Prof. Bulent Gokay
17 February 2010
The recent election results, humiliating defeat of pro-Western Victor Yushchenko, in the Ukraine were a repudiation of the ‘Orange Revolution’ of 2004. Winning just over 5 percent of the vote, the Ukrainian people issues a clear rejection of Yushchenko and his pro-Western policies. The ‘Orange Revolution’ was part of an aggressive campaign launched by neo-Conservative US administration in the post-Soviet space to limit the power of Russia through providing support to a series of pro-American ‘reform’ movements.[i]
The conflict over the 2004 Ukrainian elections between the Western supported candidate Viktor Yushchenko and Russian supported candidate Viktor Yanukovich was presented by the US and western media as a simple struggle between the forces of democracy and authoritarianism. The opposition leader Yuschenko was characterized as a liberal reformer and his opponent Yanukovich was described as the incarnation of Soviet style authoritarianism. However, behind the simplicity of this presentation a different narrative was unfolding. In reality, the conflict had nothing to do with democracy vs. authoritarianism: Yuschenko essentially represented the modern face of a conservative Ukrainian nationalism that has been progressively revived in the western portions of the country since the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1990, while Yanukovich is little more than a typical post-Soviet petty-capitalist oligarch, of which there are dozens of examples in the region that generally, but not always, enjoy the backing of Western powers.
The so-called reformer Viktor Yuschenko was the political face of a social network that is closely tied to the interests of Western military geo-strategists, neo-liberal technocrats, Polish irredentists and Ukrainian conservative forces. The alliance of this constellation of forces with powerful conservative interests in successive US administrations during and after the Cold War is well documented. The ‘marriage’ of Yushchenko with these conservatives is literally reflected in that his US-born wife, who is of Ukrainian decent and served on the staff of the Reagan White House. The general conservative agenda of Yushchenko’s supporter base also can be seen in the presence of Bibles and crosses at his rallies, his rhetorical appeals to purify Ukraine of ‘filth and corruption’, and in his populist-nationalist-fundamentalist and seriously authoritarian posturing during his swearing in as the President of Ukraine – with one hand on the Bible, in his instance that he will crush any move towards regional autonomy by national minorities, and in his defence of anti-Semitic publications and accepted backing by neo-Nazi groups.
Rather than a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism, the 2004 Ukrainian election was much more a typical conflict of geopolitical interests, based on the country’s importance as a large agricultural and industrial region, plus its crucial position in an important gas transportation network, its proximity to the key oil resources in the Caspian basin, and its general geo-strategic location as a border country to Russia. In this sense, it represents a conflict between Ukraine’s pro-American west, supported by money and experts from the EU and the US, and the pro-Russian east, traditionally linked to Russia by economic and cultural bonds both before and during the Soviet eras. With its geographic location north of the Black Sea, the Ukraine is close not only to the oil of the Caspian region, but also between it and the key oil importing states of central and northern Europe.
Zbigniev Brzezinski, former US national security advisor under President Carter, noted in his 1997 book,The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives, that neither the West nor Russia can afford to lose the Ukraine to its geostrategic and geoeconomic adversaries. According to Brzezinski, the Ukraine is one of the most important geopolitical pivots in Eurasia and control of the Ukraine is critical to the interests of the US and Europe. For the West, the Ukraine offers a potentially lucrative market and a critical transportation route for oil and gas, but as Brzezinski points out, ‘if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia.’[ii]
It should come as no surprise that Putin’s Russia have always wanted to pull Ukraine closer into the Russian sphere of influence. Prior to the election, relations Russia were improving following the ratification of the 1998 bilateral Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. Under this treaty, the Ukraine committed itself foregoing any military alliances for the duration of Russia’s 20-year lease on the naval base in Sevastopol, and the two sides also signed a series of agreements on the final division and disposition of the former Black Sea fleet. In the years immediately preceding the treaty, Russia has increased its influence in Ukraine through various political, economic and military agreements, and through the operations of Russian natural gas and giant gas monopoly, Gazprom, and Russian electricity and energy complex, UES. In September 2003, Ukraine signed an Agreement on a Common Economic Space with Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, which foresaw closer economic relations between the four signatories, eventually leading to the formation of an economic union.[iii]
The US administration, on the other hand, sees the Ukraine as part of a framework of energy-rich states in the Eurasian corridor, where the US has aggressively pursued a militarised foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. It’s aim is to favourably position itself in the Ukraine and absorb it into a US dominated sphere of influence. This has already begun through the organization of five western-oriented former Soviet states into a regional organization, GUUAM (Georgia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova), which has been financed in part by Western/ NATO military aid and Anglo-American oil interests. As a founding member of GUUAM, the Ukraine has become part of the effort to exclude Russia altogether from the oil and gas resources of the Caspian basin.[iv]
Cold War-style Proxy Confrontation
The conflict around the Ukrainian elections is very much a Cold War-style proxy confrontation between the US-led Western camp and Russian interests. Behind the camps of the presidential candidates one can clearly identify the interests of the rival Ukrainian elites and the competition among the global imperialist powers. As a result of the market reforms and privatisation in the 1990s, a highly peculiar social and economic system has emerged in the country. At its centre are clan-corporate groups, each of which consists of a complex and informally linked network of several privatised enterprises and financial institutions, along with the lobbying structures that represent their interests in the state bureaucracy. Because of the intermingling that has occurred between the top levels of the clans, state officials and criminal gangs, a kind of oligarchic-bureaucratic system has emerged which is controls power in the primarily political main centres of the Ukraine.
The last 6-7 years, until the outbreak of the 2008 global financial and economic crisis, have seen a slow but consistent economic recovery in some sectors of Ukrainian industry that are directly connected to the Russian economy. Russia’s economic growth itself has been tied since 1999 to high world oil prices and increased oil production. Energy, which underpins the Russian economy and domestic stability, is the key aspect in Russian influence in Ukraine, because Russia provides cheap oil and gas and absorbs a substantial part of the industrial production of the eastern and southern Ukraine. In turn, most of the growth in Ukrainian industry has taken place in this same region, which is concentrated in heavy metallurgy and other resource-intensive production. Thus, it isn’t an accident that Ukrainian economic growth coincides with powerful transfers of Russian capital into the country.[v]
Outgoing Ukrainian president, Leonid Kuchma, tried to follow a middle path between the interests of the US and Russia. Initially, he sought NATO and EU membership for the country, and went so far as to send 1,500 Ukrainian troops to Iraq. In doing so, Kuchma enjoyed full Western support, and during the Clinton years US officials turned a blind eye to the use of state media and police to secure Kuchma’s reelection in 1999 when his main challenger was Petro Symonenko, chairman of the Ukrainian Communist Party with an openly anti-IMF and anti-NATO agenda.[vi] However, during this same period, Kuchma also sought to improve relations with Russia, claiming a new era in relations between members of the Commonwealth of Independent States after his return from the CIS summit held in Moscow on March 28, 1997.[vii] With great power rivalries heating up in 2004, Ukrainian leaders no longer had the luxury of maintaining this delicate balancing of powers.
There was clear evidence, even before the 2004 elections, that both Russia and the West interfered in Ukraine’s election process in an effort to further their respective interests. It was also pointed out by observers that there was some fraud in the elections and that it took place on both sides. It did not come as a surprise to many that the corrupt and authoritarian government of outgoing president Kuchma manipulated the outcome of the first election: it was after all part of his pattern. However, there also was strong evidence that the US, with various members of the Bush administration and various American “pro-democracy” front groups, had a crucial hand in destabilising the regime before and during the elections. The US government funded and organised the activities of US consultancies, pollsters, and diplomats, and both the US and the EU openly supported and financed Yushchenko, and exploited the growing opposition to Kuchma’s authoritarian regime to call for a vote for the opposition.
The US manipulation of the 2004 Ukrainian elections was greatly assisted by its EU partners. German newspapers contributed a propaganda campaign, with Sueddeutsche Zeitung declaring, ‘Putin wants to keep Ukraine under his thumb. … Russia does not want to let the country out from under its influence and is not ready to accept the feelings of a majority of the people’.[viii] The German business dailyHandelsblatt concurred, saying Ukraine is of vital interest for Putin, not just because it is an important corridor for transporting energy but also because it gives Moscow clout: ‘The master of the Kremlin invested himself heavily in the Ukrainian elections and will continue to do so in order to keep control over all the lands between the Donau (River) and the Don (River) firmly in the hands of Moscow. This has less to do with economics than with Putin’s political goal of rebuilding a Russian empire.’ Without Kiev’, the paper continues repeating the Brzezinski line, ‘Moscow becomes a regional power.’[ix]
All this can be labelled an ‘operation engineering democracy through the ballot box and civil disobedience’. It was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000, and in Georgia in 2003. Ten months after the success of the campaign in Belgrade, the same technique was used again, this time in Belarus (2001), but there it failed to create the expected results. Otpor (resistance), the group that overthrew Milosevic, received funds from the US government via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Agency for International Development.[x] The NED was established by the Reagan Administration in 1983 to do overtly what the CIA previously had done covertly. That is wage Cold War propaganda and operations through Freedom House, which is now chaired by former CIA director James Woolsey and supported by billionaire George Soros’ foundations, whose donations always support NED operations.
Once they were finished in Belgrade, Veterans of Otpor travelled to Georgia to help train the Kmara(enough) movement, to Belarus to support the Zubr movement, and finally to the Ukraine to bolters thePora movement. In each case, the so-called democracy movement was carefully branded with a single-phrase slogan such as “He’s Finished” or “High Time”, and an uncomplicated logo, designed – like the fist used in Serbia or the ticking clock used in Ukraine – so that it could be easily reproduced on posters and stencil-spray-painted in public places.[xi] All this was a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing.[xii] This US technique, labelled as the ‘post-modern coup’, is predatory and reckless, and a clear act of imperial arrogance: the same old story of the good – be it ‘democracy’, ‘human rights’ or ‘self-determination’ – against the bad – or in George Bush’s lexicon, the ‘evil doers’, that ‘we’ bring to others.
“Revolution in Civilian Affairs” and Post-modern James Bond
The emphasis on the use of new communication technologies to rapidly deploy small groups suggests that what we are seeing is a civilian application of what the US military leaders call the ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’ doctrine, which depends on highly mobile small group deployments ‘enabled’ by ‘real time’ intelligence and communications.
Speaking at the ‘Secretary’s Open Forum’ at the State Department on June 29, 2004, in a speech entitled ‘Between Hard and Soft Power: The Rise of Civilian-Based Struggle and Democratic Change’, Dr Peter Ackerman, a supporter of the Bush Administrations ‘regime change’ objectives elaborated on the issue involved. He proposed that youth movements, such as those used to bring down Serbia, could be used to also bring down the governments in Iran and North Korea, and could have been used to bring down Iraq, thereby accomplishing all of Bush’s objectives without having to rely on military means. He further reported that he has been working with Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, a top US weapons designer, to develop new communications technologies that could be used in other youth movement insurgencies. ‘There is no question that these technologies are democratizing,’ he stressed in reference to their potential use in bringing down China, ‘they enable decentralized activity. They create, if you will, a digital concept of the right of assembly.’ Dr. Ackerman is the founding chairman of International Center on Nonviolent Conflicts in Washington D.C, of which former US Air Force officer Jack DuVall is President. Together with former CIA director James Woolsey, DuVall also directs the Arlington Institute of Washington D.C., which was created by former Chief of Naval Operations advisor John L. Peterson in 1989 ‘to help redefine the concept of national security in much larger, comprehensive terms’ by introducing ‘social value shifts into the traditional national defense equation.’[xiii]
The long history of the CIA argues that the creation and deployment of political coups requires agents on the ground. The main ‘manager’ for CIA coups on the ‘street side’ has been the Albert Einstein Institution, which was formed in 1983 as an offshoot of Harvard University under the leadership of Dr. Gene Sharp. The Institution specializes in ‘non violence as a form of warfare’. Dr. Sharp had once been the executive secretary for A.J. Muste, the famous U.S. Trotskyite labor organizer and peacenik. George Soros and the NED, with Col. Robert Helvey, a former US Army officer with 30 years of experience in South East Asia acting as President, now fund the group.
Col. Helvey’s identity provides important clues as to the real purpose of the Institution. Initially, he was an officer in the Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency and served in Vietnam, and during his Army career he was the US Defence Attaché in Yangon, Myanmar from 1983 to 1985, when Myanmarese students were clandestinely organized to work with Aung San Suu Kyi and in collaboration with Bo Mya’s Karen insurgent group. Later, in the mid-1980s he moved on to train student leaders from Beijing in Hong Kong in the finer points of mass demonstration techniques, and it was these tactics that were subsequently used in the now famous Tiananmen Square confrontation of June of 1989. Currently, this group is now believed to be working with the Chinese Falun Gong teaching them similar civil disobedience techniques. Col. Helvy’s theoretically resigned from the Army in 1989, but his work with the Institution and the George Soros’ group began before his retirement. Since 1999, he has served as their case officer supervising youth groups in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, where he and his colleagues created Otpor, Kmara,, and Pora, and other clones that are replicating themselves as other groups in virtually every corner of the former Soviet Union, as well as Africa and South America.[xiv]The work of the Institution appears to be aimed at achieving for the US in civilian form what had been militarily difficult in the 1980s.
Col. Helvey isn’t the only foreign agent working covertly to advance Western interests in the Eastern European region. Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, the head of the OSCE’s vote monitoring operation in Ukraine, was German Ambassador to Colombia in the late 1990s when German secret agent Werner Mauss was arrested for working closely with the narco-terrorist ELN, whose bombings were financed by the cocaine trade. Ahrens was also nearby in Albania and Macedonia as the narcotics smuggling Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was being formed with US and German patronage. Similarly, Michael Kozak worked closely with the cocaine-smuggling Contras before he became the US ambassador whose 2001 effort to overthrow Belarus’ government failed.[xv]
In a December 11, 2000, Washington Post article titled ‘U.S. Advice Guided Milosevic Opposion’, Michael Dobbs publicly revealed the networks and methods used in Serbia by the US to manipulate events there, including the role of Col. Helvey:
While the NDI [National Democratic Institute] worked closely with Serbian opposition parties, IRI [International Republican Institute] focused its attention on Otpor, which served as the revolution’s ideological and organizational backbone. In March, IRI paid for two dozen Otpor leaders to attend a seminar on nonviolent resistance at the Hilton Hotel in Budapest, a few hundreds yards along the Danube from the NDI-favored Marriott.During the seminar, the Serbian students received training in such matters as how to organize a strike, how to communicate with symbols, how to overcome fear and how to undermine the authority of a dictatorial regime. The principal lecturer was retired U.S. Army Col. Robert Helvey, who has made a study of nonviolent resistance methods around the world, including those used in modern-day Burma and the civil rights struggle in the American South.[xvi]
As Helvey worked among the Otpor activists he introduced them to Gene Sharp’s ideas and theories, whom he describes as ‘the Clausewitz of the nonviolence movement,’ referring to the renowned Prussian military strategist.[xvii] But, as Dobbs observed in his article, ‘Regarded by many as Eastern Europe’s last great democratic upheaval, Milosevic’s overthrow may also go down in history as the first poll-driven, focus group-tested revolution.’
Tim Marshall, a reporter for the Britain’s Sky TV, published a book in Serbia covering the period 1998-2000, which included the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 and the overthrow of Milosevic. Marshall is very proud of his connections with Secret Services, and in particular his associations with the British ones. His book, Shadowpla, is a detailed account of their activities, which are presented as the key factors in the political events that he describes. Marshall’s primary focus in is Milosevic’s fall from power and its orchestration from behind the scenes, and especially on the role played by British and American intelligence. He is openly supported the overthrow of the Milosevic regime and generally supports the US ‘New World Order’, as do many of his colleagues. He carefully documents the role of themain intelligence players, and his account is thick with references to ‘an M16 officer in Pristina’, ‘sources in Yugoslav Military Intelligence’, ‘a CIA man who was helping to put together the coup’, ‘an officer of the US naval intelligence’, and so forth. He quotes secret surveillance reports from the Serbian secret service, knows who the Minister of Defense desk officer is in London who draws up the strategy for getting rid of Milosevic, knows that the Foreign Secretary’s telephone conversations are being listened to, knows who the Russian intelligence officers are that accompanied Yevgeni Primakov, the Russian Prime Minister, to Belgrade during the NATO bombing, knows which rooms are bugged in the British Embassy and where the Yugoslav spies are who listen to diplomats conversations, knows that a staff member on the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee is, in fact, an officer of US intelligence, seems to know that secret service decisions are often taken with a very minimal ministerial approval, describes how the CIA physically escorted the KLA delegation from Kosovo to Paris for the pre-war talks at Ramboillet where NATO issued the official delegation of Yugoslavia with an ultimatum it knew that it could only reject, and he refers to very high-level secret negotiations, and people sought to betray one another as Milosevic’s power collapsed.[xviii] All of this detail contributes to the authenticity of what he says and underscores the unnatural character of the public telling of the story.
In the aftermath of the so-called Serbian revolution, after the fall of Milosevic, the National Endowment for Democracy, Albert Einstein Institution, and other related outfits all contributed to the establishment of self-proclaimed youth groups for democracy throughout the rest of Eastern Europe.[xix] Commenting on that expansion in a report on his 2001 trip to Serbia, Albert Einstein staffer Chris Millerfound on the group’s website, reports:
Since the ousting of Milosevic, several members of Otpor have met with members of the Belarusian group Zubr (Bison). In following developments in Belarus since early this year, It is clear that Zubr was developed or at least conceptualized, using Otpor as a model. Also, [Albert Einstein’s report] From Dictatorship to Democracy is available in English on the Zubr website at www.zubr-belarus.com Of course, success will not be achieved in Belarus or anywhere else, simply by mimicking the actions taken in Serbia. However the successful Serbian nonviolent struggle was highly influenced and aided by the availability of knowledge and information on strategic nonviolent struggle and both successful and unsuccessful past cases, which is transferable.[xx]
The terms of struggle in the Ukraine described here are framed by the Western press in the same polarized language that characterized the Cold War and that currently defines the ‘war on terrorism’. The democratic claim of the US and its Western allies is entirely hypocritical. After an election condemned by international observers as blatantly fraudulent, Ilham Aliyev was inaugurated as president of the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan in October 2003. When the opposition launched protests in the streets of Baku, the Azerbaijani capital, authorities responded with a nation-wide crackdown in which more than 1000 people were arrested, including key opposition leaders and election officials. Human Rights Watch documented cases of torture and threats of rape in prison against senior opposition leaders. When the US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Azerbaijan in December 2003, electoral fraud was not even an issue as Rumsfeld congradulated Mr. Aliyev on his ‘victory’.[xxi]More recently, the US and its Western allies similarly accepted the outcome of the Afghan elections, which were marked by widespread allegations of vote fixing and intimidation, and in which large parts of the country were unable to take part as a consequence of the continuing chaos in war torn Afghanistan.
As should be evident, the purpose of these ‘regime changes’ is not to promote democracy but to secure US strategic interests. By encouraging an uncompromisingly partisan position and initiating extensive covert intelligence campaign on part of the Yushchenko camp, the US has increased the danger of a civil war or partition of the Ukraine along ethnic and religious lines – between the majority Russian-speaking Orthodox Christian east and the mainly Ukrainian-speaking Catholic west. The US seems to be narrowly committed to a very anti-Russian agenda in the region that still is suffering from a Cold War hang-over. Eventually, this becomes a policy that demands 100% loyalty to Washington’s geo-strategic vision for the region and zero-tolerance for any cooperation between former Soviet republics and Russia.
In order to achieve regime change in the Ukraine, the CIA ordered that exit polls be presented as definite even before the counting of the votes began, sent thousands of observers, recruited through the intermediary of Eastern European associations, to the country to complain about election fraud, and paid thousands of dollars to opposition members and trained them in street demonstrations. The richest revolution in the world was conceived as a spectacle for Western television,[xxii] and in the end, the US-sponsored candidate Yushchenko won the elections with a small margin! Ukraine has been democratised!
Sometimes such tricks work. But there are limits to what can be achieved in this way. For most of the time, it was the balance of wider historical geopolitical forces which determine the direction of political events, not media campaigns imposed from outside. Since the ‘Orange Revolution’, the events of 2004 have proved to be no revolution at all. Today, Ukraine’s economy is the worst performing in Europe. Tens of thousands have lost their jobs in the country’s main metals, mining and chemical complexes as a result of a sharp decline in global industrial demand. Unemployment in the country is expected to rise from 6.9 percent in 2008 to around more than 10 percent by the end of this year. For the tens of thousands who took to the streets after the 2004 presidential election, the current sad state of the country is a bitter disappointment. Most of these developments, however, have been barely reported by most of the US media. This silence marks a response to a serious ideological and geopolitical embarrassment for the US administration.[xxiii]
Today, just five years after the Orange Revolution, Russia is likely to gain a greater influence in the country, and Ukraine’s westward drift, which many thought would culminate in EU and NATO membership, is likely to be reversed. In particular, the future of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, based in Sevastopol since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, will be more secure. It seems the future is not ‘orange’ after all in the region, as the recent presidential election changed country’s colours fromorange to blue, the colour of pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovich.
[ii] Foreign Affairs, November/ December 1997; http://hir.harvard.edu/articles/?id=627
[v] Jérôme Guillet, ‘Russia, Ukraine, Oil, US Diplomacy – All in One’, http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/9029-18.cfm
[vii] The Ukrainian Weekly, April 6, 1997, No. 14, Vol. LXV, http://www.ukrweekly.com/Archive/1997/149701.shtml
[viii] Spiegel Online, November 24, 2004, http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,329434,00.html
[xii] Ian Traynor, ‘US Campaign Behind the Turmoil in Kiev’, the Guardian, November 26, 2004.
[xiii] Jonathan Mowat, ‘Coup d’État in Disguise: Washington’s New World Order “Democratization” Template’, 9 February 2005, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/MOW502A.html
[xiv] For the text of the interview with Robert Helvey who was sent by the International Republican Institute to teach seminars in nonviolent strategy for a group of Otpor students in the spring of 2000, see http://www.pbs.org/weta/dictator/otpor/ownwords/helvey.htm, Belgrade, January 29, 2001.
[xv] Sydney Morning Herald, September 27, 2001.
[xvii] Given in http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/MOW502A.html
[xix] A Gene Sharp, Senior Scholar-in-Residence, The Albert Einstein Institution, explains in detail how a non-violence resistance should be organised. (http://www.creativeresistance.ca/toolkit/2002-sept05-from-dictatorship-to-democracy-chapt9.htm)
[xx] Given in http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/MOW502A.html
[xxi] October 22, 2003, http://www.foreignaidwatch.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=index&catid=&topic=16
[xxii] Thierry Meyssan, ‘Subversion Ukraine: The Street Against the People’, http://signs-of-the-times.org/signs/rv-ukraine.htm
[xxiii] http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2010/0208/Ukraine-election-result-a-balancing-act [accessed in February 2010]