Lessons from Ukraine | Bulent Gokay

Rather than a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism, the ongoing conflict in/ over Ukraine is 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, arms and advisers from the EU and the US, and the pro-Russian east, traditionally linked to Russia by economic, military 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]


“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]


[ii] Foreign Affairs, November/ December 1997; http://hir.harvard.edu/articles/?id=627

[iii] http://www.ji-magazine.lviv.ua/conf-nov2003/progr-eng.htm

[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.

[xvi] http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A18395-2000Dec3¬Found=true

[xviii] J. Laughland, ‘Techniques of a Coup d’Etat’, Sanders Research,January 12, 2004, http://www.sandersresearch.com/

[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)

[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]

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