Rostislav Ishchenko: The Technology of a Flawless Coup d’Etat

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Events in Armenia are developing on the Ukrainian tracing paper, but in an accelerated regime. Exactly like how they were developing during colour coups in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova. Exactly in the same way that the opposition acted during the quelled attempts at colour putsches in Belarus (repeatedly), in Ukraine (during the action “Ukraine without Kuchma”) and in Russia (in 2012). The difference between quelled putsches and non-quelled putsches is that in the first case the authorities felt confident enough relying on the support of the consolidated elite and most of society.

I.e., coloured putsches do not happen where and when the Americans want, but where and when the ruling elite group is losing their foothold in their own country. Of course, the Americans are happy to support destructive processes and provide the opposition with all possible financial, political, diplomatic, and sometimes (Yugoslavia, Libya, Syria) military support. But the most important thing is the presence of a serious split in the elite, stimulating a split in society.

It does not matter whether this split is based on a confessional, ethnic, linguistic principle or it is a fight for the sharing out of undivided or re-sharing out of divided property. What’s important is that there is a split in the elite. Then the elite groups fighting to strengthen their positions sooner or later are selected from under the bureaucratic carpet and start to appeal to society, fuelling contradictions between its various layers and groups, trying to present themselves and their support group as revolutionaries and fighters for justice.

External interference in such a situation becomes predetermined not even because many are happy to take advantage of the weakening of the State to put its resources at their service. Interference is sought by domestic political groups. They literally demand it, besieging potential foreign centers of influence. Once the intra-elite struggle starts and it isn’t quelled in time, it initially covers the broad layers of the people, and then initiates an informal (hidden) intervention.

How this happens was clearly seen in the Ukrainian example, when the Ukrainian political groups that fought for control over budgetary flows and State property first started fighting among themselves for who would be more Pro-Western. Having lost this fight for the West’s support, Yanukovych tried to balance Western influence in Ukrainian politics, which became defining and Russian. But it was too late.

There are radical groups both in Russia and Ukraine that affirm that Moscow had to interfere in internal Ukrainian processes more actively, spend more money in Ukraine to develop their informal structures, etc. I wonder how these people can’t understand a simple thing. It is impossible to work on the territory of a sovereign State without the support of the government of a sovereign State. Meanwhile, there is a hint of suspicion towards the active work of Russia with Russians (to put it mildly – it’s not welcomed) from even the authorities of Belarus and Kazakhstan – Russia’s allies in the EAEU and the CSTO. In Ukraine, the situation was much tougher.

So, in addition to the fact that the West had more time (Russia started to recover only from 2000), more money, and more organisational capabilities – which already determined the inexpediency of competition with it in accordance with Western rules – the West also relied on the support of local authorities, which strenuously places sticks in the wheels of such Russian work. That’s why when I ask the question “how in such circumstances should Russia have competed with the West in the post-Soviet space?”, the honest opponent, in the end, simply states that there was a need to capture everything. This is despite the fact that Russia ended the Chechen war only in the early 2000’s, and it still fights with the remnants of terrorism in the Caucasus. I think that even for someone who isn’t that educated it should be clear that in such conditions the capturing and the subsequent financing of the pro-Russian orientation of the territories of the USSR that slid away became a road to nowhere – an economic and social catastrophe.

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The only thing that Russia could offer and offered was joint development, in which national elites could gain more income thanks to a cumulative effect and share it out without Moscow interfering, on the basis of national orders and traditions. As practice and experience have shown, such a proposal at a certain stage suited a part of the elites of the post-Soviet republics. Due to the relatively weak but located nearby Russia, they not only earned money, but also balanced the Western influence, preserving the integrity of their regimes.

But as Moscow’s forces and capabilities grew, these “pro-Russian” national elites started to worry that one day the Kremlin will say to them that it is time to stop stealing and will demand to live and work according to Russian laws and regulations. And it is precisely for this reason that already from the beginning of the 2000’s absolutely all “pro-Russian” elites started in varying degrees to support and even cultivate national pro-European movements, mainly among the youth. And there, where there were strong nationalist moods, nationalists – up to the most radical ones – started to receive the informal support of the authorities too.

National elites did not understand and did not want to understand that there won’t be any more balance between Russia and the West. The situation was far removed from the 90’s. The conflict between the United States and Russia, on the initiative of Washington, which tried to preserve its global hegemony, developed on an increasing scale, becoming increasingly radicalised. In the conditions of actual war (even not cold, but hybrid) it was impossible to remain allies and partners of both warring States at once. It was necessary to make a choice and join one of the camps.

Brought up balancing between the West and the East in the framework of the “multi-vector” theory by the national authorities, the pro-European nationalist movements were ready to finally join the West and become enemies of Russia, whatever it would cost their States. The “multi-vector” elites themselves continued to occupy a collaborative position, in which they developed political cooperation with the West, receiving economic preferences from Russia in exchange for the valueless swearing of loyalty and eternal friendship.

Moscow not only hinted, but even directly showed collaborating national elites that when their own pro-Western fosterlings – relying on Western support – will come to overthrow them in the framework of a color coup, Russia will not help them until they rigidly determine their position and will definitely go into the Russian camp. National elites didn’t believe in this, and they don’t believe in it even now. Even politicians who are close to Russia and are the most hated by the West still think that it is possible to refuse to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but at the same time they demand to open Russian markets for “their” shrimps and oysters, as well as to sell more dairy products in Russia in a greater quantity than their own State produces.

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This is a misconception. It already cost a lot for many nations and will still cost a lot for many more. Nevertheless, it is precisely these people who blame Russia by saying that it thinks that the Republics “aren’t going to disappear anywhere”, when in fact they themselves think that Russia “isn’t going to disappeared anywhere”. They mistakenly expect that some other colour coup, which will sweep away another “national leader”, will cause unrest among the people in Russia or the fear of the authorities in front of the appearance of “NATO bases” at Russia’s borders.

In fact, any State with the same rank as Russia (and there are now only two of such States except Russia: China and the United States) ensures its security independently, relying solely on its resources and within the framework of its own territory. This does not mean that allies or bases in key regions aren’t needed, or that there is a need to isolate oneself in a national context. The more support you have, the better. But full sovereignty today indeed lies in the fact that, at worst, you can stand alone against the world and the world understands that the phrase “why do we need a world in which there will be no Russia?” is not a rhetorical exercise, but a military doctrine.

Thus, allies have somewhere to go instead of Russia, and Russia has somewhere to go away from allies. The question is only about the consequences.

Syria, which made a choice in favor of Russia, was preserved and is already being restored, assiduously forcing the rest of the world to join in. And there’s no doubt that they will join in.

The Baltic States, which were the very first to make the most successful anti-Russian choice (they managed to fully enter the EU and NATO), lost their industry and became depopulated. Social tension there is growing at a faster pace. I have a strong suspicion that those NATO battalions, the placement of which was so strenuously sought by the Baltic governments, are needed not to defend against Russia (they won’t defence anyway), but to ensure support in the event of serious unrest of their own people.

Ukraine, which rushed into the EU, lost its economy, destroyed its own state structures, and lost territory, is on the verge of all-against-all civil war across its territory, the population flees at such a pace that the authorities are afraid to calculate it, and experts argue about whether a third or a half of citizens fled the country in four years.

Before Ukraine there was Georgia, which, mired in poverty, lost the war and territory, and now tries to find way to normalise relations with Moscow.

Now it is Armenia that is in the queue, where, as I wrote in the beginning of the article, all processes develop much faster than in Ukraine. The unrestrained demands that the weak opposition made to the unpopular government – which also lost its stability by making untenable concessions (solely because of the intra-governmental struggle) – pushes the country towards a civil conflict. Armenia is already balancing on the verge of bloodshed, and after the first blood it will be impossible to correct anything. Taking into account Karabakh, today’s “holiday of democracy” in Yerevan may raise the question about the existence of the Armenian State as such.

At the same time, we must understand that for the United States the situation has also changed when compared to the beginning of the 2000’s and even 2014. If during the entire first decade of the 21st century Washington sought to create stable Russophobic post-Soviet regimes around the Russian borders, then Ukraine was in this sense the last unsuccessful experiment.

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I, to be honest, thought that the Americans would not bother with Ukraine, but would simply allow local Nazis and oligarchic groups fighting each other to immediately blow Ukraine up from the inside. But apparently the temptation to receive a 45-million anti-Russia at Russia’s borders was too great, and the US over two years (2014-2015) tried to stabilise the Kiev regime. Then, during 2016, they tried to prevent it from falling in order to not spoil the electoral campaign of Democrats. Now it is released in free-swimming and even its adepts recognise that Kiev has no other exit besides full-scale civil war. Foreign occupation could help, but no one wants to occupy.

Now it is enough for Washington for “pro-European” forces to overthrow a more or less stable “old regime” and to bring another country into a state of chaos. Chaos on Russia’s borders in the zone of exclusive Russian interests is not the worst solution for America either. Especially when bloody chaos embraces the closest allies of Russia. This can also be used as propaganda – like saying, “look at what friendship with Moscow has brought”. After all, the majority not only in the West, but also in Russia do not know that, in the best case scenario, there were “multi-vector”, or, in the worst case scenario, directly pro-Western governments only disguised as friends of Russia for economic bonuses.

Russia has no other way of bringing order to these States except for a complete replacement of the elite. But such a replacement is possible only as a result of an occupation, and an occupation isn’t accepted by a large part of the local population – it is very expensive, and from the point of view of international law it will be difficult to justify.

Consequently, like before, the fate of countries and nations is in the hands of ruling and opposition elites. If they are smart enough to realise the changes that have taken place in the world, the post-Soviet space will reach a new level of integration, where national legislation, rules, and methods of doing business – as well as the rights of citizens of all members of the Eurasian Union to participate fully in business, politics, and to meet their cultural needs throughout its territory – will be brought to one common denominator. Under such conditions, Russia can, like before, assume the security of the bordering lands against external aggression (including from a color coup).

If the national elites do not show adequacy, then in the near future in the post-Soviet space we will witness a whole series of coloured crises that seek to develop into civil wars. The United States will seek to make them as bloody as possible, but it depends only on the national elite whether or not the technology of a perfect coup will work in the country under its jurisdiction, in the framework of which the initially weak opposition, increasing their demands, relatively quickly squash and smear a government that is unpopular and fluctuates between the desire to receive support from Russia and the fear of not appeasing the West.

Moreover, in contrast to the events of 15 years ago, it’s not a civilizational choice between the West and the East that nations and elites make now, but a choice between to live and to not live.

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