Colour Revolution

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Abdul Hadi Mayar

Russia has turned more vocal on the issue; harping the same note as of the Kazakh government.

A myth or a reality, Color Revolution, has, by all means, become an active tool in the renewed Cold War between the United States and the Russia-China-led alliance; incorporating most of the former Soviet Socialist republics.
The fresh manifestation of this fifth-generation warfare was vividly witnessed during the last month’s turmoil in the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan, which forcefully mobilised the media and governments in all the concerned countries.
The first week of January proved turbulent for Kazakhstan, the oil-rich biggest of the five Central Asian republics. Protest demonstrations took such a violent turn nationwide that President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had to impose a national emergency and sought support from his foreign allies to control the situation.
The protest started in the first week of last month in the oil-producing Mangystau region. Initially, the protest was against fuel price increase and the rising cost of living spearheaded by local labour unions and political activists. President Tokayev set up a committee, which, after holding talks with the protestors, promised to bring down liquefied petroleum gas prices and affect political modernization. But the demonstrators, by then backed by human rights groups and opposition politicians, called for wider political reforms and the introduction of a parliamentary system.
Within days, the protest snowballed into violent rallies engulfing the capital, Nur Sultan, the biggest city, Almaty, and other towns of the country. In many areas, demonstrators stormed government buildings and clashed with police.
Pitched armed encounters took place between the police and demonstrators in many cities. Dozens of protestors and over a dozen policemen were killed in several days of clashes.
By January 5, the situation got out of the control of the police that President Tokayev imposed a state of emergency and gave an SOS call to the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to help protect the republic.
CSTO, a mutual security alliance, comprising Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, dispatched 2500 troops to stabilize the republic. However, the organization did not favour long-time deployment in accordance with its constitution and had to withdraw the forces once their task was complete.
While President Tokayev attributed the riots to “infiltration by foreign-trained terrorists,” Western media has also been citing the political struggle between Tokayev and his predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbayev. They say after removing Nazarbayev in 2019, Tokayev has also fired supporters of the former national leader from key positions in the government.
For its part, Russia–the major ally and close neighbour of Kazakhstan, which has its own bitter relations with the US-led Western powers on the question of Ukraine–has turned more vocal on the issue, harping the same note as of the Kazakh government.
Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Minister, described the unrest in Kazakhstan as “foreign-backed and aimed to undermine security and integrity of the state by force.”She also alleged the use of “trained and organized armed formations” in the unrest.
Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the Russian Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, went to the extent of saying that the protestors in Kazakhstan “included Islamic militants who fought in Afghanistan.”
But the direct accusation of “Color Revolution” came from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said at the height of the tension in Kazakhstan that the Moscow-led bloc would “protect its allies against colour revolutions in the neighbourhood.”
By the turn of the month, Chinese President Xi Jinping also jumped into the fray, alleging, in his address at the virtual summit with his five Central Asian counterparts, that Color Revolutions are taking place across the region.
The Russian bloc has also been accusing the rival side of using Maidan or more specifically, Euromaidan Technology to foment unrest in countries of its sphere of interest.
Euromaidan or Euro Square was the public unrest in Ukraine in 2014 against scrapping of the former pro-Russia President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych’s plans to make the former Soviet republic a partner of NATO and the European Union.
In a statement, President Putin said the ‘protesters in Kazakhstan used ‘Maidan Technology.’ He vowed ‘not to allow the so-called Color Revolution scenario to play out.’
The term Color Revolution first came to light during the mass uprising and protests in Georgia in 2003, Ukraine in 2004, Kyrgyzstan in 2005. The same charge was also traded for public mobilization in Belarus against President Alexander Lukashenko, who has accused the United States and its allies in the region of staging the Color Revolution to ‘destroy’ his country.
Western capitals, their think-tanks and media, however, do not cater to such claims and they assert that whatsoever unrest is taking place in the former Socialist countries, particularly in Central Asia, the Caucasus and East Europe owe its existence to authoritative rules and human rights abuses.

“We have urged authorities to respond appropriately, proportionately and in a way that upholds the rights of protestors,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said while commenting on unrest in Kazakhstan.

He ‘reiterated support for Kazakh constitutional institutions, respecting human rights, media freedom, and restoration of internet services.’

Ever since its troubled withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States has demonstrated almost a diminished interest in the affairs of the Central Asian states, which once occupied a prime status in its priority list for double containment of Russia and China.

It remains to see whether Color Revolution and Maidan Technology continue to shape the equation between the Russia-China bloc and the US-led Western alliance or help foment the former’s sphere of interest at the cost of the latter’s geopolitical ambitions.

The writer is an independent freelance journalist based in Islamabad covering South Asia/ Central Asia.