belkovsky’s analysis, this tendency will lead Russia down the Belarusian path, toward a more authoritarian and managed future. “However, making this a professional action is unlikely to be a success,” he predicts. “The personnel and professional shortage of the incumbent state power is too obvious. Most likely, this will lead us to us experiencing some sort of deja vu, remembering the late stagnation era, and a partial repeat of the path Belarus is taking now.”36
Andrei Illarionov, the recently demoted presidential adviser on economic issues, sees further “belarusification” tendencies in Russia under Putin as self-defeating. He maintains that short-term victories over “the mass media, democratic institutions responsible for sending out messages, including messages of distress, crisis, and catastrophes to the public and to the authorities” by “amputation of such institutions” will ultimately lead “to catastrophic consequences for the country and for the entire public. The consequences, compared to what they could be under an open system, occur on a much greater scale, because in this situation problems are not solved. They accumulate, they become concentrated, and sooner or later they are directed to the center of the political system.” Therefore, he concludes. “A way out of such crises happens not through elections but through revolutions. If there are no normal, traditional, legal methods of solving the crises then nothing else short of revolution is left.”37
One other factor that undermines the move toward a belarusification of Russia’s domestic political landscape as a strategy to immunize Russia from the Orange “virus” or “plague” is the impact this development would have on Russia’s relations with Euro-Atlantic states and institutions: “Moscow fears confrontation with the West far more than it fears the loss of its own influence within the former Soviet Union.” Adoption of the belarusification option precludes G8 membership and strong EU trade relations. At any rate, this option is rendered very unlikely because Russia is now “too deeply involved in globalization, and too greatly dependent on the West—the chief customer for our oil and natural gas, our chief creditor, our chief supplier of investment and technology.”38
If events in Ukraine do not support tendencies that underpin a move toward a much more managed authoritarianism on the Belarus model, what other lessons can be drawn? Olga Kryshtanovskaya, head of the Center for Studying Elites at the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, argues that Ukraine should be regarded as a dress rehearsal or trial run for the Russian presidential election scheduled for March 2008. Ukraine also illustrates the importance of transferring the center of power from president to parliament before the election through amendments to the constitution or the law on government: “Vladimir Putin will assume the leadership of the United Russia party and a government of the parliamentary majority will then be elected. The only problem is in the choice of a candidate from the current Russian authorities for the post of future president without power. A strong personality will not do for this post, but a weak one may not get enough votes from the population.”39
In a similar vein, Profil magazine addressed the issue of political succession in Russia’s 2008 elections. In what the magazine terms “Operation Successor,” the state is attempting to ensure the succession by taking control of financial and administrative resources (through the appointment and promotion of leaders who are personally loyal to the Kremlin), parties and the electoral system, institutions and the media (“the media space is docile to the point of sterility”; the “population is being entertained, enticed, counseled, but not informed”). Profil observes that the principles for selecting the 2008 successor will be the same ones that applied in 1999, on the eve of Yeltsin’s resignation. The first principle is that the successor must guarantee the continuity of the elite. The second, that if an economic crisis occurs, it must be managed without blaming Putin and tarnishing his reputation.40
Although Konstantin Remchukov, the deputy minister for economic development and trade, does not discount the possibility of revolutions in other post-Soviet states, he sees them as happening only where regimes have been in place “for at least two terms and [have become] hackneyed among the people.” Societies in which expectations have been shattered are susceptible to the “charismatic, passionate enthusiasm of the masses.” But in Russia, “We have a different level of popularity and perception of Putin,” and citizens link their expectations of public justice and order to the president—expectations that have yet to be shattered.41 While the Kremlin exercises almost complete control over the political system, realistic alternatives are absent, the Russian economy is reviving, and although Putin’s personal popularity dropped after contested social reforms in January 2005, he still garners a 64 percent approval rating—can the same be said for any other regime in the CIS?42 Analysts from Tajikistan to Armenia, Kyrgyzstan to Azerbaijan, insist that their states, too, would be unable to sustain a revolution.
Fedor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Rossiia v globalnoi politike magazine, says that Russia’s integration into the West “has been virtually frozen.” CIS states increasingly realize that Russian patronage no longer guarantees that incumbents can retain power, and this will further undermine the CIS and the bilateral relations between Putin and the post-Soviet leaders. In addition, “the de facto curtailment of a Single Economic Space project, which . . . becomes pointless after Ukraine’s withdrawal, will be far more painful.” He predicted that Moldova could be “the Ukraine of 2005”— that is, the geopolitical asset whose loss will result in new costs to Russia. The Moldovan parliamentary elections scheduled for March 6, 2005, may well be based on the Kyiv prototype.43 (See Table 3.)
|Table 3: click to enlarge|
The states of Central Asia demonstrate a more authoritarian model of governance, in which development and modernization are based on economic growth fueled by exports of raw materials. The leaders of these states advocate a form of “national democracy.” The consequent lack of any reform process has galvanized Islamic discontent and radicalized opposition movements, leading to further repression from the center. The Orange Revolution only exacerbates these tendencies.
Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz press, for example, alleges that the West plans to gradually take control over the CIS countries, both economically and politically. Vecherniy Bishkek warned, “We are witnessing how the Americans, represented by the U.S. Department of State, the National Democratic and the International Republican Institutions are implementing another ‘Rose Revolution’ in Ukraine with the great, and most likely determining, influence of Soros.”44 Only by holding truly democratic elections would it be possible to stop the chain of Western-backed “revolutions” and allow the Kyrgyz people, “and not [Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice,” to decide the destiny of the country in accordance with “Kyrgyz law, but not under the law of the prairie.”45 The People’s Assembly of Kyrgyzstan specifically criticized U.S. Ambassador Steven Young for “interference in Kyrgyz internal affairs,” warning: “Ambassadors do not resolve problems in the development of countries where they are posted.”46
|President Akayev's fears were justified|
Edil Baisalov, the leader of the coalition of civil organizations known as “For Democracy and Civil Society,” predicts that the Kyrgyz authorities will significantly restrict political freedom in order to prevent large-scale public protests like those in Ukraine.51 This fear is well-founded. Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaiev, speaking before the personnel of the Chuy Region administration, warned that radical religious movements and extremist organizations had already launched their strategies to gain power and enter parliament, and that the government would concentrate on ensuring stable conditions for the elections.52
|Rahmonov: still president in 2011|
|Niyazov: only death dethroned him|
|Karimov: still president in 2011|
|Robert Kocharyan: left office democratically in 2008|
|Ilham Aliev: proving democracy isn't "democracy."|
Does the CIS really face a wave of Western-backed revolutions-for-export that will wash through the former Soviet space, demolishing incumbents and implanting pro-Western candidates from among the disparate counter-elites and oppositions in these states, thereby encircling Russia? This expectation seems rather overblown, distorted by euphoria over the Ukrainian victory unmodified by more considered judgment. Opposition movements throughout the CIS may well have been emboldened by the events in Tbilisi and Kyiv. The prospect of a more level playing field during election periods is more likely not because of foreign interference, but thanks to the emergence of stronger civil societies and a deeper democratic political culture than incumbents expected and believed possible after little more than a decade of post-Soviet governance.
|A more level playing field? Stronger civil societies? A deeper democratic political culture? The image above is a screenshot from a new video game, People Power, designed and produced by actual participants of color revolutions, and other members of the Western regime change tactical infrastructure. Talk about "reality check." Here's a reality check: this juvenile nonsense is the reality of foreign policy today...a video game designed to help kids overthrow their own governments. Does this seem realistic enough?? One can surely describe this as an instance of "deeper democratic political culture" but we prefer to characterize this as power and money working in concert toward a well-documented geopolitical goal.|
Second, what of the contention that Western secret services use unwitting NGOs as dupes or proxies, and thus are able to effectively “outsource” the revolution and run it by remote control? This contention attributes far more power and ability to the analytical and operational capabilities of the security services than seems warranted by recent evidence of their miscalculations (in cases where real national interest was at least professed to be at stake) [???]. The outsourcing of revolution through NGOs could never be as careful, systematic, and controlled as charged by the proponents of this thesis—contingency, personalities, and the ability of civic organizations to set their own agenda should not be overlooked. The unification of three separate opposition blocs in Ukraine to push the opposition movement forward could hardly have been imposed from the outside.
|No 'imposed' unification of opposition blocks? Ok. Sure. The image above is of the Merriott Hotel conference room in Budapest, Hungry, where in October, 1999, the US-financed National Democratic Institute (NDI) paid US political consultant Doug Schoen (of Penn, Schoen, Berland & Associates) to instruct presidential candidates of the Serbian opposition block to drop out of the race. At the nearby Hilton in Budapest, around the same time, the US-financed International Republican Institute (IRI) provided strategic training (through Gene Sharp's Albert Einstein Institution) to leaders of the Serbian youth movement, OTPOR!, the group that is now credited with having mobilized the successful ousting of President Milosevic the following year.|
Since President Leonid Kuchma took office in 1995, USAID has dumped close to $1.5 billion into Ukraine. The destination of every penny of those funds is a matter of public record. Most of that money has gone to support reforms within the Ukrainian government. Only a few million dollars a year has gone to support a free press, free elections, and other civil society-building initiatives. The bulk of USAID funding definitely did not end up with the opposition. Rather, it ended up with Kuchma’s corrupt government. One could thus argue that the United States did more to prop up the Kuchma regime than it did to support the opposition.66Fourth, even in an age of virtual information, are PR firms and pollsters really omnipotent? Gleb Pavlovsky, the chief Russian “political technologist” dispatched to Kyiv, himself cautions against “exaggerating the importance of political technologies and the revolutionary technologists as they are called. In fact, these are advisers or their support services. They may offer advice and consultations, and the most they can do is offer a scheme.”67 Other analysts discount the extent to which the events in Kyiv are “exportable” within the CIS, arguing that the CIS states cannot all be regarded as pliant “victims of the West’s democratization techniques,” because they do not all have the preconditions necessary to support successful revolutions, namely: “weak, closed-off regimes with authoritarian leanings, incapable of either sharing power or suppressing attempts to encroach on their monopoly of power.”68 The internal political environment must be conducive to the importation of revolution, and for this to be so a number of ingredients must be properly aligned. If, for example, the incumbent president is reasonably popular, civil society is weak, the political elite is willing to promise change, elections are not overtly stolen, and the incumbent lacks a credible rival, then an imported revolution will not take root.
Fifth, the ineptness of Putin’s counterproductive Ukraine policy has also been identified as a factor in the Orange Revolution. The policy itself constituted a self-inflicted wound. According to Lilia Shevtsova of the Carnegie Moscow Center,
Moscow, with its technology of interference, has deepened the split in Ukrainian society—but to its own detriment. The Russian presence allowed radicals to resurrect elements of the national liberation struggle and to return—at least a section of citizens—to 1991, that is, to Ukraine’s struggle for independence from Russia. Putin became the factor that helped to unite Ukrainian nationalists, liberals, and socialists against the authorities and against Moscow. Having taken part in the Ukrainian struggle, Moscow has not only excluded for itself the role of arbitrator in the Ukrainian process, but has also narrowed the field for domination in the post- Soviet space. To our eyes, an event has taken place that in terms of its consequences for Russia may turn out to be more serious than the expansion of NATO and the EU.69
|What is this guy drinkin?|
Looking Ahead: Will Rhetoric Trump Reality?
Despite the foregoing observations, the exported-revolution thesis cannot be dismissed so lightly. It will have a political impact and inevitably shape foreign and security policies within the CIS. A belief in the thesis, whether sincere or fabricated, will affect domestic and foreign policy in the CIS states, particularly in respect to how post-Soviet elites safeguard their power and manage political successions. Just as certain Central Asian states may allege that the political opposition is linked to al-Qaeda in order to justify a crackdown on legitimate parties, the CIS states may claim that opposition parties are backed by Western security services. Such tactics will prove to be powerful and perhaps even popular tools for mobilizing the masses and justifying greater state control over political opponents. Incumbent regimes will now be able to play the “Ukrainian card” come election time: “What is better, they ask, stability and inter-ethnic accord or confrontation that threatens a split in society?”71
It is not beyond belief that many post-Soviet elites may sincerely believe the thesis, especially those who view security issues through the prism of their Soviet experience, drawing on Stalin for notions of encirclement and the Leninist/Bolshevik ideology to shape their understanding of the phenomenon of revolution. The 1917 October Revolution is proof that revolutions need vanguard parties of intellectuals, ideologists, and organizers. If Russia has not supplied them in situations where revolutions have occurred, the West must have done so. It therefore follows that the monolithic West has a strategy for the post-Soviet space that allows for a carefully coordinated, systematic approach to regime change—after all, that is how the Soviet Union approached its international relationships during the cold war. Max Boot, a well-known American neoconservative, has observed that a little outside help goes a long way in supporting democratic oppositions to overthrow anti-democratic incumbents: “We need to apply elsewhere the lessons of Ukraine, which are also the lessons of Georgia, Serbia, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, South Africa, Poland, Lithuania, and other countries where despotic regimes have been toppled since the original ‘people power’ revolution swept the Philippines in 1986. An obvious candidate for a similar transformation is Iran.”72 Such statements can only reinforce the fears and paranoia of stakeholders in the CIS and the Middle East.
This in turn will affect how a range of contacts—from educational and religious to military—will be understood. Logically it would follow that the ultimate purpose of Western military-training programs (where military-to-military contacts are paramount) is, at best, to prompt state military forces and security services to take a neutral position toward the revolution, and at worst, to side with the opposition, therefore marginalizing and incapacitating the power of the incumbent. As a result, U.S.-sponsored “train and equip” programs and NATO Partnership for Peace exercises and projects are likely to come under much greater scrutiny and suspicion.
The Orange Revolution poses policy questions for CIS state actors, foreign and domestic security services, diplomatic missions, NGOs, and other civil society actors within the CIS. Three constants will emerge. First, all of these actors increasingly compete or cooperate to occupy the same policy arena in the CIS. Here agendas, initiatives, issues, goals, objectives, policy instruments, and tools are created, pursued, and utilized. Second, it is generally accepted that it is legitimate for foreign diplomatic missions to support the government and people of their host state in building a modern, prosperous, stable, and democratic country in accordance with the laws of the state and international practice. To this end, a focus on the legitimacy of the process of free, fair, and transparent elections is not a breach of a state’s sovereignty or interference in its internal affairs, unless a diplomatic mission exclusively supports one particular candidate or faction. Third, in democratic political cultures, government officials accept that NGOs and civil society are free to support both a democratization process and specific candidates or parties, even if this undermines the power of incumbents.
In some post-Soviet states, these constants are barely acknowledged as legitimate. Cooperation and coordination between diplomatic missions and NGOs is increasingly perceived in a negative light. This link is not viewed as an end in itself (building a vibrant and democratic civil society), but as a means to another, more sinister and threatening end: regime change. Some CIS regimes understand only too well the complexity and power of Western-style NGOs and civil society as actors, and therefore how they can have simultaneously competing and cooperative agendas with significant domestic, foreign, and security policy implications. What they cannot fathom is that all this can occur independent of Western diplomatic missions and security services.
In addition, the ruling elites of the CIS tend to underestimate the growing power of civil society—especially when manifested as an expression of popular protest sparked by intense frustration and disappointment at a stolen election and official resistance to change. An exception is Aleksandr Lebedev, member of the Russian State Duma, deputy head of the Duma’s CIS Committee, and co-chairman of the Russo-Ukrainian Inter-parliamentary Commission. With reference to the Orange Revolution, he said:
In the final analysis, it was not the administrative levers and not interference in Ukraine’s affairs by one state or another, or for that matter by any other forces, that was crucial there. It was the fact that three million people took to the streets in Kyiv that was, in my view, the more important development. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to imagine that three million people could, by means of some sort of political spin, be induced to take to the streets in temperatures that were as low as minus 12 Centigrade and stay there for weeks on end. It was an expression of the will of Kyivans and Ukrainians who had flocked to Kyiv.73Finally, is democracy as a political system a universal concept? President Akayev of Kyrgyzstan, for example, holds that national democracy and stability must be attained before Western-style democracy can follow. Anatol Lieven made a somewhat similar point with regard to Russia: “Only a semi-authoritarian government now will allow for the possibility of liberal democracy in Russia in the future; President Putin is to be supported.” 74 If this is so, then to what extent can the goal of “stability first” in support of higher national goals (national democracy/traditional values) be pursued by regimes before diplomatic missions and NGO observers conclude that despotic authoritarianism is the real goal and the incumbents are determined to hold on to power at any and all costs? How much torture, imprisonment, harassment in pursuit of “stability first” is acceptable? Where should diplomatic missions draw the line between achieving strategic security partnerships and upholding democratic values? There is no uniform answer across the CIS to these difficult questions, but it would appear that Western tolerance levels and costs/ benefits analysis are still measured in realpolitik national interest terms. Tolerance is low when perceived national interest is at stake, and high when not—thus on December 26, 2004, there were around twenty-five OSCE monitors in Uzbekistan versus 10,000 monitors in Ukraine.
Looking to the future, it is likely that incumbent elites throughout the CIS plan to utilize the thesis of exported revolution to buttress and consolidate their power bases and devise winning electoral strategies. The rhetoric is most likely to take on a reality of its own that has little to do with evidence. In this respect, the Moldovan and Kyrgyz parliamentary and presidential elections in 2005 will prove instructive. Taking Kyrgyzstan as an example, President Akayev, a former academician rather than apparatchik, is sixty years old and in good health. He has almost completed his second term as president (2000–2005). Should he step down and return to academe, Kyrgyzstan will be the first state in Central Asia to provide for a peaceful transfer of power, and this will reinvigorate progressive forces in the state. However, although Akayev says that he intends to step down, it is unclear whether his supporters, particularly his wife, are ready to relinquish power. The presidential elections will thus be a litmus test, either a test case of the transfer of power in accordance with the constitution or evidence for the instrumental use of the threat of a foreign-backed opposition-led revolution to justify the retention of power.
In the aftermath of the Orange Revolution, new considerations may now focus and shape the thinking of post-Soviet presidential incumbents on the subject of strategic power distribution and continuity. Can incumbents finesse a transfer of power to chosen successors on the Yeltsin-Putin precedent, or will they run the risk that such attempts would be prone to breakdown on the Kuchma-Yanukovych model? Would the use of constitutional courts, two-thirds majorities in parliament, or a popular referendum achieve the same goal, or could this precipitate the popular expression of mass people power that it sought to avoid? Might incumbents be more inclined to allow for a more or less democratic transfer of power to counter-elites in return for immunity from prosecution for corruption while in office? The treatment of Georgia’s former president, Eduard Shevardnadze, and even more of Leonid Kuchma in Ukraine will be closely watched in this respect. In the final analysis, are the military and security forces to be relied upon as a loyal praetorian guard that will obey presidential orders and suppress popular discontent, or might they refuse to respond or be so divided that incumbents run the risk of execution in accordance with the 1989 Ceauºescu/Romanian model of revolution?
Unless otherwise noted, translations are from Lexis/Nexis database.
1. ONASA/Independent News Agency and Agence France-Presse (December
30, 2004); Ukrainian Television Channel 1 (December 30, 2004).
2. Ukrainian Television Channel 5 (December 23, 2004).
3. Interview with Sergei Markov, Gazeta.ru (December 27, 2004),
available at www.gazeta.ru.
4. ONASA/AP (November 27, 2004); Gene Sharp, From Dictatorship
to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation (Boston: Albert Einstein Institution, 1993, reprinted May 2002, June 2003) (available at www.aeinstein.org/organizations/org/FDTD-2.pdf), served as a textbook for a series of lectures attended by resistance members and helped them facilitate regime change in Serbia; Jelena Tusup, “Ukrainian Resistance According to a Serbian Recipe,” Blic (Belgrade) (November 28, 2004): 3.
5. Joel Brinkley, “Dollars for Democracy? U.S. Aid to Ukraine Challenged,” New York Times (December 21, 2004): 3.
6. Tatiana Netreba, “ ‘Rozy’ na krovi” (“Roses” on Blood), Argumenty
i fakty (December 15, 2004).
7. Jonathan Steele, “Ukraine’s Untold Story,” Nation (December 20,
2004): 4–6. Steve Weissman argues, “Team Bush put the pieces in place to provoke a coup, drawing on classic CIA destabilization campaigns that had toppled, among others, Iran’s Mohammed Mossadegh (1953), Guatemala’s Jacobo Arbenz (1954), Guyana’s Chedi Jagan (1963), Brazil’s Joao Goulart (1964), and Chile’s Salvador Allende (1973). The Venezuelan operation used many of the same groups now meddling in Ukraine. And, with the same straight face, they told themselves and the world that they were just helping to build democracy” (“How Uncle Santa Diddles Dems from Ukraine to Venezuela,” Perspective [December 24, 2004), available at www.truthout.org/docs_04/122404A.shtml).
8. Mark Almond, “The Price of People Power: The Ukraine Street
Protests Have Followed a Pattern of Western Orchestration Set in the 80s. I Know—I Was a Cold War Bagman,” The Guardian (December 7, 2004): 23; “Yanukovich’s Friends,” Economist (December 4, 2004): 56.
9. Ukrayina TV, Donetsk (December 6, 2004); Ukrainian Television Channel 5 (December 6, 2004). On another occasion, he noted, “There has been no revolution at all. There was a pre-planned and pre-financed putsch that has been prepared for many years. We saw the end of the putsch after the runoff ended. That’s all” (Ukrainian Television Channel 1 [December 17, 2004]).
10. Ukrayina TV, Donetsk (December 14, 2004).
11. Russian Television Center, “Russian TV Accuses West of Orchestrating Ukrainian Crisis” (December 8, 2004).
12. RIA-Novosti (December 3, 2004).
13. ITAR-TASS (December 27, 2004).
14. Andrei Vladimirov, “Revoliutsiia na eksport” (Revolution for Export), Itogi (December 7, 2004): 10–12.
15. Vitalii Tretiakov, Grivna na rebre” (Coin on the Edge), Rossiiskaia gazeta (December 2, 2004).
16. Andrei Iliashenko, “A Bunch of Rose Revolutions,” RIA-Novosti (November 29, 2004).
17. Rossiiskaia gazeta (December 1, 2004).
18. Aleksei Pushkov, “They Do Not Want to Split Ukraine, But They Want to Tear It Away from Russia,” Postskriptum, Russian Television Center (December 1, 2004). Aleksei Pushkov is the author and presenter of this program and a member of President Vladimir Putin’s council for the development of civic society.
19. “Conference on Ukraine with Effective Policy Fund President Gleb Pavlovsky,” RIA-Novosti (December 3, 2004). See also Nataliia Galimova, “Rossiia pod toporom: Gleb Pavlovskii—odna minuta—dazhe dvorniki v stolitse stanoviatsia revoliutsionerami” (Russia Under the Axe: Gleb Pavlovsky—Any Moment—Even the Street Cleaners in the Capital Will Become Revolutionaries), Moskovskii komsomolets (December 21, 2004).
20. Viacheslav Kostikov, Argumenty i fakty (November 30, 2004).
21. Sergei B. Ivanov, Russian minister of defense, “The World in the 21st Century: Addressing New Threats And Challenges,” Inaugural Annual Can incumbents finesse a transfer of power
to chosen successors on the Yeltsin-Putin precedent, or will they run the risk that such
attempts would be prone to breakdown on the Kuchma-Yanukovych model? Herd Colorful Revolutions and the CIS 17 Lecture on Russia and Russian-American Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, New York, January 13, 2005.
22. Aleksei Malashenko, “Gruzino-Ukrainskoe posobie dlia SNG” (Georgian-Ukrainian Textbook for the CIS), Nezavisimaia gazeta (December 20, 2004).
23. Luc Perrot, “Russia Slides Toward Authoritarianism, in Rivalry with West,” Agence France-Presse (December 21, 2004).
24. Vladimirov, “Revoliutsiia na eksport.”
26. Dmitry Oreshkin, “Gaiki budut zakruchivat s molnienosnoi skorostiu” (Screws Will Be Tightened with Lightning Speed), Izvestia (November 30, 2004): 4.
27. Boris Nemtsov, “Dlia liderov pravykh: eto nekii grandioznyi pilotnyi proekt” (For the Leader of the Government, It Is a Grandiose Pilot Project),
Izvestia (November 30, 2004): 4.
28. RIA-Novosti (December 12, 2004).
29. Valerii Solovei, “Uroki dlia Rossii” (Lessons for Russia), Rodnaia gazeta (December 10, 2004): 2.
30. Viacheslav Nikonov, “Banany, dollary, i kashtany” (Bananas, Dollars, and Chustnuts), Rossiiskaia gazeta (December 1, 2004).
31. Yuri Stroganov, “Ukrainu my poka ne poteriali, no nado uchest i ispravit oshibki” (We Haven’t Lost Ukraine Yet, But We Must Learn from Our Mistakes), Trud (January 12, 2005).
32. Netreba, “ ‘Rozy’ na krov” (On the Edge of the “Abyss”), Belarusian TV (December 9, 2004).
33. Belapan news agency (October 11, 2004).
34. Belapan (December 28, 2004). According to Anatol Lyabedzka, UCP party chairman, “Lukashenko’s edict banning the color orange must be the next step of the authorities.”
35. Jackson Diehl, “Battle for Belarus,” Washington Post (January 3, 2005): A13.
36. Konstantin Demchenko, “ ‘Maidanshchna’ protiv Konstitutsiia RF” (The Square Syndrome Versus the Russian Constitution), Russkii kurier (December 8, 2004): 4.
37. Ekho Moskvy radio (December 30, 2004).
38. Vladimirov, “Revoliutsiia na eksport.”
39. Vera Sitnina, “Psikhologiia intrigi” (Psychology of Intrigue), Vremia novostei (December 10, 2004).
40. “What the Papers Say: Russia” (December 22, 2004), available at www.whatthepaperssay.co.uk.
41. “Lessons of the Ukrainian Revolution for Russia: A Hangover from Somebody Else’s Feast,” BBC Monitoring Service via “What the Papers Say: Russia” (December 8, 2004).
42. Anatoly Nedetsky, “Three Polls Indicate Slide in Putin’s Popularity,” Moscow Times (March 4, 2005): 3.
43. Gazeta.ru (December 30, 2004), available at www.gazeta.ru.
44. Olga Bezborodova, “Eksportery ‘revoliutsii sorniakov’ ” (Exporters of “Weed Revolution”), Vecherniy Bishkek (December 1, 2004): 4. See also Ibragim Rustambek, “Sobytiia na Ukraine mogut postavit pod udar vse SNG: Nuzhna li kyrgyzam revoliutsiia?” (The Events in Ukraine Can Jeopardize the Whole of the CIS: Do the Kyrgyz People Need Revolution?), Argumenty i fakty Kyrgyzstan (December 1, 2004): 3.
45. Kanat Berdybaiev, “Western Politicians Prepare ‘Elm Revolution’ in Kyrgyzstan,” RIF Obozrenie (December 3, 2004).
46. ITAR-TASS (January 4, 2005).
47. Opposition forces have already embraced the name “Tulip Revolution” in imitation of Georgia’s Rose Revolution. Kyrgyzstan is known for its remarkably diverse tulip species.
48. Kyrgyzstan Public Educational Radio and TV (December 10, 2004).
49. Ibragim Rustambek, “Prizrak demokratii poterialsia v Kyrgyzstane: Ne spi, Amerika!” (The Ghost of Democracy Has Got Lost in Kyrgyzstan: Do Not Idle, America!), Argumenty i fakty Kyrgyzstan (December 8, 2004):1: “The people want to know, who is master at home, since tranquility and order are much more important than ideological ‘values’ like free capitalism, human rights or some kind of gender equality, which are artificially implanted in the country.”
50. Kyrgyzstan Television Channel 1 (December 26, 2004).
51. Viktoria Panfilova, “Uprezhdaiushchii udar prezidenta Akaeva” (President Akaev’s Preemptive Strike), Nezavisimaia gazeta (December 21, 2004): 5.
52. Bishkek Independent Television (December 20, 2004).
53. Asia-Plus Information Agency (December 2, 2004): 1. See also “Opinions, Globalization, Democracy, Interests,” Khovar news agency (January 4, 2005). This article argues that there is a switch from U.S. policy based on energy resources to efforts to teach democracy: the “expansion of Washington’s imperial ambition is a new U.S. geopolitical goal in the region.”
54. Gennadiy Sisoiev, “Sut” (Bottom Line), Kommersant (December 20, 2004).
55. David Lewis and Andrew Stroehlein, “The Inevitability of Change in Uzbekistan,” Financial Times (December 21, 2004): 15; David Lewis is Central Asia project director at the International Crisis Group; Andrew Stroehlein, the group’s director of media, ran journalist-training programs
in Uzbekistan. See also Paula R. Newberg, “Uzbekistan’s Democratic Smoke Screen,” International Herald Tribune (December 24–26, 2004): 6.
56. Rachel Denber, “Post-Soviet Democracy: Beyond Ukraine, a Grim Picture,” International Herald Tribune (December 28, 2004): 8.
57. Uzbekistan Television Channel 1 (December 26, 2004).
58. In a recent interview, Karimov explained, “You will see what I mean if you look at how many non-governmental organizations there are in Ukraine and at their sources of funding. Actually, we are now keeping track of the projects for which funds are being allocated and grants are being awarded. We want to be certain that these are humanitarian projects and not the covert preparations for the next ‘color’ revolution. The international organizations working here are not always pursuing noble goals, after all. At seminars like ‘Leaders for the 21st Century,’ they ‘help the government’ choose the most talented young people, but they are doing this primarily for themselves. This is followed by regular trips abroad, where their minds are systematically molded at various symposiums and seminars. The products are people calling themselves ‘citizens of the world’ and insisting there will be no boundaries someday soon.” Viktoria Panfilova, “Pri imperii nas schitali liudmi vtorogo sorta” (Interview with Islam Karimov: In the Days of the Empire, We Were Regarded as Second-Class Citizens), Nezavisimaia gazeta (January 14, 2005).
59. Muhammad Salih, “Uzbekistan’s Dangerous Election Sham,” Moscow
Times (December 3, 2004). Muhammad Salih is the head of the Erk Democratic Party of Uzbekistan. He contributed this comment to the Moscow Times from exile in Europe.
60. Arminfo news agency (December 14, 2004).
61. Vahan Vardanyan, “There Will Be No Revolution,” Ayots Ashkar (December 2, 2004): 3.
62. MPA news agency (January 10, 2005). The author, Mubariz Ahmadoglu, is the director of the Institute for Political Innovations and Technologies in Baku.
64. Bilik Dunyasi news agency (December 16, 2004).
65. Azerbaijan Television NS (December 29, 2004). Mubariz Ahmadoglu predicts: “Even if there is an increased level of political activity in Azerbaijani in the run up to the parliamentary elections, I do not believe that these processes will take a revolutionary nature and lead to a change of
power.” MPA (January 10, 2005).
66. Greg Bloom, “U.S. Can’t Buy Revolution,” Moscow Times (December 23, 2004). Bloom was editor in chief of the Kyiv Post from 2000 to 2003. “The strongest indictment one could make about the effect of U.S.- funded democracy-building programs on the Ukrainian election is that they leveled the playing field for the opposition.”
67. Conference on Ukraine with Effective Policy Fund president Gleb Pavlovsky, RIA-Novosti, December 3, 2004.
68. Vladimirov, “Revoliutsiia na eksport.”
69. Lilia Shevtsova, “Ispytanie Ukrainoi. Vyderzhit li ego Putin i sozdannyi im rezhim?” (A Test with Ukraine: Will Putin and the Regime Created by Him Pass It?), Novaia gazeta (December 6, 2004). See also 18 Problems of Post-Communism March/April 2005 Mikhail Zygar, “Rabota nad uspekhami: Sergei Lavrov opravdyvaetsia za pozitivnyi god” (Working on Success: Sergei Lavrov Congratulates Himself on “Positive” Year), Kommersant (January 20, 2005): 1.
70. Christopher Smith, “Democracy in the CIS,” Washington Times (January 12, 2005). Smith, a Republican member of Congress from New Jersey, is the U.S. Helsinki Commission chair.
71. Viacheslav Timirbaiev, “Will We Learn a Lesson from the Ukrainian Elections?” Moia stolitsa novosti (December 7, 2004): 1.
72. Max Boot, “Exporting the Ukraine Miracle,” Los Angeles Times (December 30, 2004): B11. Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. To order reprints, call 1-800-352-2210;
outside the United States, call 717-632-3535.
73. Ekho Moskvy radio (January 14, 2005).
74. Anatol Lieven, “The Essential Vladimir Putin,” Foreign Policy, no. 145 (January/February 2005): 76–77.