jo van der spek on Sat, 4 Dec 2004 10:12:41 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-nl] Ukraine: US-Engineered Coup or European Revolution?

December 3, 2004, Volume 1, Number 23


The Weekly Bulletin of the Transatlantic Democracy Network


The "Orange Revolution": US-Engineered Coup or European Model of Peaceful

Yet the election has revealed a disturbing ambivalence towards democratization
on the part of some commentators, particularly in western Europe, as reflected
in allegations that democratizing efforts in Serbia, Georgia and now Ukraine
have been "funded and organised by the US government, deploying US
consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US
non-government organizations." "For too long now we have gone along with the
idea that spreading democracy on our terms is all good," a former British
diplomat complains in The Independent newspaper, decrying European complicity
in democracy promotion.

In one of the more distasteful contributions to the debate, Jonathan Steele,
chief foreign correspondent of the London-based Guardian, suggests that
Ukraine's orange revolution is nothing more than a "postmodern coup d'etat."
Through tenuous and contentious associations, Steele hints that the
pro-Yuschenko forces share nationalistic, secessionist and anti-semitic

As Timothy Garton Ash notes, observing events through a prism of
anti-Americanism distorts one's perspective. "This is a version of our European
model of peaceful revolution, with the aim of rejoining Europe, not America,"
he argues, berating those who complain of US and EU support for Ukraine's

These conspiracy theories--by no means unique to Europe--reveal a mechanistic
approach to politics, suggesting that popular movements can be artificially
manufactured and that resources determine success. As the Washington Post's
Anne Applebaum notes, they not only overrate the influence of US money and
organizations, as the example of Belarus attests, but also neglect the
countervailing forces of authoritarianism. Unlike any western politicians,
Russia's President visited Ukraine twice to campaign for "his" candidate and
deployed considerable resources of his own to counteract democratic forces.

Interventions by Western or any other agencies will only be effective in
mobilizing popular support for democratic change where and when they reflect or
feed into otherwise latent demands for change. "People have been suppressed,
manipulated, downtrodden for so long, that this is resulting in an explosion of
their best instincts," said Nadia Diuk, director for Europe and Eurasia at the
National Endowment for Democracy. "People are saying, 'We're not going to take
the manipulation of the media, and its control of the citizens, anymore.'" Even
the previously quiescent media have grown more assertive. The Ukrainian TV
channel 1 + 1 had been "very much in support of the government and the
government's candidates," Diuk said. "But last week, news readers and news
anchors decided they were not going to read the news just as it was handed down
to them."

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