I see the US charge d’affaires has taken offence at Ian Traynor’s article on US involvement in the Ukrainian crisis in yesterday’s Guardian.

I have to smile. For a start, Ambassador Johnson’s reaction is over-sensitive; Ian Traynor’s article is a neutral verging on positive description of how the US has facilitated regime change in Serbia and Georgia (and failed in Belarus). It’s also pretty accurate, at least as far as my own memories of participating in the Serbian stuff goes – certainly I was involved with meetings in Budapest and Szeged at the time – though there are a couple of small details wrong in what he says about Georgia. Of course it will be used by the antiwar.com crowd as “proof” that the global capitalist conspiracy is Behind It All, but that’s true of almost any commentary.

Sure, there is an important detail which is not brought out in the article, which is that in Georgia and Serbia the key prerequisite for success was not the US assistance but the fact that more than half the population wanted to get rid of their government. Absent this condition (as in Belarus, or indeed Moldova, Armenia or Azerbaijan) there’s not a lot that outsiders can achieve by throwing money or seminars at opposition activists. But if you look at Ian Traynor’s article in the context of the whole of the coverage of Ukraine in yesterday’s Guardian, I think the bigger picture is pretty clear.

The other thing that is interesting is that this was a crisis long foreseen. The outgoing president did give everyone else fair warning (without much adding to his own credibility) when he predicted almost a year ago that these would be the dirtiest elections ever in Ukraine. Too often I find myself complaining that a particular crisis should have been seen coming by the international community. This is an exception, a crisis that has been long anticipated and prepared for. Well, we’ll see what the outcome is…

Added Later: One more thought. Of course, the idea that a global capitalist conspiracy is Behind It All is fuelled by the fact that Uncle Sam and Uncle George are the main funders of the opposition groups. (This conspiracy thesis is easily refuted by just asking Soros or the Republicans what they think of each other!) Really, the question Europeans should be asking is not, “Why are US actors so keen to support democratic opposition groups in Eastern Europe” but “Why are European actors so much less prominent in their support for democracy on their own continent”? I don’t know the answer, but to me it is the more interesting question.

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