How Soft Revolutions Or Color
Andrew Gavin McLeod, Global Research
Introduction Following US geo-strategy in what Brzezinski termed the “global Balkans,” the US government has worked closely with major NGOs to “promote democracy” and “freedom” in former Soviet republics, playing a role behind the scenes in fomenting what are termed “colour revolutions,” which install US and Western-friendly puppet leaders to advance the interests of the West, both economically and strategically.
Part 2 of this essay on “The Origins of World War III” analyzes the colour revolutions as being a key stratagem in imposing the US-led New World Order. The “colour revolution” or “soft” revolution strategy is a covert political tactic of expanding NATO and US influence to the borders of Russia and even China; following in line with one of the primary aims of US strategy in the New World Order: to contain China and Russia and prevent the rise of any challenge to US power in the region.
These revolutions are portrayed in the western media as popular democratic revolutions, in which the people of these respective nations demand democratic accountability and governance from their despotic leaders and archaic political systems. However, the reality is far from what this utopian imagery suggests. Western NGOs and media heavily finance and organize opposition groups and protest movements, and in the midst of an election, create a public perception of vote fraud in order to mobilize the mass protest movements to demand “their” candidate be put into power. It just so happens that “their” candidate is always the Western US-favoured candidate, whose campaign is often heavily financed by Washington; and who proposes US-friendly policies and neoliberal economic conditions. In the end, it is the people who lose out, as their genuine hope for change and accountability is denied by the influence the US wields over their political leaders.
The soft revolutions also have the effect of antagonizing China and Russia, specifically, as it places US protectorates on their borders, and drives many of the former Warsaw Pact nations to seek closer political, economic and military cooperation. This then exacerbates tensions between the west and China and Russia; which ultimately leads the world closer to a potential conflict between the two blocs.
Serbia experienced its “colour revolution” in October of 2000, which led to the overthrow of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. As the Washington Post reported in December of 2000, from 1999 on, the US undertook a major “electoral strategy” to oust Milosevic, as “U.S.-funded consultants played a crucial role behind the scenes in virtually every facet of the anti-Milosevic drive, running tracking polls, training thousands of opposition activists and helping to organize a vitally important parallel vote count. U.S. taxpayers paid for 5,000 cans of spray paint used by student activists to scrawl anti-Milosevic graffiti on walls across Serbia, and 2.5 million stickers with the slogan “He’s Finished,” which became the revolution’s catchphrase.” Further, according to Michael Dobbs,writing in the Washington Post, some “20 opposition leaders accepted an invitation from the Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) in October 1999 to a seminar at the Marriott Hotel in Budapest.”
Interestingly, “Some Americans involved in the anti-Milosevic effort said they were aware of CIA activity at the fringes of the campaign, but had trouble finding out what the agency was up to. Whatever it was, they concluded it was not particularly effective. The lead role was taken by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the government’s foreign assistance agency, which channeled the funds through commercial contractors and nonprofit groups such as NDI and its Republican counterpart, the International Republican Institute (IRI).”
The NDI (National Democratic Institute), “worked closely with Serbian opposition parties, IRI 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.” At 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.”
As the New York Times revealed, Otpor, the major student opposition group, had a steady flow of money coming from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a Congress-funded “democracy promoting” organization. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) gave money to Otpor, as did the International Republican Institute, “another nongovernmental Washington group financed partly by A.I.D.”
In 2003, Georgia went through its “Rose Revolution,” which led to the overthrow of president Eduard Shevardnadze, replacing him with Mikhail Saakashvili after the 2004 elections. In a November 2003 article in The Globe and Mail, it was reported that a US based foundation “began laying the brickwork for the toppling of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze,” as funds from his non-profit organization “sent a 31-year-old Tbilisi activist named Giga Bokeria to Serbia to meet with members of the Otpor (Resistance) movement and learn how they used street demonstrations to topple dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Then, in the summer,” the “foundation paid for a return trip to Georgia by Otpor activists, who ran three-day courses teaching more than 1,000 students how to stage a peaceful revolution.”
This US-based foundation “also funded a popular opposition television station that was crucial in mobilizing support for [the] ‘velvet revolution,’ and [it] reportedly gave financial support to a youth group that led the street protests.” The owner of the foundation “has a warm relationship with Mr. Shevardnadze’s chief opponent, Mikhail Saakashvili, a New York-educated lawyer who is expected to win the presidency in an election scheduled for Jan. 4.”
During a press conference a week before his resignation, Mr. Shevardnadze said that the US foundation “is set against the President of Georgia.” Moreover, “Mr. Bokeria, whose Liberty Institute received money from both [the financier’s foundation] and the U.S. government-backed Eurasia Institute, says three other organizations played key roles in Mr. Shevardnadze’s downfall: Mr. Saakashvili’s National Movement party, the Rustavi-2 television station and Kmara! (Georgian for Enough!), a youth group that declared war on Mr. Shevardnadze [in] April and began a poster and graffiti campaign attacking government corruption.” 
The day following the publication of the previously quoted article, the author published another article in the Globe and Mail explaining that the “bloodless revolution” in Georgia “smells more like another victory for the United States over Russia in the post-Cold War international chess game.” The author, Mark MacKinnon, explained that Eduard Shevardnadze’s downfall lied “in the oil under the Caspian Sea, one of the world’s few great remaining, relatively unexploited, sources of oil,” as “Georgia and neighbouring Azerbaijan, which borders the Caspian, quickly came to be seen not just as newly independent countries, but as part of an ‘energy corridor’.” Plans were drawn up for a massive “pipeline that would run through Georgia to Turkey and the Mediterranean.” It is worth quoting MacKinnon at length:
When these plans were made, Mr. Shevardnadze was seen as an asset by both Western investors and the U.S. government. His reputation as the man who helped end the Cold War gave investors a sense of confidence in the country, and his stated intention to move Georgia out of Russia’s orbit and into Western institutions such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union played well at the U.S. State Department.
The United States quickly moved to embrace Georgia, opening a military base in the country [in 2001] to give Georgian soldiers “anti-terrorist” training. They were the first U.S. troops to set up in a former Soviet republic.
But somewhere along the line, Mr. Shevardnadze reversed course and decided to once more embrace Russia. This summer, Georgia signed a secret 25-year deal to make the Russian energy giant Gazprom its sole supplier of gas. Then it effectively sold the electricity grid to another Russian firm, cutting out AES, the company that the U.S. administration had backed to win the deal. Mr. Shevardnadze attacked AES as “liars and cheats.” Both deals dramatically increased Russian influence in Tbilisi.
Following the elections in Georgia, the US-backed and educated Mikhail Saakashvili ascended to the Presidency and “won the day.” This is again an example of the intimate relationship between oil geopolitics and US foreign policy. The colour revolution was vital in pressing US and NATO interests forward in the region; gaining control over Central Asia’s gas reserves and keeping Russia from expanding its influence. This follows directly in line with the US-NATO imperial strategy for the new world order, following the collapse of the USSR. [This strategy is outlined in detail in Part 1 of this essay: An Imperial Strategy for a New World Order: The Origins of World War III].
In 2004, Ukraine went through its “Orange Revolution,” in which opposition and pro-Western leader Viktor Yushchenko became President, defeating Viktor Yanukovych. As the Guardian revealed in 2004, that following the disputed elections (as happens in every “colour revolution”), “the democracy guerrillas of the Ukrainian Pora youth movement have already notched up a famous victory – whatever the outcome of the dangerous stand-off in Kiev,” however, “the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes.”
The author, Ian Traynor, explained that, “Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box.” Further, “The Democratic party’s National Democratic Institute, the Republican party’s International Republican Institute, the US state department and USAid are the main agencies involved in these grassroots campaigns as well as the Freedom House NGO” and the same billionaire financier involved in Georgia’s Rose Revolution. In implementing the regime-change strategy, “The usually fractious oppositions have to be united behind a single candidate if there is to be any chance of unseating the regime. That leader is selected on pragmatic and objective grounds, even if he or she is anti-American.”
Freedom House and the Democratic party’s NDI helped fund and organise the “largest civil regional election monitoring effort” in Ukraine, involving more than 1,000 trained observers. They also organised exit polls. On Sunday night those polls gave Mr Yushchenko an 11-point lead and set the agenda for much of what has followed.
The exit polls are seen as critical because they seize the initiative in the propaganda battle with the regime, invariably appearing first, receiving wide media coverage and putting the onus on the authorities to respond.
The final stage in the US template concerns how to react when the incumbent tries to steal a lost election.[. . . ] In Belgrade, Tbilisi, and now Kiev, where the authorities initially tried to cling to power, the advice was to stay cool but determined and to organise mass displays of civil disobedience, which must remain peaceful but risk provoking the regime into violent suppression.
As an article in the Guardian by Jonathan Steele explained, the opposition leader, Viktor Yushchenko, who disputed the election results, “served as prime minister under the outgoing president, Leonid Kuchma, and some of his backers are also linked to the brutal industrial clans who manipulated Ukraine’s post-Soviet privatization.” He further explained that election rigging is mainly irrelevant, as “The decision to protest appears to depend mainly on realpolitik and whether the challengers or the incumbent are considered more ‘pro-western’ or ‘pro-market’.” In other words, those who support a neoliberal economic agenda will have the support of the US-NATO, as neoliberalism is their established international economic order and advances their interests in the region.
Moreover, “In Ukraine, Yushchenko got the western nod, and floods of money poured in to groups which support him, ranging from the youth organisation, Pora, to various opposition websites. More provocatively, the US and other western embassies paid for exit polls.” This is emblematic of the strategic importance of the Ukraine to the United States, “which refuses to abandon its cold war policy of encircling Russia and seeking to pull every former Soviet republic to its side.”
One Guardian commentator pointed out the hypocrisy of western media coverage: “Two million anti-war demonstrators can stream though the streets of London and be politically ignored, but a few tens of thousands in central Kiev are proclaimed to be ‘the people’, while the Ukrainian police, courts and governmental institutions are discounted as instruments of oppression.” It was also explained that, “Enormous rallies have been held in Kiev in support of the prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich, but they are not shown on our TV screens: if their existence is admitted, Yanukovich supporters are denigrated as having been ‘bussed in’. The demonstrations in favour of Viktor Yushchenko have laser lights, plasma screens, sophisticated sound systems, rock concerts, tents to camp in and huge quantities of orange clothing; yet we happily dupe ourselves that they are spontaneous.”
In 2004, the Associated Press reported that, “The Bush administration has spent more than $65 million in the past two years to aid political organizations in Ukraine, paying to bring opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko to meet U.S. leaders and helping to underwrite an exit poll indicating he won last month’s disputed runoff election.” The money, they state, “was funneled through organizations such as the Eurasia Foundation or through groups aligned with Republicans and Democrats that organized election training, with human rights forums or with independent news outlets.” However, even government officials “acknowledge that some of the money helped train groups and individuals opposed to the Russian-backed government candidate.”
The report stated that some major international foundations funded the exit polls, which according to the incumbent leader were “skewed.” These foundations included “The National Endowment for Democracy, which receives its money directly from Congress; the Eurasia Foundation, which receives money from the State Department, and the Renaissance Foundation,” which receives money from the same billionaire financier as well as the US State Department. Since the State Department is involved, that implies that this funding is quite directly enmeshed in US foreign policy strategy. “Other countries involved included Great Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.” Also involved in funding certain groups and activities in the Ukraine was the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, which was chaired by former Secretary of States Madeline Albright at the time.
Mark Almond wrote for the Guardian in 2004 of the advent of “People Power,” describing it in relation to the situation that was then breaking in the Ukraine, and stated that, “The upheaval in Ukraine is presented as a battle between the people and Soviet-era power structures. The role of western cold war-era agencies is taboo. Poke your nose into the funding of the lavish carnival in Kiev, and the shrieks of rage show that you have touched a neuralgic point of the New World Order.”
“Throughout the 1980s, in the build-up to 1989’s velvet revolutions, a small army of volunteers – and, let’s be frank, spies – co-operated to promote what became People Power. A network of interlocking foundations and charities mushroomed to organise the logistics of transferring millions of dollars to dissidents. The money came overwhelmingly from Nato states and covert allies such as “neutral” Sweden.[ …] The hangover from People Power is shock therapy. Each successive crowd is sold a multimedia vision of Euro-Atlantic prosperity by western-funded “independent” media to get them on the streets. No one dwells on the mass unemployment, rampant insider dealing, growth of organised crime, prostitution and soaring death rates in successful People Power states.
As Almond delicately put it, “People Power is, it turns out, more about closing things than creating an open society. It shuts factories but, worse still, minds. Its advocates demand a free market in everything – except opinion. The current ideology of New World Order ideologues, many of whom are renegade communists, is Market-Leninism – that combination of a dogmatic economic model with Machiavellian methods to grasp the levers of power.”
As Mark MacKinnon reported for the Globe and Mail, Canada, too, supported the efforts of the youth activist group, Pora, in the Ukraine, providing funding for the “people power democracy” movement. As MacKinnon noted, “The Bush administration was particularly keen to see a pro-Western figure as president to ensure control over a key pipeline running from Odessa on the Black Sea to Brody on the Polish border.” However, “The outgoing president, Leonid Kuchma, had recently reversed the flow so the pipeline carried Russian crude south instead of helping U.S. producers in the Caspian Sea region ship their product to Europe.” As MacKinnon analyzes, the initial funding from western nations came from Canada, although this was eventually far surpassed in amount by the United States.
Andrew Robinson, Canada’s ambassador to Ukraine at the time, in 2004, “began to organize secret monthly meetings of Western ambassadors, presiding over what he called “donor co-ordination” sessions among 28 countries interested in seeing Mr. Yushchenko succeed. Eventually, he acted as the group’s spokesman and became a prominent critic of the Kuchma government’s heavy-handed media control.” Canada further “invested in a controversial exit poll, carried out on election day by Ukraine’s Razumkov Centre and other groups, that contradicted the official results showing Mr. Yanukovich had won.” Once the new, pro-Western government was in, it “announced its intention to reverse the flow of the Odessa-Brody pipeline.”
Again, this follows the example of Georgia, where several US and NATO interests are met through the success of the “colour revolution”; simultaneously preventing Russian expansion and influence from spreading in the region as well as advancing US and NATO control and influence over the major resources and transport corridors of the region.
Daniel Wolf wrote for the Guardian that, “For most of the people gathered in Kiev’s Independence Square, the demonstration felt spontaneous. They had every reason to want to stop the government candidate, Viktor Yanukovich, from coming to power, and they took the chance that was offered to them. But walking through the encampment last December, it was hard to ignore the evidence of meticulous preparation – the soup kitchens and tents for the demonstrators, the slickness of the concert, the professionalism of the TV coverage, the proliferation of the sickly orange logo wherever you looked.” He elaborated, writing, “the events in the square were the result of careful, secret planning by Yushchenko’s inner circle over a period of years. The true story of the orange revolution is far more interesting than the fable that has been widely accepted.”
Roman Bessmertny, Yushchenko’s campaign manager, two years prior to the 2004 elections, “put as many as 150,000 people through training courses, seminars, practical tuition conducted by legal and media specialists. Some attending these courses were members of election committees at local, regional and national level; others were election monitors, who were not only taught what to watch out for but given camcorders to record it on video. More than 10,000 cameras were distributed, with the aim of recording events at every third polling station.” Ultimately, it was an intricately well-planned public relations media-savvy campaign, orchestrated through heavy financing. Hardly the sporadic “people power” notion applied to the “peaceful coup” in the western media.
The “Tulip Revolution” in Kyrgyzstan
In 2005, Kyrgyzstan underwent its “Tulip Revolution” in which the incumbent was replaced by the pro-Western candidate through another “popular revolution.” As the New York Times reported in March of 2005, shortly before the March elections, “an opposition newspaper ran photographs of a palatial home under construction for the country’s deeply unpopular president, Askar Akayev, helping set off widespread outrage and a popular revolt.” However, this “newspaper was the recipient of United States government grants and was printed on an American government-financed printing press operated by Freedom House, an American organization that describes itself as ’a clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world’.”
Moreover, other countries that have “helped underwrite programs to develop democracy and civil society” in Kyrgyzstan were Britain, the Netherlands and Norway. These countries collectively “played a crucial role in preparing the ground for the popular uprising that swept opposition politicians to power.” Money mostly flowed from the United States, in particular, through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), as well as through “the Freedom House printing press or Kyrgyz-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a pro-democracy broadcaster.” The National Democratic Institute also played a major financing role, for which one of the chief beneficiaries of their financial aid said, “It would have been absolutely impossible for this to have happened without that help.”
The Times further reported that:
“American money helps finance civil society centers around the country where activists and citizens can meet, receive training, read independent newspapers and even watch CNN or surf the Internet in some. The N.D.I. [National Democratic Institute] alone operates 20 centers that provide news summaries in Russian, Kyrgyz and Uzbek.
The United States sponsors the American University in Kyrgyzstan, whose stated mission is, in part, to promote the development of civil society, and pays for exchange programs that send students and non-governmental organization leaders to the United States. Kyrgyzstan’s new prime minister, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, was one.
All of that money and manpower gave the coalescing Kyrgyz opposition financing and moral support in recent years, as well as the infrastructure that allowed it to communicate its ideas to the Kyrgyz people.”
As for those “who did not read Russian or have access to the newspaper listened to summaries of its articles on Kyrgyz-language Radio Azattyk, the local United States-government financed franchise of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.” Other “independent” media was paid for courtesy of the US State Department.
As the Wall Street Journal revealed prior to the elections, opposition groups, NGOs and “independent” media in Kyrgyzstan were getting financial assistance from Freedom House in the US, as well as the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The Journal reported that, “To avoid provoking Russia and violating diplomatic norms, the U.S. can’t directly back opposition political parties. But it underwrites a web of influential NGOs whose support of press freedom, the rule of law and clean elections almost inevitably pits them against the entrenched interests of the old autocratic regimes.”
As the Journal further reported, Kyrgyzstan “occupies a strategic location. The U.S. and Russia both have military bases here. The country’s five million citizens, mostly Muslim, are sandwiched in a tumultuous neighborhood among oil-rich Kazakhstan, whose regime tolerates little political dissent; dictatorial Uzbekistan, which has clamped down on foreign aid groups and destitute Tajikistan.”
In the country, a main opposition NGO, the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Rights, gets its funding “from the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, a Washington-based nonprofit funded by the U.S. government, and from USAID.” Other agencies reported to be involved, either through funding or ideological-technical promotion (see: propaganda), are the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the Albert Einstein Institute, Freedom House, and the US State Department.
President Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan had referred to a “third force” gaining power in his country. The term was borrowed from one of the most prominent US think tanks, as “third force” is:
“… which details how western-backed non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can promote regime and policy change all over the world. The formulaic repetition of a third “people power” revolution in the former Soviet Union in just over one year – after the similar events in Georgia in November 2003 and in Ukraine last Christmas – means that the post-Soviet space now resembles Central America in the 1970s and 1980s, when a series of US-backed coups consolidated that country’s control over the western hemisphere.”
As the Guardian reported:
“Many of the same US government operatives in Latin America have plied their trade in eastern Europe under George Bush, most notably Michael Kozak, former US ambassador to Belarus, who boasted in these pages in 2001 that he was doing in Belarus exactly what he had been doing in Nicaragua: “supporting democracy”.
“The case of Freedom House is particularly arresting. Chaired by the former CIA director James Woolsey, Freedom House was a major sponsor of the orange revolution in Ukraine. It set up a printing press in Bishkek in November 2003, which prints 60 opposition journals. Although it is described as an “independent” press, the body that officially owns it is chaired by the bellicose Republican senator John McCain, while the former national security adviser Anthony Lake sits on the board. The US also supports opposition radio and TV.”
So again, the same formula was followed in the Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union. This US foreign-policy strategy of promoting “soft revolution” is managed through a network of American and international NGOs and think tanks. It advances NATO and, in particular, US interests in the region.
The soft revolutions or “colour revolutions” are a key stratagem in the New World Order; advancing, through deceptions and manipulation, the key strategy of containing Russia and controlling key resources. This strategy is critical to understanding the imperialistic nature of the New World Order, especially when it comes to identifying when this strategy is repeated; specifically in relation to the Iranian elections of 2009.
Part 1 of this essay outlined the US-NATO imperial strategy for entering the New World Order, following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. The primary aim was focused on encircling Russia and China and preventing the rise of a new superpower. The US was to act as the imperial hegemon, serving international financial interests in imposing the New World Order. Part 2 outlined the US imperial strategy of using “colour revolutions” to advance its interests in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, following along the overall policy outlined in Part 1, of containing Russia and China from expanding influence and gaining access to key natural resources.
The third and final part to this essay analyzes the nature of the imperial strategy to construct a New World Order, focusing on the increasing conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa; and the potential these conflicts have for starting a new world war with China and Russia. In particular, its focus is within the past few years, and emphasizes the increasing nature of conflict and war in the New World Order. Part 3 looks at the potential for “A New World War for a New World Order.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew Gavin Marshall is a Research Associate with the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). He is currently studying Political Economy and History at Simon Fraser University.
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