Nine Points on the Mechanisms of a Color Revolution

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


On April 27th-28th, 2016, the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation held the next international conference on security issues. I happened to take part in the panel devoted to “color revolutions”.

The time allowed to the main speakers (5 minutes) and furthermore to speeches as a discussion (1 minute) was obviously insufficient to give the more or less the integral concept of the role of color revolutions in modern politics, and furthermore their influence on the general, and more specifically military security of individually States. That’s why in these points I will state my opinion on this problem. Points because actually the question of “color revolutions” and in general hybrid war can be devoted to a multivolume piece of research, and not the fact that the topic will be completely exhausted.

So, the first point. The very fact that the problem interested the military department (and representatives of the Ministries of Defence of several dozen States took part in the discussion) testifies to the fact that “color revolutions” are estimated by modern States not as an internal threat (the sphere of interests of security services and police) but as a threat external. In addition, this threat has the character of military aggression, the countering of which is the prerogative of the Armed Forces.

Second point. Color revolutions, being an element of modern hybrid war, became actual not only because a direct collision between nuclear powers became impossible because of guaranteed mutual destruction. Various scenarios of limited nuclear war or military collisions between great powers with the use of non-nuclear weapons were earlier considered, and are considered now. If nuclear weapons are in arsenals, then also a military conflict with its use is possible, and the General Staffs are obliged to have plans in the event of such a conflict.

Color revolutions became a response to political positional stalemates that arose as a result of the view formed at the level of civilized nations and at the level of international law of war being an unacceptable means of solving political problems. As a result, the political and moral expenses of the State that initiated military operations, even if absolute superiority in forces and means allowed to score a victory in the shortest possible time and almost without loss, proved to be above the material and political benefits from establishing control over the territory of the enemy. Blitzkriegs, not to mention long campaigns, became unprofitable.

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Third point. A color revolution is carried out not where there are internal prerequisites for regime change (a classical revolutionary situation) but where there is an external force interested in the establishment of effective control over the victim-State.

A color revolution is impossible without external intervention. If in the country the mechanism of a color revolution has started, then it was subjected to aggression.

The question of identifying an aggressor usually doesn’t cause problems. However, within the framework of modern international law it is impossible to correctly prove its aggressive intentions (however obvious they may be). The aggressor will always justify even its open intervention in the internal affairs of the victim-State with humanitarian reasons, and also the protection of human rights.

Let me remind you that, according to the Helsinki Accords (within the framework of the CSCE, which also became the norms of the OSCE and the UN), questions concerning the protection of human rights can’t be an exclusively internal affair of any State.

Fourth point. Nevertheless, the aggressor needs to legitimise its actions in front of the world community. Therefore it, as a rule, seeks to receive a mandate for direct intervention from the UN or OSCE, or , as a last resort, to create a formal international coalition from several dozens of States to disguise aggression under the forcing of the “anti-people regime” to observe international standards.

Fifth point. This imposes certain restrictions on the format of the State capable of using mechanisms of color revolutions. The aggressor State must have not simply absolute military superiority over the victim-country (this moment does not have to be obligatory present, although it is desirable). It must possess the necessary and sufficient political and diplomatic opportunities for international-legal to provide for the intervention.

Sixth point. Like any war or military operation, a color revolution is carefully planned and prepared. And in several versions, depending on the level of resistance of the victim-State.

The option of capitulation or treachery of the national elite is ideal. It is the least costly in every respect. Thus, all resources of the victim-State, including the political system and the administrative vertical, can be immediately used by an aggressor in its geopolitical interests.

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Should the national elite not opt for unconditional surrender, the method of “peaceful street protests” is applied. The obstinate elite are compelled to delegate power to more accommodating colleagues by means of street pressure, presenting it with a choice: to leave voluntary or to try to suppress the protests, risking the emergence of “accidental” victims, which will give the opportunity to call the regime “bloody and dictatorial”, to accuse it of “police brutality”, and to declare a loss of its actual legitimacy.

If the option of peaceful pressure doesn’t work, it, within several weeks or months (depending on the situation and durability of the regime of the victim-country) is replaced via the option of an armed coup. In this case the regime must choose between capitulation and the inevitable victims of armed conflicts, which can be estimated in tens, and even in the hundreds.

Along with the activation of the options of “peaceful protests” and an armed coup, the aggressor-State will organize the political and diplomatic isolation of the victim-regime.

If the armed coup doesn’t take place in the capital or doesn’t achieve the objectives, the option of civil war is involved. In this option the aggressor-State declares the legitimate authority as illegitimate, recognizes “rebels” and starts rendering them political, diplomatic, financial, material, and then military aid.

At last, if civil war comes to a standstill or rebels start suffering a defeat, it is possible to implement direct aggression (under a humanitarian pretext). The soft option is limited to the establishment of a no-fly zone and supplying rebels with arms (including heavy). In the hard option the invasion of foreign land, as a rule, is carried out covertly (disguised as “volunteers” or carried out by special operations forces).

Seventh point. As we can see, despite the formally peaceful, technological, and informational character of a color revolution, in practice its success is guaranteed by the presence behind the backs of diplomats and journalists of an armed force capable of, should there be a need to, quell the resistance of the national elite even if it will dare to fight to the end.

We saw the action of this option in Iraq, Serbia, Libya. Just in Syria for now it glitched. But here an essential new moment appeared. On one side of the scales – (in support of the lawful government subjected to color aggression in the country) resources, including military, which were injected by another superstate. The situation was transferred from the regime of a color revolution to the regime of a direct military-political standoff between superstates, characteristic for the time of the Korean and Vietnamese wars.

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I.e. the condition of absolute political, diplomatic, economic, financial, and military superiority of the aggressor-State over the victim-country was liquidated, which was necessary for staging a color revolution, at least in one of the options.

From here the eighth point follows. A color revolution can’t be stopped by the consolidation of elite of the victim-country (it will simply pass into the next phase), nor by the readiness of power structures to fulfill their duty (they will sooner or later be exhausted), nor effective work of the national media (they will be crushed by the huge technological capabilities of an aggressor).

The readiness of the victim-State to resist aggression is necessary, but it is an insufficient condition for blocking the mechanisms of a color revolution.

Only support for the authorities of the victim-country can stop the already-begun color aggression, from another superstate capable as equals to resist an aggressor in all aspects of a standoff, on all platforms, and with the involvement of any means.

Thus, the ninth point and conclusion. Modern color revolutions are separate operations of a global standoff between superstates. Also Korean, Vietnamese, and other wars (50’s-90’s of the last century) often appeared as elements of a collision between the USSR and the US on the territory of others. Modern color revolutions as one of the types of hybrid war are elements of a collision between Russia and the US.

This is war. A new type of war. Not war as a continuation of policy by other means (according to Clausewitz), but a color technology as a continuation of war by other means.

We started waging this war earlier than it was realized that we are in the state of war. As it often happens to us, we began it with the defeats of the 90’s, but awakened, learned to fight, and in the last two years we fight successfully.

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