Color Revolutions Are Foreign Aggression by Non-military Means
Nine features of the war that the West is carrying out against regimes it disagrees with and why Russia is getting in its Way
The author is a famous Ukrainian former political analyst and diplomat forced to emigrate to Russia after the Maidan coup. Now he is a columnist for the International Information Agency “Rossyia Segodnya”
Russia’s Ministry of Defense held another international security conference on April 27-28th 2016. I participated in a panel dedicated to ‘color revolutions’. Here are my views.
The first point is that the problem has begun to interest the military (representatives of defense ministries from dozens of states took part in the discussions) proving that ‘color revolutions’ are now considered not as an internal threat of interest to special services and police, but as an external one of military aggression.
The second point is that color revolutions as an element of modern hybrid war are topical because a collision of nuclear superpowers is impossible due to mutually assured destruction. However, scenarios of limited nuclear war or military confrontation involving non-nuclear weapons are still being considered.
Color revolutions became the response to political gridlock resulting from the principle that war is an inadmissible tool for solving political problems. The political and moral expenses of a state initiating military action turned out to be higher than the material and political benefits of controlling enemy territory, even if a preponderance of means allowed them to win in the shortest possible period of time and almost without losses. Blitzkrieg became unprofitable, let alone a prolonged campaign.
Third, a color takeover doesn’t happen where there a classical revolutionary situation, but where an external power is interested in controlling a state, which is impossible without external interference. If the color takeover is triggered, it means that the country was the subject of an aggression. Identifying the aggressor is usually not a problem, however, it’s impossible to prove its aggressive intent (no matter how much evidence there is) within the framework of international law. The aggressor explains its overt intervention in the internal affairs of the victim-state as a humanitarian gesture to protect human rights. According to the Helsinki Accords (within the frameworks of the CSCE that became the norm of the OSCE and UNO) the protection of human rights is not exclusively an internal affair.
Fourth, the aggressor needs to legitimize its actions before the international community. That’s why it usually tries to obtain a mandate for its covert intervention from the UN and the OSCE, or at least create an international coalition of a few dozen countries to disguise the aggression as the removal of an ‘unpopular regime’.
Fifth, this imposes constraints on the type of state that is able to use color revolutions. The aggressor state should have not just absolute military superiority over the victim-state, it should have the political and diplomatic ability to ensure a international legal basis for its intervention.
The sixth point is that as in any military operation, a color revolution must be carefully planned and prepared. There are several options, depending on the resistance level of the victim state. Capitulation or betrayal of the elite is an ideal option. It is less costly, and the resources of the victim-state, including the political system and administrative hierarchy, can be used immediately by the aggressor in its geopolitical interest.
When national elites do not surrender unconditionally, ‘peaceful protests’ are used. Obstinate elites are forced to hand over power to their more accommodating colleagues when ‘street pressures’ create a dilemma: leave voluntarily or try to suppress the protests risking ‘innocent ’ victims that make the regime look ‘bloody and dictatorial’, with accusations of ‘police brutality ’ that cause it to ‘lose its legitimacy’.
If peaceful pressure doesn’t work, the strategy will be changed after a few weeks or months (depending on the situation and resistance of the regime) to an armed takeover. The regime would be forced to choose between capitulation and dozens and even hundreds of unavoidable causalities.
Together with the option of ‘peaceful protests’ and armed takeover, the state-aggressor organizes the political and diplomatic isolation of the victim state. If the armed takeover of the capital doesn’t work, they turn to civil war, declaring the regime illegitimate, backing the ‘rebels’ and providing them political, diplomatic and military assistance.
Finally, if civil war reaches a deadlock or the rebels start to lose, they use overt aggression (under the guise of humanitarian aid). The soft option is limited to establishing no-fly zones and arms deliveries to the rebels (including heavy weapons). The more aggressive option involves covert foreign ground forces, either ‘volunteers’ or special operations.
The seventh point is that despite the official peaceful character of the color revolution, its success is guaranteed by the presence of armed forces behind the backs of diplomats and journalists, that if need be can suppress the resistance of national elites determined to fight to the end.
This option was implemented in Iraq, Serbia, Libya, failing only in Syria, where resources, including military, of a second superpower support the legal government of the country. The situation changes from a color revolution to an overt military and political confrontation between superpowers, as in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
That implies liquidating the political, diplomatic, economic, financial and military preponderance of the aggressor-state over the victim state, resulting in point eight:
Color revolutions cannot be stopped either by consolidating the victim state’s elites, or by the readiness of the power structure to do its duty (they sooner or later become exhausted), or by the work of the national media (it will be drowned out by the greater technological capabilities of the aggressor).
The readiness of the victim state to resist aggression is a required but not sufficient condition for blocking a color revolution.This can only happen with the support of the victim state’s elite, by a second superpower capable of confronting the aggressor on equal terms in all the aspects, in all venues and by any means.
Hence, the ninth point and conclusion: Modern color revolutions are separate operations of the global confrontation between the superpowers. The Korean, Vietnam and other wars involved the same elements of confrontation between the USSR and the US in foreign territories. Modern color revolutions are a type of hybrid war that is part of the confrontation between Russia and the US.
This is not war as an extension of policy by other means (according to Clausewitz) but the color system as an extension of war by other means.
We began this war long before we recognized that it was a war, with the defeats of the 1990’s. But we have successfully fought it for the last two years.
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