Saturday, May 26, 2007

THE NEW GREAT GAME

Adam Larson/Caustic Logic
Guerillas Without Guns/Chapter 7
Posted 5/9/07


Russia’s response to the assault on its European periphery states in 2003-2004 demonstrates two unique and related historical patterns. The first is Russia’s split personality, straddling the arguably imaginary line that separates Europe from Asia. Russian thinkers have tackled the issue of Asian vs. European identity for centuries. Peter the great tried to settle this in 1703 by founding St. Petersburg and tying Russia into Europe’s affairs, but during the Great Game with England over Central Asia in the 1800s again European vs. Eastern/Asian/other became the paradigm. Since the Bolsheviks moved the capitol back to Moscow, and more so since the collapse of the USSR, Russia's European aspirations have been lessened in favor of a centralizing view that looks south and east as well as west.

The other key factor is Russia’s tactic of withdrawal when threatened, as they did when Napoleon invaded. Moscow was abandoned and burnt to the ground, leaving nothing for the French army, most of whom died in the attempt to get back home ahead of winter. When things get rough on the European front, Russians pull back to the east, relying on the continental vastness of their Eurasian territory to wait out the crisis.

2004-05 was such a time, and indeed Russia’s power focus has to a remarkable degree shifted east as ambitions in Europe slid into political obscurity. It’s not so much that the Kremlin has abandoned its plans for Europe as that it is diversifying its holdings and making contingency plans for an uncertain future there. So Putin’s Moscow started taking greater interest in increasing control over its former Central Asian holdings; the independent but cooperative nations of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and to a much lesser extent ‘neutral” Turkmenistan.

The Central Asian Republics seemed relatively safe from the Orange Revolution type of tactic. In Europe there is the EU, NATO, and a long history of Democratic institutions and mindsets. But these landlocked Muslim-dominated nations, resource-rich but impoverished and still run largely on Soviet habits and older memories, lie in an area still jointly dominated by “great power rivals” Russia and China. Central Asia is a long way from Brussels – and so as the democratic bridgehead struggled to cross the last spans of Europe, this was the Bulkhead of Russia’s Eurasian power outside its own borders.

The area also represents the heart of “the Grand Chessboard” of Eurasia as portrayed by Zbigniew Brzezinski. He describes this region as the “Eurasian Balkans,” encompassing the Caucasian and Central Asian flanks of the former USSR plus Iran and Afghanistan. Compared to the European Balkans, “the Eurasian Balkans are infinitely more important as a potential economic prize,” at twenty times the size and presenting an enormous zone of instability “astride the inevitably emerging transportation network meant to link [Eurasia’s] western and eastern extremities.” [1] Thus as in times ancient, the region was to be the crossroads of Eurasia, host to a 21st Century Silk Road as Unocal called it – pipelines, fiber optic cable, superhighways, all facilitating further globalization of a previously under-tapped region.

There was more than transport at stake though; Central Asia straddles the Himalayan foothills, producing a tectonic cornucopia of mineral wealth, including tin, gold, and platinum in large quantities. And to a world increasingly thirsty for oil and natural gas, Central Asia has stood out for one key reason – the energy reserves of the Caspian Sea; Fortunes and political careers were made and broken in what Ahmed Rashid in 1997 dubbed “the New Great Game.” After 9/11 we found that the prize was not as big as originally thought, (and hence the war was not about that). But by mid-2006, world oil prices climbed from a pre-9/11 baseline of about $25 a barrel to well over $70 a barrel, US News and World Report noted in their September 11 2006 issue “the stakes have suddenly shot up,” and interest is now as intense as ever. [2]
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Next: From Shanghai with Love: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Sources:
[1] Brzezinski. "The Grand Chessboard." 1997. Page 124.
[2] Fang, Bay. “The Great Energy Game.” US News and World Report. Vol 141, no. 9. September 11 2006. p 60-62.

Friday, May 18, 2007

TURKMENBASHI'S DREAMLAND

Adam Larson
Caustic Logic/Guerillas Without Guns
November 2006
Re-posted 4/23/07


Turkmenistan is an interesting case, nearly 5 million inhabitants, 98% Muslim, in the former Soviet space, on the Caspian, and ruled by perhaps the most bizarre and repressive dictator in the region. And yet it is a nation remarkably undisturbed by the democracy guerillas that had struck further west in Georgia and Ukraine, an ambiguous “revolution” as per Kyrgyzstan’s “tulip Revolution,” or Andijan-style unrest as happened further east. It is the calm at the eye of the Central Asian storm.

Rich in natural resources but with per-capita incomes at sub-Saharan African levels, the country is held under the effectively permanent rule of dictator Saparmyrat Niyazov, or “Turkmenbashi” (father of the Turkmen people) as he calls himself. Niyazov first assumed leadership of the Turkmen Communist party in 1985, and thus headed the government of the Soviet Republic during its last years. The republic of Turkmenistan declared independence in 1991 just before the collapse of the USSR and soon joined the CIS, signing the divorce papers as it were along with the other republics. Afterwards though Niyazov and the government at Ashkabad refused to join any other such organization, in pursuit of a “status of permanent neutrality,” which was accepted by the UN General Assembly in December 1995. The country retained its membership in Russia’s CIS, though never agreeing to the mutual defense clause that later morphed into the CSTO, and in August 2005, Turkmenbashi downgraded the country officially to CIS “Associate Member,” an exclusive sort of friendly non-membership. [1]

Turkmenbashi
One of the many tributes erected to and by the great “Turkmenbashi”
Like Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan, Turkmenbashi has instead focused on apolitical pipeline diplomacy, since independence encouraging foreign investment in its oil and gas reserves. Niyazov works with everybody, West and East, boasting huge deals with Russia’s Gazprom, planning pipeline to China, and hoping for Western sponsored paths south through Afghanistan. The city of Krasnovodsk on the Caspian coast was named in 1993 “Turkmenbashi” after the President and served as the oil hub, commercial capital, and center of ego for the country. While cooperative with western economies, Niyazov is not the model of a democratic leader by a long shot, with arguably the worst record on democracy is in the region. The city naming is a telling sign of what most observers agree is Niyazov’s cult of personality; in the manner of Stalin or Hussein he has monuments and portraits of himself erected everywhere to remind citizens of their beneficent ruler.

In 1992 Turkmenistan’s first post-independence constitution enshrined Niyazov as head of government as well as head of state – President and Prime Minister. He promised on taking the post that within a decade all Turkmen families would own a house and a car. He was later re-elected to the post in a direct popular ballot in which he stood unopposed, and his rule was extended indefinitely in 1999, with parliament giving Niyazov the legal right to rule for life with no need for elections. [2] He modified this the following year, announcing that he would step down by no later than 2010, after reaching the age of 70. In early 2003 Niyazov started making good on his cars promise, handing out free Mercedes-Benzs to top officials whose loyalty he needed, just as he announced a new commission, as the BBC described, “to monitor foreign trips by politicians, and to track the movements of foreigners within Turkmenistan.” [3]

The BBC’s official timeline of Turkmenistan notes the idiosyncratic nature of his rule, marked by ironic choices of a ruler undisturbed in his delusions. In August 2002 Niyazov ordered the months of the year renamed after himself, his mother and his spiritual guide, the Ruhnama. In August 2004 he ordered construction of a grandiose ice palace in the middle of the Turkmen desert, and in November had to explain this project at a Turkmen-Uzbek summit on water resources. And in February 2005 the president went under the knife for eye surgery, just after suggesting all Turkmen hospitals other than those in capital should be closed to save money. [4]

Niyazov’s total suppression of opposition is unparalleled: In November 2002 the president easily survived an armed attack on his presidential motorcade as it drove through Ashkabad. Authorities blamed “mercenaries” acting for exiled opposition leaders who in turn accuse Niyazov of arranging the incident as excuse to crack down. Within the month opposition activist and former foreign minister Boris Shikhmuradov was arrested, accused of masterminding the attack and sentenced to life imprisonment. More than 40 others were convicted and jailed along with him. Another crackdown in mid-2005 saw Deputy Prime Minister Elly Kurbanmuradov, a senior figure in the energy sector, sacked and jailed for 25 years on corruption charges, and Rejep Saparov sacked as head of presidential administration and sentenced to 20 years in jail for corruption. [5]

Thus Turkmenistan has avoided the destabilizing aspects of divisive politics and continues to provide a perfect totalitarian state with its enforced stability, everything the West claims to be against. Indeed, the US State Department and the rest admit the truth of Niyazov’s regime – Freedom House, banned from the country, listed it in 2005 as "not free," noting "Turkmenistan remained one of the most repressive societies in the world” in 2005. [6] Yet we see no reports of real US aid to opposition parties, training of youth movements or the like – no Kostunica or Saakashvili reported here, no Otpor-Kmara-Pora-Zubr equivalent reported.

Some would argue that state repression is to blame for the lack of democratic activism, and certainly the evidence is there. But there are other factors at work – Belarus is remarkably oppressive and hard-line as well, but Zubr and Malady Front have thrived with Western support and coordinated diplomatic offensives, launching campaigns every other year for the six years now (2001, 2003, 2005-06). But Turkmenistan, with even less democracy and a more unreasonable ruler, has remained remarkably quiet. And as far as diplomatic pressure, sanctions and trade restrictions, pressure has not been applied on these levels either to any meaningful degree as has happened in Belarus. Turkmenistan was not listed as an “outpost of tyranny.”

It’s perhaps no coincidence that Niyazov is also an enthusiastic, long-term partner in US drive to tap the Caspian – had been party to Unocal’s Turkmen-Afghan-Pakistan pipeline. Back in 1995 Niyazov and Pakistan’s PM Benazir Bhutto commissioned a feasibility study of Afghan pipeline. [7] Both leaders had initially backed a rival pipeline offered by Argentine company Bridas, and Niyazov signed an exclusive contract with them. But while it took something like a coup to get Pakistan's mind to change, Niyazov was then the first to see the potential in Unocal’s version and broke his contract with Bridas, who later sued Unocal for $15 billion, finally awarded $47 million in 1998. They tried suing Unocal in Texas also, but the international court threw the case out, saying they had no jurisdiction; the case was based on Turkmen law; which it turns out is basically Niyazov’s whim. [8] Unocal spokesman John Maresca later noted with no apparent irony that the region was “dynamic and changing. Business contracts can be rescinded without warning.” [9]

Niyazov’s switch shows both his ambition and his impatience. Ahmed Rashid, in his book Taliban, revealed the hopes that Niyazov had nurtured that Turkmenistan’s oil and gas exports would make his country “the new Kuwait,” as he described it back in 1991 (interestingly, just as Kuwait was recovering from an invasion with U.S. help.) Niyazov is self-interested enough to be a constant ally of whoever supports the project and offers him the highest return on his nation’s investment. And the backing of the U.S. government is certainly a plus for any pipeline plan in the post-Cold-War world. It could also help him deliver on that Mercedes promise. Rashid noted “Niyazov saw that Unocal could become the means to engage a major U.S. company and the Clinton administration in Turkmenistan’s development.” [10] And he was putting his own country’s neck on the line; the government of Turkmenistan was listed as a financial partner in the CENTGAS consortium, holding a 7% stake scraped together from the nation’s scant funds. [11]

After the worst of the afghan campaign passed in early 2002, it was reported that “with the demise of the Taliban, talk of a new pipeline has begun to resurface.” [12] But even as Niyazov rules undisturbed in dreamland, the TAP pipeline has still not come to fruition by late 2006, with a new insurgency in Afghanistan rivaling anything since the fall of the Taliban just as world oil prices surged and made the pipeline yet more desirable.

Postscript: Turkmenbashi is dead. He expired from heart attack on December 20 2006. Under the constitution, the Parliament chairman Ovezgeldy Atayev should have become the interim leader, but deputy prime minister Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was named instead on the 22nd. He explained that Mr Atayev had been sacked after a criminal probe was opened into his activities on the 21st. [13]

Sources:
[1] REF/RL "CIS: Turkmenistan Reduces Ties To ‘Associate Member.'" August 29, 2005. Acc. June 21 2006 at: http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/08/26dab4c9-5ba1-4193-86e7-62fc991f8a6c.html
[2]"Turkmen leader to rename calendar." BBC News. August 8 2002. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/2181151.stm
[3] "Top Turkmens to get free Mercs." BBC News. February 5 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/2729053.stm
[4] "Turkmenistan: Profile." BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/country_profiles/1298522.stm
[5] various - google the names
[6] Turkmenistan – 2005 Overview. Freedom House. http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=22&year=2005&country=6852
[7] "Timeline of Competition between Unocal and Bridas for the Afghanistan Pipeline." World Press Review. December 2001. http://www.worldpress.org/specials/pp/pipeline_timeline.htm. Accessed via: http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/51/119.html
[8], [10] Rashid, Ahmed. "Taliban." 2001.
[9] Maresca, John J. Testimony to Hose Subcommittee on International Relations. February 1998. Accessed January 9, 2005 at: http://propagandamatrix.com/testimony_by_john_j_maresca.html
[11], [12] Blagov, Sergei. "Bold Turkmen project in the pipeline again." Asia Times. February 9 2002. http://www.atimes.com/c-asia/DB19Ag01.html
[13] "Turkmen leader pledges stability." BBC News. December 22 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/6204561.stm

Thursday, May 10, 2007

EURO-NATO: HOW THE WEST WAS RUN

Adam Larson/Caustic Logic
Guerillas Without Guns/Chater 1
Poated 5/11/2007


One of the prime avenues for containing and steering the power of the EU into conformity with the Anglo-American Alliance was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Also called “the Western Alliance:” the US, UK, Belgium, France, et al, NATO was the grand World War II Alliance minus the USSR. After forming in 1949, NATO took in Greece and Turkey (1952), and then West Germany (1955), but afterwards sat steady for decades as it stared Moscow down, never used its mutual defense clause, and remained a potential military force only.

Yet despite the final crumbling of the Warsaw Pact and even the USSR itself, the objects of its vigilance, NATO remained and looked for a new mission. In a 1992 Pentagon report leaked before scrubbing, then Undersecretary of Defense for policy Paul Wolfowitz offered a role for NATO if not a mission. The report admitted “we must seek to prevent the emergence of European-only security arrangements which would undermine NATO, particularly the alliance’s integrated command structure.” This command structure keeps the United States in the loop so that the Europeans could not make military or security decision the US was unwilling to sign off on. Indeed, Wolfowitz noted how this arrangement would allow NATO to remain “the primary instrument of Western defense and security as well as the channel for U.S. influence and participation in European security affairs.” [1]

CFR heavyweight and former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski saw the same role for NATO. In his 1997 strategic tome The Grand Chessboard, he took a placating line that the organization’s leadership should eventually give Europe a greater role, coequal with Washington in a 1+1 (US + EU) formulation. While he noted the existing “American primacy within the alliance,” European membership was set to grow, and thus “NATO will have to adjust.” [2] But in an accompanying article for Foreign Affairs, the official publication of the CFR, he wrote more frankly:

“With the allied European nations still highly dependent on US protection, any expansion of Europe's political scope is automatically an expansion of US influence. […] A wider Europe and an enlarged NATO will serve the short-term and longer-term interests of US policy. A larger Europe will expand the range of American influence without simultaneously creating a Europe so politically integrated that it could challenge the United States...” [3]

To date, NATO remains Europe’s only credible security force, is now in fact waging wars over its member’s interests while expanding its member list (and therefore possible conflict trigger-points), and the US has consistently promoted European expansion, especially the CFR people.

Who exactly is pulling whose strings in this arrangement is a matter of contention. Some, like John Laughland, would argue that Europe has thus been made the “51st state of America,” [4] while some Americans claim their country has been “Europeanized” as the economic powerhouse to bolster the European order. More likely neither side holds the reins exclusively, and a carefully managed confluence of interests is the wellspring of this trans-Atlantic union we call the West. Either way, regarding Russia and its sphere, it can be treated as a unified and hungry whole. Upon the USSR's collapse, if not before, the West set to wooing the former Warsaw Pact states; Internal political and economic reforms, once verified, could lead to inclusion in the solidifying EU and even NATO, then taking new applications as it considered its new agenda.

It was known Russia could not react favorably to NATO expansion, as noted in a 1995 analysis by Alexei K. Pushkov, onetime adviser and speech-writer for Premier Gorbachev, an eminent Russian mind. The report was published in Strategic Forums, an offshoot of National Defense University in Washington, and warned that NATO expansion into Eastern Europe or beyond would lead to seven key problems. Pushkov listed among these: “deepening of the gap between Russian and Western civilizations,” “an unwelcome influence on internal Russian politics,” and “a rebirth of the Russian sphere of influence among the former states of the Soviet Union.” On this point, he explained “if Russia considers itself geopolitically cut off from Europe and the Euro-Atlantic community, it would have no choice but to strengthen its historical sphere of influence.” [5]

Most ironically, Pushkov predicted, the expansion of this tool of Western security could well lead to “a weakening of overall European security” by expanding the number of NATO’s mutual defense trigger points while simultaneously increasing the tensions with Russia over those, and by encouraging “a new militarism in Russia.” Expansion would surely be seen in Moscow as an unfriendly act of distrust, no matter the spin put on it, and could cause Russia “to become a more independent player, less constrained by a real or illusionary partnership with the West.” Pushkov warned “Russia might well become a loose cannon in world politics” with “very serious” effects on world stability.

Yet in March 1999 the NATO blithely accepted applications from former Warsaw Pact states Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, expanding its geographic scope greatly at the expense of Russia’s recent sway. Others got in the queue; Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, the last Republics fused into the USSR and first to leave, ran away and joined this circus. A later round of NATO additions in March 2004 scored all three, its first former SSRs, along with Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and the alliance’s first former Yugoslav republic, Slovenia.


left: NATO states vs. Warsaw Pact in 1988, Iron Curtain highlighted.
right: NATO vs. Russia’s sphere (CIS) in mid-2004

During the Cold War the West always maintained they propped up the Iron curtain to keep the Soviet wolf at bay – in its time that may have been true, but once the fence fell, every bit of devouring has been in an easterly direction as the Euro-Atlantic community expands deeper into Eurasia and what was being called the post-Soviet Space, with Russia’s influence receding like a melting glacier.

Next: Gene Sharp: Master of Noviloent Warfare

Sources:
[1] Tyler, Patrick E. "US Strategy Plan Calls for Insuring No Rivals Develop A One-Superpower World: Pentagon’s Document Outlines Ways to Thwart Challenges to Primacy of America." The New York Times. March 8, 1992.
http://work.colum.edu/~amiller/wolfowitz1992.htm
[2] Brzezinski, Zbigniew. "The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives." New York. Basic Books. 1997. First Printing. Page 76
[3] Zbigniew Brzezinski, "A Geostrategy for Eurasia," Foreign Affairs, 76:5, September/October 1997.
http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/9709brzezinski.html
[4] Laughland, John. “Becoming the 51st State.” Antiwar.com. May 20, 2003
http://antiwar.com/laughland/?articleid=2071
[5] Pushkov, Alexei. "NATO Enlargement: A Russian Perspective." Strategic Forums. July 1995. http://www.ndu.edu/inss/strforum/SF_34/forum34.html

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

HOPES OF REFORM SHOT DEAD/SCO'S CONTROLLED BURN

Adam Larson/Caustic Logic
Guerillas Without guns/Chapter VII
Posted 5/9/07


Following the ambiguous “Tulip Revolution” of March 2005, Kurmanbek Bakiev was confirmed the second President since independence with an election on July 10. He received an astounding 89% return of the vote (turnout 53%), partly based on his new political alliance with opposition leader Felix Kulov, released from prison with all charges dropped and soon appointed Prime Minister as agreed to before the election. Bakiyev was inaugurated on August 14, and the old parliament agreed to dissolve, and all seemed in order: another successful Color Revolution.
President-elect Bakiyev meets with Rumsfeld, Bishkek, July 2005
On April 14 Defense Secretary Rumsfeld met the acting President Bakiev, who assured the Americans that they could keep using the Ganci Air Base. [1] For Washington the status quo was thus largely maintained, though the new government was not strongly embraced. Something went wrong with the Tulip revolution - The violence in Osh and Jalal-abad should have been a clue. The government was thereafter locked in widespread power struggles and accusations of corruption and even murder. Parliament went on to reject some of the more reform-minded and Western-oriented among the opposition, including Roza Otunbayeva, one of the driving forces behind the early, more “legitimate” phase of the Tulip Revolution. [2]

One “legitimate” opposition leader that did make it into the new government, though he didn’t stay long, was Azimbek Beknazarov, whose 2002 jailing had led to the bloody protests that caused Bakiyev to resign as PM and join the opposition. President Bakiyev rewarded Beknazarov with the post of Prosecutor General, and IWPR explained that the new PG aggressively launched a series of investigations into corruption and criminal activity by Akayev era officials, including a former Central Electoral Commission chief, the head of the Kyrgyz National Bank, and former-PM Nikolai Tanaev. On September 19th, Beknazarov finally got parliament to strip the immunity normally accorded to one of its members - Aydar Akayev, recently-elected son of the ex-president – to allow corruption charges against him to proceed. Later on the same day, President Bakiev dismissed Beknazarov, officially for improper procedures in another investigation. [3]

Other powers behind Akayev’s ouster, like Bamayan Erkinbayev, a ‘controversial businessman’ [ie - mafia-connected] also took power. Once accused of being behind deadly gun battles over control of a local marketplace, Erkinbayev was also a popular politician who entertained presidential ambitions. But he stepped aside for the Bakiev-Kulov coalition, and reportedly helped to organize the southern ‘protests’ which eventually brought them to power. Afterwards he was rewarded with a seat in parliament and the chairmanship of the national Olympic Committee The BBC noted the wide concern that the new influence of “shady businessmen like Mr. Erkinbayev is one of the most worrying trends of the past year.” [4]

Erkinbayev was only in government a few months before he was killed by gunmen on September 22, in an incident widely attributed to his business dealings. [5] Worse, this was only one of at least seven leading and controversial politicians shot dead in various incidents between June 2005 and May 2006. Among them was new MP Tynychbek Akmatbayev, head of parliament’s Committee on Law Enforcement, but reportedly connected to organized crime and embroiled in a long-running feud with new PM Felix Kulov. During an October visit to a prison near Bishkek to calm an uprising there, Akmatbayev and his entourage were somehow engulfed by the rebellion and he was shot dead in the chaos. [6] There were rumors that Kulov had been involved in engineering Akmatbayev’s killing, as Byzantine as such a plot would have been.

After his bother’s death, Ryspek Akmatbayev’s, himself widely thought of as a major mafia kingpin, was asked if his family feud with Kulov could lead to bloodshed. Ryspek responded “nobody [else] needs to suffer […] I suggest that we meet man to man. I will kick his ass, and that will be that.” [7] And he was working his way up, in April 2006 winning a special election to represent his home district in parliament, [8] though he was unable to take up his seat immediately because of pending murder charges against him. [9] His election prompted international condemnation from the West and even Russia expressed concern about the possible “criminalization” of Kyrgyz politics. [10] That noise didn’t last long though - Ryspek himself was reportedly shot dead as he left a Bishkek Mosque on Wednesday May 10. Akmatbayev’s aides carried his body away before police could investigate. The city police chief told the media “I can see spent gun cartridges and blood, but no bodies.” [11]

On the political front, there was some improvement in the political and civil sphere, as noted in the west: Freedom House upgraded the country from “Not Free” to “Partly Free” in 2006 based on “the continuing permissive environment for the promotion of civil liberties and political rights.” They noted a “mixed” record, including increased media freedom and local elections in December 2005 went off “with only ‘rough irregularities.” [12] But despite these “positive steps forward,” the good news was far outweighed by the bad; continued financial hardships across the country fed a deepening sense of dispirited frustration, by BBC reports. [13] Of course the government remained upbeat and established a new national holiday marking the anniversary of the Tulip Revolution, which president Bakiyev described as “the triumph of justice.” To mark the first anniversary, the new government threw a nationwide party on March 24, but BBC News released an article explaining that the “so called” tulip revolution was in fact “no revolution:”

“Many residents of this poor Central Asia republic are still not in the mood for a party. ‘There was never a time in the history of Kyrgyzstan when the confidence of the people in their government was so low,’ said Edil Baisalov of the Bishkek-based NGO, the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society. An international think tank, the International Crisis Group, has gone further, labeling the nation a ‘faltering state.’” [14]

From early on Bakiyev was supported by government-sponsored youth groups; RFE/RL reported in July 2005 on a youth team headquartered in Gorky Square, Central Bishkek. They operated from a yurt (a traditional nomadic tent) stocked with music equipment, national costumes, and T-shirts and baseball caps printed with slogans like “We are for Bakiev!” [15] Their support proved needed as the president’s popularity took a nose-dive in the wake of Beknazarov's dismissal and Erkinbayev's assassination. Bakiev’s approval rates reached their lowest point on September 24, when thousands of protesters took to the streets of Jalalabad to again demand a president’s resignation. [16] Hinting at the methods of the “Tulip Revolution,” another RFE/RL piece from November warned of “the frightening prospect of a rent-a-mob free-for-all” which could lead to many ends, “including an authoritarian drive to reestablish order.” [17]

The Tulip revolution was first lumped in with the Orange and Rose Revolutions, and taken as another victory for the West. But it didn’t work quite right – the protests weren’t properly done, all the bloodshed was discouraging, and the reforms have not come. It seems the West’s Tulip Revolution was hijacked from within via Erkinbayev et al, paid off by the new government first with the ballot then the bullet to wash its hands of once useful but now embarrassing criminal benefactors. There may well have been behind-the-scenes Akayev/Bakiyev deals to stage the president’s flight to Russia to complete the drama. I sense Russia’s or China’s complicity in this episode, and it certainly would serve their interest. It would allow the SCO leaders to publicly take yet another “hit” and exaggerate the perceived extent of the color revolution campaign. This would justify their own counter-measures – which would come within weeks - while causing no real lasting change. A SCO-planned upheaval would preempt any real pro-West color revolution, as it were preventing a forest fire with a controlled burn.
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Next: The SCO Holdouts: Kazakhstan, Tajikistan

Sources:
[1]

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

THE AMERICAN END

OVERT OPS/A BIPARTISAN EFFORT
Adam Larson
Caustic Logic/Guerillas Without Guns
Posted 5/8/07


In the last yeas of the Cold War and afterwards, efforts in Washington mushroomed to help further the USSR’s decline and usher the suddenly-nations shaken loose away from Moscow and into the Western system. Over time, many of the individuals, governmental, non-governmental and semi-governmental groups and think tanks would take up and champion Sharp’s and Helvey’s strategies in their quest for spreading “democracy,” “human rights,” and “open markets” around the world.

Neither the revolutions of 1989 nor the “color revolutions” of the early 21st Century would not have gotten far without the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), founded in 1983 to assist fledgling democracy movements in the Third World. One of the arcitects of the legislation establishing the NED, Allen Weinstein, pointed out in 1991 “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” As the NED was created, the CIA had been wounded and sidelined by the revelation of its clandestine operations, its powers and reach limited. So ironically, attempts to gain influence abroad were shifted over to a more overt approach by the Reagan Administration. William Blum wrote in Rogue State [2000], the hope was that this would “eliminate the stigma associated with CIA covert activities. It was a masterpiece. Of politics, of public relations, and of cynicism.” [1] While it describes itself as a private non-profit organization, the NED is in essence a government agency, staffed by high-profile politicians and receiving the majority of its funding from Congress, allocated by the State Department as their policies see fit. The NED’s government funding was $40 million in 2004, roughly doubled in 2005 at the request of the once non-interventionist president Bush. [2]

NED co-founder and prominent CFR member Mark Palmer is a key figure in this story; he boasts a long bi-partisan record as a presidential speechwriter and as a diplomat, from Nixon’s administration to the 1990s promoting “freedom” and “people power” abroad. Starting with work for the SNCC during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Palmer “has witnessed and practiced the power of organized nonviolent force in achieving freedom and justice,” as his State Department bio reads. He put this training to work as ambassador to Hungary in 1989, “helping persuade its last dictator to leave power” by stepping out of his office and “demonstrating in the streets of Budapest” along with the masses. [3] After leaving government proper Palmer became a venture capitalist, investing in liberalized media in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, arguing for the democratizing force of a free media floated with US dollars. He’s written a book called Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025 [2003], and continued to advise the Clinton and Bush regimes, helping persuade them to initiate new democracy policies, including for the first time promoting Western-style Democracy in the Arab world. [4]

The NED Palmer helped launch spends a large portion of its budget on grants to two organizations: the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), and the International Republican Institute (IRI). They are the global wings of the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively, and NED support, critics point out, has allowed the two parties to pursue their own foreign policy agendas under the radar of government oversight. Yet despite their respective parties’ heated shows of disagreement for the home audience, the two agencies usually work side-by-side in their overseas freedom-building exercises, though often focusing on different aspects.

Many of the Republican Party’s top internationalists do some work with the International Republican Institute; chaired by John McCain, the IRI’s ranks also include Lawrence Eagleburger, Chuck Hagel, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Brent Scowcroft. The majority of its funding comes from the federal government via the NED to “support the growth of political and economic freedom, good governance and human rights around the world” and to “strengthen free markets and the rule of law.” The IRI claims credit for helping organize and maintain a unified political bloc that won elections and held the reins of power in Poland from 1997 - 2001 and was thus able to help steer Poland into joining NATO during that window. [5]

The IRI has had its hands in some decidedly anti-democratic operations, like the 2002 Venezuelan coup that removed the elected Socialist president Hugo Chavez, replacing him with American-friendly free-market supporters. The Venezuelan population in fact used something like Sharp’s tactics – mass strikes and demonstrations - to demand the re-instatement of Chavez, thus dramatically re-affirming his popularity and strengthening his grip on power. It was a debacle for the American plotters and president Bush, whom Chavez called “an asshole” for allowing the plot, and the IRI was strongly criticized by its NED benefactors for the episode. The IRI is also accused of funding activities connected to the successful and only slightly violent 2004 Coup d’etat that had Haiti’s elected president Aristide deposed and allegedly kidnapped away to Africa by US soldiers “to prevent bloodshed.” [6] Perhaps due to the success of this campaign, putting the US effectively in control of the interim government, the NED issued no vocal criticism of the IRI’s role.

On the other side of the aisle, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) is headed by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and also includes Tom Daschle and a roster of former Democrat White House hopefuls – Bill Bradley, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, and Geraldine Ferraro. Boosted by their constituency’s greater acceptance of foreign interventionism, the NDI maintains a global network of “volunteer experts” who help them provide “assistance” on every continent “to build political and civic organizations, safeguard elections, and promote citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.” As far as supporting coups and the like, the NDI seems to have a cleaner record than the IRI, and by my research seems relatively true to its name. Or perhaps they just can’t handle getting their fingernails dirty like the Republicans do?

In 2004, the NDI and its Republican counterparts joined forces in Iraq, jointly helping to form political parties and monitor the January 2005 elections for the National Assembly. The Washington Post explained how the NDI “focused on organization while IRI, in a division of labor, focused on message.” [7] The effort was orchestrated from NDI office in Baghdad where a multinational staff delivered training to selected activists and political leaders to get out the vote. [8] American politicians have the skill sets necessary to read and manipulate public opinion, essential as they are to American political survival. Their support and advice would be highly useful in a country like Iraq, unaccustomed to the ways of electoral politics. But only approved parties could benefit from this useful training; the NDI-IRI program had no competition, remaining “the only game in town” as the Post put it. [9]

The spread of democracy via direct people’s action has been supported by various foundations and think tanks outside the government proper but staffed with influential elites, a nexus that journalist Trish Schuh calls “the regime change industry.” [10] The most enthusiastic support for Sharp’s post-military weapons system came from specific think tanks like the Albert Einstein Institution itself and from dedicated individuals like CFR Director Dr. Peter Ackerman. Ackerman is the founding chairman of the Washington-based International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (CNC), another key supporter of the Sharp approach. Ackerman helped define the subject with his 1994 book Strategic Nonviolent Conflict, his Emmy-nominated 2000 documentary series A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict, and his companion book of the same name co-authored with former US Air Force officer Jack DuVall. At the time, Duvall was president of CNC, and along with Ackerman has worked side-by-side with Colonel Helvey in spreading the word.

Freedom House is a widely cited monitor of the various levels of freedom worldwide, serving as a guide to where the Sharp approach would be desirable to use. Chaired by former CIA Director and key Rumsfeld policy Adviser R. James Woolsey, and vice-chaired by the illustrious Mark Palmer, Freedom House has also been involved in hosting seminars and training opposition leaders (see [link-chapter III]) and has reportedly been approved for “covert action” inside Iran. [11] Together with CNC’s DuVall, Woolsey is also a director at the Arlington Institute, a “futurist” organization created in 1989 by former Chief of Naval Operations advisor John L. Peterson “to help redefine the concept of national security in much larger, comprehensive terms,” it boasts, through introducing “social value shifts into the traditional national defense equation.” [12] In other words, AI wants to put the peace movement to work in the war industry.

Next: Soros Money and the Open Society

Sources:
[1] Blum, William – Rogue State. Page number lost...
[2] Duncan, Benjamin. “Venezuela: What is the National Endowment for Democracy up to?” Al Jazeera, via Venezuelanalysis. May 04, 2004 http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1169
[3], [4] “Mark Palmer.” Wikipedia. Last modified August 17 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Palmer
[5] “Solidarity Electoral Action.” Wikipedia. Last modified June 21 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akcja_Wyborcza_Solidarnosc
[6] Kurlantzick, Joshua. “The Coup Connection.” Mother Jones. November/December 2004. http://www.motherjones.com/news/outfront/2004/11/11_401.html
[7], [9] Vick, Karl and Robin Wright. “Coaching Iraq's New Candidates, Discreetly: U.S.-Funded Programs Nurture Voting Process.” Washington Post. January 26, 2005; Page A01 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A36582-2005Jan25.html
[8] Ashkenaz Croke, Lisa and Brian Dominick. "Controversial U.S. Groups Operate Behind Scenes on Iraq Vote." New standard. Dec 13, 2004. http://newstandardnews.net/content/index.cfm/items/1311
[10] Schuh, Trish. “Mehlis's Murky Past; US and Isreali Proxies Pushing the Next Neo-Con War
Faking the Case Against Syria.” Counterpunch. November 18, 2005. http://www.counterpunch.org/schuh11182005.html
[11] Dinmore, Guy. "Bush enters Iran 'freedom' debate." Washington Post. March 31 2006. Accessed from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/blog/2006/03/31/BL2006033100695_pf.html
[12] The Arlington Institute. http://www.arlingtoninstitute.org/

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

THE STORY OF THREE IDEALISTS

THE SAAKASHVILIS AND ZHVANIA
Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
Guerillas Without Guns/Chapter 5
Posted February 2007


While useful to Washington, Shevardnadze was ever more unpopular with his own people, whose patience was wearing thin on territorial integrity and those economic issues as well as widespread official corruption, which the president seemed incapable of stopping. Presented in 1999 by his old friend James Baker with the esteemed “Enron Prize for Distinguished Public Service,” by 2003 Shevardnadze’s government was increasingly seen as plagued with corruption, mismanagement, and secrecy. [1] These problems steadily drained Shevardnadze’s power like a hole in his gas tank and strategically vital Georgia began to look rather vulnerable to another round of instability and violence, sure to put the brakes on any pipeline with a “T” in the middle. Major protests had been staged off-and-on since 2001; criticism from the media was squashed with raids on the opposition stations, while political protest was met with dismissal of the government. US Secretary of State Colin Powell announced at one point “an unstable Georgia automatically results in an unstable Caucasus,” a statement some took to mean that rather than expend more political capital propping Shevy up, the Americans should “ditch him to ensure stability.” [2]

There are certainly other reasons as well for the US to support Shevardnadze’s ouster, like the attractiveness of the well-formed, popular, and more firmly pro-West opposition leader - 36-year-old Mikhail Saakashvili. His role in this episode is the U.S.-supported front-runner who had spent years cultivating an image as a youthful, optimistic crusader against corruption and the forces of the old. Saakashvili is a skillful demagogue, promising a brighter, more liberal future aligned less with Moscow than with London and Washington – pure gold for frustrated voters, especially the young and na├»ve.

Saakashvili was born in Tbilisi, but came to power as an international man, reportedly fluent in seven languages. He is married to a Dutch woman, Sandra Saakashvili-Roelofs, a human rights crusader, founder of the humanitarian foundation SOCO, and author of the autobiography The Story of an Idealist (2005). Not only is she Saakashvili’s Western wife, illustrating his desire to marry Georgia into Europe, the two also met and solidified their partnership in the system and cities of the Euro-Atlantic community.

"Misha" in the early '90s
A 25-year-old Mikhail graduated college in Georgia with a degree in international law in 1992 and briefly worked in the new government under Shevardnadze. This early on, someone in Washington saw promise in the budding leader and extended him a fellowship from the newly-created and Soros-funded Edmund S. Muskie/Freedom Support Act (FSA) Graduate fellowship Program. Under this program Saakashvili received law degrees from Columbia University in 1994 and the George Washington University law school in 1995.

He also studied at the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, where in 1993 he met fellow student Sandra. The two of them wed quickly and moved to New York where she worked at Columbia while he studied there, and later she worked at a Dutch law firm while he worked with an American one in Manhattan during 1995. They were busy people. Not a lot of time for romance I would guess.

Later that year, Mikhail was approached in New York by his old Georgian friend Zurab Zhvania, then working on behalf of President Shevardnadze to recruit promising young Georgians to join his party, the Georgian Citizens Union. By the end of the year, Saakashvili and Zhvania had both returned home and won elections for seats in parliament, serving together under the party’s banner. Sandra relocated with Mikhail and worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross and at the Consulate of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Tbilisi. [3] (keep the red cross in mind when looking at the new flag adopted after the Sakkashvilis came to power - coincidence?)

Next: A Warm Relationship: Kmara, Soros, Saakashvili

Sources:
[1] Cohen, Ariel. “Shevardnadze’s Journey.” Policy Review Online. April/May 2004. http://www.policyreview.org/apr04/cohen.html
[2] Feinberg, Leslie. “Washington and the coup in former Soviet Georgia.” Worker’s World. January 22, 2004. Accessed at: http://www.workers.org/ww/2004/georgia0122.php
[3] Sandra Roelofs Biography and Activity. Communications Office of the President of Georgia. 2005. http://www.president.gov.ge/?l=E&m=2
[4] Georgian Justice Minister resigns. RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 179. September 20 2001.
http://www.hri.org/news/balkans/rferl/2001/01-09-20.rferl.html
[5] Areshidze, Irakly “Georgia’s Mounting Opposition.” Eurasianet. January 21 2003.
http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/rights/articles/eav012103.shtml
[6] Areshidze, Irakly “Tbilisi City Council Controversy Deals Blow to Political Opposition in Georgia.” Eurasianet. November 12 2002. http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav111202a.shtml
[7] Traynor, Ian. “US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev.” The Guardian. November 26 2004. http://www.guardian.co.uk/ukraine/story/0,15569,1360236,00.html

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

WESTERN WINDS FEEDING THE UKRAINIAN FIRE

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