Tuesday, May 1, 2007


When asked on December 2 about possible Russian intervention in Ukraine’s election President Bush stressed “I think any election, if there is one, ought to be free from any foreign influence.” The official government position remained that neither Russia nor the US nor any other country should interfere in the free elections of a sovereign nation. Both Pora And US officials insist this policy was adhered to, and there was no U.S. funding or direct support to the youth movement at the heart of this transformation nor to any particular candidate. Both the yellow and black wings of Pora claimed they relied almost solely on domestic and overseas Ukrainian financial support. [1]

This is not true of course - Yellow Leader Vladyslav Kaskiv noted “the campaign’s initial funding was supplied by PORA founders” but grew with time to include American support for activist training via “small grants provided by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, Freedom House and the Canadian International Development Agency.” Totaling only $130,000 US by Kaskiv’s account, “unlike its counterparts in Serbia and Georgia, [Pora!] received only minimal financial support from the international community.” [2] Taras Kuzio also pointed to the Yellow Pora’s having tapped into Western funds sent to the Freedom of Choice Coalition, of which they were part. For their pivotal election monitoring in Crimea, the coalition also received training from Freedom House in August 2004. [3]

Such help was more limited and indirect than in Georgia, at least in relation to the size of the Ukrainian playing field. But in fact it seems reasonable to deduce that less was needed. By 2004 the system was set up and rolling; the fear had been broken in Serbia, and the bloodless victory in Georgia had shown that the pattern was to continue. Thus when someone told the Ukrainian people “it’s time,” they jumped on board quicker and followed the lead of the other revolutions they remember. Officially, the US government spent $41m funding the original trial run against Milosevic in 1999-2000. In Ukraine, the figure is said to be around $14m, one third the original cost, and for a much larger prize. [4]

As supporters point out, the eighteen Pora members who traveled to Serbia to train with the US-trained Otpor veterans paid their own way, as presumably did those who traveled to Tbilisi to learn from the Serbian-trained Kmara vets. But the bright future they planned held promised rewards of its own, and with the precedents of recent years to learn from, they had good reason to expect success. It would seem the Orange Revolution would be well worth the price of a few bus tickets. The question that remains is what the activists drew from these pilgrimages to the sites of previous civil insurgencies. Such travels would risk making the revolution appear part of the then well-known pattern of U.S. backed/engineered revolutions, but the risk was seen as worth it to learn the secrets of the trade in an unbroken chain of enlightened masters, all on NATO, NATO-occupied, or NATO-allied soil.

American political support of these campaigns in general is bipartisan and also highly popular and few would bother to complain over such a utopian brand of political engineering. But Ukraine was especially touchy, and those who were worried voiced their concerns. US Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) delivered testimony on December 7 2004 citing the large amounts of American taxpayer’s money that was funneled into the Ukraine election despite the non-interference rules. “There are so many cut-out organizations and sub-grantees that we have no idea how much U.S. government money was really spent on Ukraine, and most importantly how it was spent,” Paul said. What was known, he explained, was that “much of that money was targeted to assist one particular candidate, and that […] millions of dollars ended up in support of the presidential candidate, Viktor Yushchenko.” [5] Paul elaborated:

“The US government, through [USAID], granted millions of dollars to the Poland-America-Ukraine Cooperation Initiative (PAUCI), which is administered by the US-based Freedom House. […] PAUCI then sent US Government funds to numerous Ukrainian NGOs. […] Consider the Ukrainian NGO International Center for Policy Studies […] funded by the U.S. government through PAUCI. On its Web site, we discover that this NGO was founded by George Soros' Open Society Institute. And further on we can see that Viktor Yushchenko himself sits on the advisory board!” [6]
Paul concluded that “Congress and the American taxpayers have a right to know […] how much U.S. government money was spent in Ukraine and exactly how it was spent,” and called for an investigation by the Government Accounting Office. [7] So far there has been no such investigation.

Some Western aid came in outside government channels. In September 2005, former President of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk accused London-based Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky (aka Platon Elenin) of financing Yushchenko's presidential campaign. Kravchuk showed documentation of money transfers from Berezovsky’s companies to companies controlled by Yushchenko’s official backers. The exiled tycoon has confirmed these transfers, which he said were arranged at meetings with Yushchenko's representatives in London, even though financing of election campaigns by foreign citizens is illegal in Ukraine. [8]

The Russian News and Information Agency explained “from his London villa, the ex-oligarch is focusing his armed-struggle activities not only on Moscow […] but also on Kiev […] to help propel compliant political forces to power.” [9] They cited recent publication of “what is said to be the transcript of a telephone conversation between Berezovsky and Yulia Tymoshenko” in late 2004:

Berezovsky: “What the hell are you waiting for in the square? You should lead people there, now! You must take the institutions of power into your own hands...” Tymoshenko: “Yes, my Boris... We will be seizing one site per day starting tomorrow. Railways, airports - business as usual...” [10]

This recording sounds suspiciously like the script of a Russian-produced radio drama, but some combination of evidence led Jack Straw, who headed the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office at the time, to be “struck by Berezovsky's putsch aspirations,” as RIAN put it. He threatened to cancel the Russian’s refugee status, stating that someone who had been granted protection should not “use the UK as a base from which to foment violent disorder” abroad. [11]

Nonetheless most of the help for the revolution was provided from native Ukrainians and the wealthy Diaspora communities banded together, donating money and needed items and volunteering time. As we’ve seen, municipal leaders like Kiev mayor Olmchenko were instrumental in allowing the protests to flourish. Others who sympathized with the movement pitched in by not doing things like cracking down. Petro Rondiak noted: “the riot cops were laughing at our jokes and I certainly doubt they would put up much resistance if...” [12] The authorities simply refused to clamp down on their fellow citizens and all remained peaceful.

As per Sharp’s strategy the protesters did what they could to co-opt the security forces, but in this case, for whatever reasons, the main effort behind this co-option came from within the security services themselves, the final stroke of which came just in time to prevent the Orange Revolution from turning red with blood.

next post: A Preventive Operation: Help From Within

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