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Experts think pro-Western forces are trying to foment colour revolution in Russia

09:53 | 25.01.2012 | Analytic

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25 January 2012. PenzaNews. Foreign journalists and commentators continue to watch with interest the development of political events in Russia in the run-up to the presidential election scheduled for 4 March 2012. Foreign analysts note that the voting should proceed without violations of electoral legislation in a calm and democratic atmosphere where citizens will be able to make their political choices for the next six years. At the same time, the recent events in the public life of the country including pre-planned popular protests, radical political demands and meetings of Russian opposition figures with pro-Western consultants make experts consider more thoughtfully the possibility that a colour revolution could be staged in the country.

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General Director of the Institute for Foreign Policy Research and Initiatives Veronika Krasheninnikova think that some circles in Washington together with representatives of the so-called “opposition” are trying to use the upcoming presidential election to effect regime change in Russia.

“The appointment as the U.S. Ambassador to Russia of Michael McFaul, a highly proficient specialist in subversion, who held a meeting with “Western dissidents” (as Vladimir Bukovski once called himself and like-minded individuals) already on the second day of his work in Moscow clearly shows Washington’s priorities in Russia. The U.S. is also demanding full freedom of action for the people they support,” she noted.

The meeting with the new U.S. Ambassador on 17 January 2012 was attended by civil society representatives including leader of the movement to protect the Khimki forest Yevgenia Chirikova, human rights defender Lev Ponomarev, director of the Russian office of Transparency International Elena Panfilova, head of Association “Golos” Liliya Shibanova, journalist Olga Romanova, head of the Federation of Automobile Owners of Russia Sergei Kanaev and chairperson of the movement for the protection of rights of entrepreneurs “Business solidarity” Yana Yakovleva, as well as by opposition figures including member of the Russian Communist Party faction in the State Duma Leonid Kalashnikov, members of A Just Russia Party Oksana Dmitriyeva and Ilya Ponomarev, chairman of the Yavloko Party Sergey Mitrokhin and co-chairs of the informal People’s Freedom Party (Parnas) Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Ryzhkov.

Many Russian politicians, prominent public activists, journalists and bloggers have criticized the State Duma members for meeting with the new U.S. Ambassador, and some even accused the diplomat of attempts to instigate a colour revolution in the country. Michael McFaul expressed surprise at such negative reactions arguing that President Obama had met with the same opposition leaders during his visit to Russia and stressed that the “reset” policy between Russia and America had not changed.

Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland does not deny that Washington expects the new ambassador to work more actively with Russian civil society. She also confirmed that Michael McFaul was a “democracy expert” who “knows Russians of every political stripe”.

In the opinion of chairman of the International Relations Committee of the Russian State Duma Alexei Pushkov, diplomat Michael McFaul may repeat the fate of former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow and former British Ambassador Tony Brenton if he continues to “promote democracy”.

The politician recalls that Vershbow and Brenton got seriously involved in the promotion of democracy and meetings with the opposition and civil society groups shortly after their arrival in Moscow to the detriment of their main duties.

“Vershbow changed his job because the U.S. needs an ambassador with access and influence in Moscow at the state level and not just an ambassador with good relations with nongovernmental organizations and the opposition. Mr. Brenton had problems with the performance of his main duties as a professional diplomat too, though he was well liked by the opposition, so the British government had to replace him,” said Alexei Pushkov.

In the words of Yelena Pustovoytova, an analyst of the Strategic Culture Foundation, Michael McFaul should be considered an expert in colour revolutions not only because he was senior adviser to the National Democratic Institute in the U.S. (NDI) which is partly funded by the U.S. State Department but also because he authored the ideology and techniques for the execution of the orange revolution in Ukraine.

“The apparent success in Kiev inspired, and continues to inspire, the U.S. State Department at least for the simple reason that Russia can be seen so well from Kiev. As the co-author of the book title “Revolution in orange: the origins of Ukraine's democratic breakthrough” written together with Anders Aslund McFaul was not, unlike Aslund, a field commander for the orange [revolution leaders]. His call is different: to devise, in the quiet of his study, methods of conducting the fight and ways to induce “cannon fodder” to join the fight. One has to agree that such warfare which is fought by citizens craving “American freedom” without the need to deploy troops, use arms and drop bombs is the state of the art of political business and has great value. Special assistant to President Barack Obama and senior director for Russia and Eurasian affairs at the National Security Council McFaul is said by the Western media to have numerous contacts and friends in Russia so the fact that he has ended up being, to say the least, an unwelcome guest here is met with surprise in the U.S. Americans fail to realize that any Russian citizen who publicly claimed that Barack Obama was “a paranoid leader, who seems to need external enemies as a means for creating domestic legitimacy” would be denied entry to the United States for the rest of his life. And this is exactly what McFaul said of Vladimir Putin’s Federal Address in 2007,” the analyst explained.

It also transpired last week that Jonathan Powell, then Prime Minister Tony Blair's chief of staff, admitted Britain had been caught spying when Russia exposed its use of a fake rock in Moscow to hide electronic equipment over five years ago. The story was first aired in 2006 in a Russian TV report which showed how the rock containing an electronic transmitter had been used by British diplomats to exchange information. British authorities declined to comment on the report at the time while the author of the TV report was repeatedly accused on the Internet of spreading lies.

Notably, one of the British diplomats implicated in the case was also involved in authorizing grants for projects of Russian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) including the Moscow Helsinki Group and the New Eurasia Foundation.

According to the Financial Times, some experts believe that Powell’s admission could increase pressure on Russian NGOs who are coming under fire for assisting the West in trying to change the regime in Moscow. Nikolay Petrov, analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center, thinks that in the current political situation this admission could be used as proof that Putin was right when he claimed that foreign intelligence services were behind the protests.

Head of the Russian Government Vladimir Putin earlier accused the U.S., and Hillary Clinton, in particular, of instigating the protests staged by the Russian opposition against the outcomes of the December 2011 elections and his plans to return to presidency after the March 2012 election. However, Hillary Clinton rejected the allegations of American involvement in the protests noting that “[t]his was not about the United States. This was about the people of Russia”.

During his recent visit to Moscow U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns stated that the U.S. had absolutely no interest in interfering in Russian politics. In his words, “Russia’s political choices are the business of Russians – not Americans or anyone else,” while the U.S. “will continue to support Russians inside and outside the government who stand for transparency and accountability”.

As U.S. Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon said in late 2011, the U.S. administration had been consulting with Congress on an initiative to create a new fund to support Russian NGOs “committed to a more pluralistic and open society”.

According to him, the U.S. government has given about 160 million U.S. dollars in assistance to support programs on human rights, rule of law, anti-corruption, civil society, independent media, and democratic political processes since 2009.

“Most recently, U.S. funding was used to support independent Russian monitoring of the State Duma elections and education for independent media on professional and unbiased reporting, encourage informed citizen participation in elections, and enhance the capacity to conduct public opinion polling,” Philip Gordon elaborated.

In view of the statements made by the American official many experts in Russia and abroad see reasons to believe that the U.S. provides, and will continue to provide, assistance to the opposition movement in Russia so as to effect regime change under the same color revolution scenario that was used in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan but failed in Belarus, Armenia and Moldova.

According to William Engdahl, an American analyst and author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, major Western media chose either to ignore or to downplay Putin’s statement. However, even a little research shows that Vladimir Putin was actually downplaying the degree of U.S. government interference into the political processes of the country.

“In this case the country is not Tunisia or Yemen or even Egypt. It is the world’s second nuclear superpower… Hillary is playing with thermonuclear fire… Let’s examine closely Putin’s charge of US interference in the election process. If we look, we find openly stated in their August 2011 Annual Report that a Washington-based NGO with the innocuous name, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), is all over the place inside Russia. The NED is financing an International Press Center in Moscow where some 80 international NGOs can hold press briefings on whatever they choose. They fund numerous “youth advocacy” and leadership workshops to “help youth engage in political activism.” In fact, officially they spent more than $2,783,000 in 2010 on dozens of such programs across Russia… The NED is also financing key parts of the Russian “independent” polling and election monitoring, a crucial part of being able to claim election fraud. They finance in part the Regional Civic Organization in Defense of Democratic Rights and Liberties “Golos.” According to the NED Annual Report the funds went “to carry out a detailed analysis of the autumn 2010 and spring 2011 election cycles in Russia, which will include press monitoring, monitoring of political agitation, activity of electoral commissions, and other aspects of the application of electoral legislation in the long-term run-up to the elections.” In September 2011, a few weeks before the December elections the NED financed a Washington invitation-only conference featuring the Russian “independent” polling organization, the Levada Center. According to NED’s own website Levada, another recipient of NED money, had done a series of opinion polls profiling “the mood of the electorate in the run up to the Duma and presidential elections, perceptions of candidates and parties, and voter confidence in the system of ‘managed democracy’ that has been established over the last decade,” the expert said.

That the American government is financing opposition activities in Russia is also evidenced by the statements made by Maksim Petrovich, an activist of the Solidarnost’ movement and the informal Parnas party, which were published in the Russian press.

“Let’s take, for example, funds regularly wired into the accounts of our opposition organizations. Where do they come from? I can state with full confidence: they come from the U.S., from the budget of the country, i.e. this is the money of American taxpayers. The way our opposition people get funding is quite complicated but I thoroughly examined it when I became director of nonprofit foundation “Image of the future”, one of those organizations as through created specially to receive money from the U.S. State Department allocated to “support democratic forces” in the Russian Federation. I together with one of the key opposition activists and several other persons created this foundation and received funds from Americans to implement a project called “Development of information technologies”. But the real aim of the project was only tangentially related to information technologies instead resembling capacity-building for the implementation in Russia of an already classical scenario of the so-called “Twitter revolution” similar to the ones that happened this past spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other countries,” Maksim Petrovich recounted.

In his words, one of the main funding schemes for such activities includes the U.S. State Department allocating large amounts of money in the hundreds of millions of dollars to the biggest American donor organizations the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and NED for “democracy assistance” throughout the world. Then USAID and NED give out part of the money received from the State Department as grants to smaller American NGOs such as the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) which then distribute money under their own programmes as “donations” to Russian NGOs.

Political scientist Sergei Yelishev thinks that foreign intelligence agencies with the active support of the “fifth column” inside the country are trying to carry out special operations so as to organize in Russia another “Libya style” revolution and are placing their highest hopes on young Russians. In his words, the actions of the “outside the government” opposition aim to disrupt the presidential election in Russia and to prevent Vladimir Putin’s election as head of state.

“Vladimir Putin is the person who, regardless of what anyone may think of him, prevents these forces from initiating the process of breaking up the Russian Federation,” he noted.

Stephen Lendman, a well-known Canadian analyst and a Research Associate of the Center for Research on Globalization in Montreal, finds it quite possible that Washington may be interfering in the Russian elections as it has done repeatedly in numerous other elections throughout the world.

“In Haiti’s 2010 first round and 2011 runoff, brazen manipulation rigged the process to install stealth Duvalierist Michel (Sweet Micky) Martelly president. Washington indeed may be behind on and off Russian street protests. The pattern’s familiar. Over decades, America advanced the technique. In the 1990s, RAND Corporation strategists developed the concept of “swarming” to explain “communication patterns and movement of” bees and other insects which they applied to military conflict by other means. Washington used it successfully against Serbia’s Milosevic. NED, IRI and NDI were involved. It repeated during Georgia’s Rose Revolution, ousting Edouard Shevardnadze for Mikhail Saakashvili. A US-installed stooge, he’s governed ruthlessly and repressively in office. Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution was similar, ousting Viktor Yanukovych for Viktor Yushchenko, Washington’s man. America’s manipulated 2007 Myanmar Saffron Revolution and Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution failed. Both countries remain targeted for regime change. Very possibly, Russia’s street protests are made-in-the-USA. It wouldn’t be the first time nor last,” the expert said.

He also added that political Washington in fact abhors democracy at home and abroad. Imperial wars, numerous coups, internal subversion and destabilization, homeland repression, and rigged elections prevent it with the active approval of major media outlets.

It is not surprising, therefore, that in the atmosphere of growing discontent with foreign interference in Russian political and public life proposals to toughen legislation regulating activities of foreign citizens and organizations in Russia are being voiced more and more often. In particular, activists call for the adoption of a law similar to the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which has been in effect in the U.S. for the past 70 years, so as to limit foreign influence within the country.

As analyst of the Strategic Culture Foundation Elena Pustovoytova explained, the U.S. law provides that activities of a foreign agent, whose nationality may be foreign as well as American, include, among other things, political activities, public and media relations, publicity, information services, political consultations, collection and disbursement of funds and things of value, and representation within the United States of the interests of foreign states. Such activities are supervised by the intelligence agencies and subject to control by the Attorney General with the agents involved in such activities being carefully registered and required to regularly report about their work to the Department of Justice. Sanctions against foreigners found in violation of the Act include fines of 10 thousand dollars, five years of imprisonment and deportation from the country.

General Director of the Institute for Foreign Policy Research and Initiatives Veronika Krasheninnikova believes a similar law should be enacted in Russia.

“Before introducing free competition in the political field, it is first necessary to set fair and just conditions for this process. Today no such rules exist as a major part of the public and political space is occupied by Western NGOs and their Russian ‘clones’,” she said.

Colour revolutions is a term most frequently used to describe a series of mass public disorders and protests usually resulting in regime change in a number of countries in Eastern Europe and the Arab world without any military deployment.

The most classical type of colour revolutions includes Ukraine’s orange revolution, Georgia’s rose revolution, Kyrgyzstan’s tulip revolution as well as the ousting of several leaders such as Meciar in Slovakia and Milosevic in Serbia.

Experts note that colour revolutions are only successful in countries where weak political power is combined with freedom of speech, significant popular support for the opposition in at least one of the country’s provinces and active opposition organizations of young people.

Both supporters and opponents of colour revolutions consider the existence of a single scenario of events to be the distinguishing feature of colour revolutions. A form of revolution includes mass demonstrations using anti-corruption and radically democratic slogans that are, as a rule, held by opposition groups after elections and are first peaceful in character but later escalate into campaigns of civil disobedience.

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