Remember the "Orange Revolution"?
You’ll be forgiven if you don’t: Ukraine’s "color revolution," organized, financed, and planned in the West, blends into the rainbow gallery of failed Western-backed regime-change operations launched in the wake of the Soviet Union’s fall: Yugoslavia (2000), which rid the world of Slobodan Milosevic and yet failed to permanently install a "pro-Western" government; Georgia’s "Rose Revolution" (2003), which ensconced the lunatic Mikhail Saakashvili in power; Kyrgyzstan’s 2005 "Tulip Revolution," which adopted the color pink as its emblematic tint, that ended in a bloody uprising and fueled continuing chaos; Lebanon’s "Cedar Revolution," which tried to impose this template in yet another (2005) attempt to install a "pro-Western" regime with backing from "pro-democracy" groups in the US and Europe. The Cedar-ites succeeded in driving Syria from Lebanon, but failed in their attempt to neutralize Hezbollah and seize power in their own right.
The "Orange Revolution" was different, however, in that it had a powerful narrative that went beyond mere talking points: the charismatic leader of the revolution, Viktor Yushchenko, former Prime Minister under the pro-Soviet government of Leonid Kuchmas, and once head of the Bank of Ukraine. He arose as the West’s "golden boy," a "reformer" lionized by the Western media who was famously "poisoned" with dioxin, a highly unusual method of murdering someone, to say the least – on a par with the mysterious deaths of Russian exile Alexander Litvinenko and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat by means of polonium poisoning.
On the strength of alleged election fraud on the part of the Ukrainian authorities in favor of Viktor Yanukovich, the pro-government pro-Russian candidate, and his alleged poisoning – purportedly at the hands of Vladimir Putin and the KGB – Yushchenko was elevated to the presidency in a 2004 run-off election. However, the Orange revolutionaries soon started devouring their own, as the movement split into different interest groups aligned with this or that dubious oligarch and the economy continued its downward slide.
Yushchenko’s popularity also slid rather precipitously, as the alleged "poisoning" was increasingly called into question, including by his former chief advisor – and godfather to his child – David Zhvania, who contends the evidence for the poisoning was faked. A number of individuals, including a former prosecutor, have since come forward with more evidence that the "poisoning" was a stunt designed to discredit the opposition and propel Yushchenko into office. I wrote extensively about the "poisoning," raising doubts about its authenticity and the scientific evidence that seemed to verify it. Lothar Wicke, the chief medical officer of the clinic that examined Yushchenko, said from the beginning that there was no evidence of poisoning, and claimed to have been threatened by Yushchenko’s supporters.
Ukraine’s "Orange Revolution" – financed in large part by Western "pro-democracy" government agencies, including NED/USAID in the US and their British and European equivalents – was really the beginning of a new cold war with Russia. A renewed East-West confrontation had been brewing ever since Putin threw out the thieving "pro-Western" oligarchs who surrounded Russian President Boris Yeltsin and started challenging the Western agenda of global dominance.
A big issue has been the alleged "energy blackmail" engaged in by Putin, a favorite Western story line which depicts the Russian bear as cornering the poor helpless Ukrainian maiden and forcing her to submit to unspeakable economic practices, such as paying market prices for Russian oil and gas. Back in the Bad Old Days, when Ukraine was part of the USSR, Ukrainian energy – along with most other staples, such as food – was subsidized by the central authorities in Moscow. After the fall of the Communists, the practice was continued – until Putin got into office. It was he who initiated the "blackmail" campaign by doing what Westerners had been demanding he do since he took office: instituting market prices in basic commodities, including oil and gas.
Yushchenko and his sometime ally, Yulia Tymoshenko – now in jail for corruption – blamed the Russians for practically all of Ukraine’s many problems, playing into the ultra-nationalism that has percolated just below the surface since the fall of the Soviets. They looked to the West, and specifically the European Union, as the only viable future for their country, and even talked of entering NATO.
The failure of the economy to improve, and the authoritarian impulses of the Orange revolutionaries, both played into the country’s growing disillusionment and the reversal of fortunes that put Yanukovich back in power. When Yushchenko, the former Hero of the Orange Revolution, ran for a second term in 2010, he received a little over 5 percent of the vote, and was eliminated in the first round.
If you thought this meant the end of the Western attempt to tear Ukraine out of the Russian orbit, think again: these people never give up. And they seem to have learned their lesson, this time refraining from personifying their cause in a fallible human leader, such as Yushchenko – or the even more flawed Tymoshenko – and instead latching on to an abstraction – the EU – as the flag around which to rally their troops.
EU "associate" membership for Ukraine has long been in the planning stage, delayed in part by the country’s economic condition and in part by the unpopularity of the "European idea" in the eastern pro-Russian provinces. The issue came to a head at the recent EU summit, where Ukraine’s ascension to second class "associate" status was supposed to have been the centerpiece. Yanukovich’s refusal to sign the treaty threw the Euro-crats for a loop, painfully puncturing their pretensions – which have taken a hard beating of late. Angela Merkel scolded Yanukovich at the summit: "We expected more," she reportedly told him.
What she expected was Ukraine’s total capitulation to the EU’s demands that the country "reform" its judicial process so that "selective prosecution" of the Euro-crat’s favored politicians ceases and the "right" people are put in jail. Also demanded: the "reform" of Ukraine’s electoral system, which unfairly favors candidates popular with the Ukrainian people rather than the EU’s in-country sock puppets.
Yet why should Yanukovich sign the EU treaty – aside, that is, from the bromides about "joining Europe"? If he had signed, then why did the Ukrainians, alongside their Russian compatriots, bother fighting the Germans during World War II, finally succeeding in driving them out of the country after unthinkable losses? Why did they throw off the Russian yoke after the USSR disappeared – only to surrender their hard won sovereignty to yet another amalgam of socialist states?
The Eurocrats have their Ukrainian fifth column out in the streets of Kiev, attacking government buildings, engaging in hand-to-hand fighting with the police, and deploying the aggressive tactics we have come to know so well from the "color revolutions" of the past. Yet this Orange movement is dried up and rotten to the core, a juice-less phenomenon which holds up as a political ideal the faceless bureaucracy of Brussels, which is rightly hated from Greece to Spain to what used to be the free country of England. Good luck with that!
The pro-EU hooligans in the streets of Kiev are pawns in a larger game: the new cold war with Russia. This battle is being waged with the Europeans in the front lines and the Americans finagling and maneuvering behind the scenes, eager for vengeance against the one man who has successfully defied and outsmarted them at every turn: Vladimir Putin.
The end of the first cold war changed many things, but one indisputable fact of geography remained constant: the lands of the former Soviet Union constituted the single largest landmass out of the control of the Western powers. With the temporary power vacuum in the Kremlin, the West quickly moved in on the ruins, but their success, as in Ukraine, was limited.
Although the old Russian empire shrunk back to its historical dimensions, the remaining shards of the Soviet entity did not fall like ripened fruit into Western hands. While Russia itself, under the Yeltsin regime, was firmly in the grip of "pro-Western" advisors and the oligarchs who benefited from the government’s "privatization" program, the history of these former Soviet satellites militated against a quick Western takeover. They had resisted the Germans, they had fought against the Russians, and they weren’t about to give up their sovereignty to a bunch of slick Western-backed operators with plenty of cash to throw around.
The EU summiteers had to content themselves with inaugurating the entry of Georgia and Moldova into "associate" EU status – two countries which are the least European of any other EU candidate, with the possible exception of Turkey. If Georgia is part of Europe, then so is Mongolia – and that about defines the parameters of the EU’s ambitions, as the Eurocrats seek to extend their authority over a territory approximating the old Roman empire at its height. The next step for Georgia and Moldova is full EU membership – and assimilation into NATO’s military machine.
Pointed like a dagger at the heart of Russia, the Western military-political advance into the steppes of Eurasia is a challenge that isn’t going unanswered in Moscow. Yes, we really are going backwards in time: retro chic rules in the realm of Russo-American relations.
Ordinary Americans, naturally, derive no benefit from this renewed rivalry: indeed, we suffer, as international tensions drive commodity prices – like oil – through the roof and the ever-present threat of war looms large. Who profits? The weapons-makers who will outfit Georgia and Moldova with all the latest NATO-approved hi-tech military hardware. The banks who will make loans to "pro-Western" governments, and who will sell their debt: the politicians who will ride the wave of anti-Russian feeling whipped up by the Western media and piped into places like Ukraine by our "democracy-promoting" government.
The EU is a failed socialist experiment that exists to fund a huge (and hugely arrogant) bureaucracy and impose a bloodless ideological abstraction over and above the authentic nationalisms it seems to subsume. It is deeply authoritarian in that it provides no mechanism for member states to withdraw, and its super-centralist model is a prescription for tyranny if ever there was one. When a referendum is held on EU membership, and the results aren’t to the pro-EU side’s liking, the election is simply ignored and the Eurocrats mount yet another campaign until the "right" result is achieved.
Good for Ukraine and Yanukovich for resisting this incipient version of the old USSR, albeit this time a creature of the West. The EU must call off their hooligans in Kiev and stay out of Ukraine’s business: and that goes double for the US, which should stay out of it (which of course it isn’t) and leave the Ukrainian people to decide their own fate.
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NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.