The day of “colour revolution” seems to be running out. The mechanics are noticed and countered, Patrick Armstrong writes.
Probably the first U.S.-plotted “colour revolution” was the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893. The Hawaiian Islands had been united in the early 1800s and were internationally recognised as an independent country, but the native Polynesians had been outnumbered by outsiders who had acquired a good deal of the land and devoted it to growing sugar. The USA was the principal market for the sugar but, when domestic sugar producers prevailed upon Washington to impose a tariff, the producers in Hawaii saw their wealth threatened. The coup overthrew the Queen, proclaimed a republic and a few years later Hawaii became a U.S. territory and the sugar market was saved. None of this was overtly stated in justification, of course: the coup, like later “colour revolutions”, was carried out for more highfalutin reasons than mere greed. A threat was “discovered”, “public safety is menaced, lives and property are in peril”, a committee of safety formed, simulated mass meetings were held. Conveniently a U.S. Navy ship was in harbour and troops came ashore “to secure the safety” etc etc. The Navy’s presence was not a coincidence because the U.S. President and Secretary of State were in agreement with the conspiracy and the U.S. diplomatic representative, while pretending neutrality, was an active participant. All done quickly and the coup leaders proclaimed themselves to be the new provisional government. Wholly and obviously fake – there was no disorder at all and the “committee of public safety” was made up of sugar barons and their flunkeys – but it stands as a historically significant event because it was the first crude attempt at something to be perfected in later years.
A Congressional report in 1894 decided that everything was perfectly perfect but a century later the U.S. Congress passed the “apology resolution” for the coup. Who can say that the Rules-Based International Order is not real after that? Has Putin or Xi ever apologised for anything he didn’t apologise for earlier?
The most recent successful “colour revolution” occurred in Ukraine in 2013-2014. Enter the “Non-Government” Organisations – the nёon-government part is a lie but they are certainly well organised; they prepare the way. Victoria Nuland, then Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, admitted to spending five billion dollars to “ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine”: an enormous sum for a poor country. (One learns here what has changed since the Hawaiian “colour revolution” 120 years before: 1) the rhetoric is more syrupy 2) it costs more.) She was the John Stevens of the Ukrainian “colour revolution” – sent by the U.S. State Department to hand out the money, make the decisions and direct the performance. And, as the phone intercept proves, to block others from involvement – “fuck the EU”.) I recommend taking the time to listen to some of Nuland’s speech here to see just how sugary the cover talk for these “colour revolutions” has become – democracy, human rights, freedom, reforms, Europe; the caravan of “Western values” is chained to the juggernaut of greed and power. None of these formerly estimable values are visible in today’s Ukraine; but the interests of Ukrainians (or Hawaiians) were never the point of “colour revolutions”: the sugar barons wanted to keep their entry into the U.S. market, Washington wanted to make trouble for Russia and the U.S. Navy wanted a base in Crimea.
But the day of “colour revolution” seems to be running out. The mechanics are noticed and countered. Observe, for example, the moment in this video of a protest in Sevastopol when the commenter – who had seen it before on the Maidan – points out the carefully spaced people, wearing red so they can recognise each other, directing the supposedly genuine and spontaneous protest. The organisers were trying to make the Crimean Tatar issue a fighting cause. (I wonder, by the way, how many consumers of the Western “news” media think the Tatars are autochthonous?) I well remember this documentary because it was the first time I saw the people on the receiving end of a “colour revolution” getting ahead of the organisers; up to this moment they had been reacting, always wrongly and too late. But many of the security forces in Crimea in 2014 had been on the Maidan and had ample opportunity to observe how “spontaneity” is organised.
The authorities and their security services are becoming proactive and are using social media – a good example was the recording of the organisers of the Hong Kong protests meeting with a U.S. Embassy official. And we have the recording of one of Navalny’s associates asking for money from a UK Embassy official; not, he assured the official, “a big amount of money for people who have billions at stake”. Sometimes it’s fortuitous and not the result of planning by the target’s security services. A civil airliner receives a (fake) bomb threat, it lands according to the rules, one of the passengers is a “colour revolution” operative, they arrest him, he sings. There is still some mystery in the Protasevich story, but the Western version is certainly not true.
And when it’s over and failed, Washington casually dismisses its tools. Where is Yushchenko today? Once the darling of the “Orange Revolution” in Kiev, today he is a non-person. Saakashvili, re-used and failed again in Ukraine, is in prison in Tbilisi today. No fuss is made about him. Áñez is in jail, Protasevich forgotten. We’ve seen many West-leaning democratic saviours come and go in Russia – Berezovsky, Khodorkovsky and Pussy Riot are in the past; today it’s Navalny but he’s probably passed his best-before date. Just props in the “colour revolution” theatre.
And we come to another secret of beating the “colour revolution” – tough it out. The Emperor Alexander told the French Ambassador that Napoleon’s enemies had given up too soon, he, on the other hand, would go to Kamchatka if need be. He went to Paris instead. Maduro still sits in the presidential office in Caracas, Guaidó is reduced to begging; Brussels has stopped pretending but Washington holds fast to the delusion. Lukashenka remains. Beijing toughed it out in Hong Kong. On the contrary, in Georgia (“Rose Revolution“) Shevardnadze was unwilling to use force and in Kiev (“Orange Revolution” and Maidan) Yanukovych was unwilling to use force. Not, of course that they weren’t blamed anyway by the Western propaganda apparatus (which was unashamed to call these scenes in Kiev and Hong Kong “peaceful” and never wondered where all the orange tents came from). All designed of course, to incite a violent reaction by the authorities which would be packaged by the complaisant Western media as violence against peaceful protesters. Not at all the same thing, of course, in the Western “human rights” Rules-Based International Order construction, as anything going on in Melbourne, or Paris, or London. To a degree, “colour revolutions” are waiting games and the incumbent, if he keeps his nerve, has certain advantages.
But probably the strongest prophylactic against a “colour revolution” is to prevent it from starting. And here it is necessary to drive out the foreign “Non Government” Organisations before they get established. There will, of course, be much protest from the West but it is important for the targets to understand that their press coverage in the West is and always will be negative, no matter what they do, say or argue. It’s propaganda, it’s not supposed to be fact-based. And it’s often amusingly repetitive – the Western propagandists are too lazy and too contemptuous of their audience not to recycle yesterday’s panics. For example: remember when Russia hacked the Vermont power grid in 2016? this time it’s “an angry Chinese President Xi Jinping” shutting down Canadian power plants. Sometimes it’s sloppily idiotic: CNN tells us that Russia, China and Iran are all hacking away at the U.S. election system; it then goes on to say that Russia likes Trump and China likes Biden; Therefore, as Sherlock Holmes would conclude, CNN must believe that that Iran decided the outcome. The target should not worry about Western coverage – if you’re today’s target, all coverage will negative. Vide contemporary excitement over “violations of Taiwan’s airspace” without mentioning this simultaneous event. Facts don’t matter: the Panama Papers were about Putin except that they didn’t mention him and therefore they must have been by Putin. The Pandora Papers give us the re-run.
Former successes – in recent times, Ukraine twice, Georgia – are becoming failures: Hong Kong, Venezuela and Belarus. The targets have learned how to counter the attacks. The essential rules for defeating “colour revolutions” are:
- They come from outside. So cut out the outsiders and get rid of the foreign “Non-Government” Organisations. This is probably the most important preventative: the “colour revolution” operators were quite unhindered in, for example, Ukraine.
- Remember Alexander’s advice: don’t give up too soon. Maduro and Lukashenka are still there. To say nothing of Russia, China and Iran.
- Don’t be afraid that you’ll be blamed: you will be anyway. The Western propaganda machine is not interested in facts.
- Be tough. There’s a rhythm to these things; if you interrupt them, it’s hard for them to get back on track.
- Be patient, as we saw in Hong Kong, the outrage is mostly artificial and will run out of steam.
- Learn the techniques of how they’re done, watch for them and counter them.
- And finally: time is on your side. The West is not getting stronger. What the neocons call “the axis of revisionists” is.