Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 22
Mongolia: Beware of Colour Revolution
Friday 23 May 2008, by
Revolutionaries are usually the last people to grasp that they are past their sell-by date. More so when they act as agents of outside powers. The colour revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia seem to be turning pale precisely on this account. Now efforts are on to initiate similar ‘revolutions’ in Armenia and Mongolia. It is an open secret that the Georgian scenario was played in Ukraine and later the one in Ukraine was sought to be replayed in the Kyrghyz Republic. China, Russia, the US and European Union see Mongolia as a battlefield of power to exert their influence. Given the fact that Mongolia remained virtually a vassal of China for six centuries and under tight Soviet control for seven decades, one can understand to some extent the concerns of the two giant neighbours to keep Mongolia within their fold. But to use the NGOs and foreign assistance organisations to spread “orange sentiment” is not quite innocent. The Orange Revolution is a mere regime-change strategy under the cover of democratisation which Washington has sought to use to extend its influence in Eurasia.
The dramatis personae of this new destabilisation plan are the same. The script is also familiar. But there is a difference between what followed in the immediate aftermath of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and what is being attempted now. When the Berlin Wall collapsed, democracy came as a whiff of fresh air. Globalisation, the buzzword of the post-Cold War world, created its own hype about democracy and market economy going hand in hand. Curiously, those who chanted the market mantra then are turning protectionists and losing faith in multilateralism. Maybe the West is losing faith in its ability to compete with the Chinese and Indians! What, however, exposed the diabolic game-plan of the only superpower was the Iraq war. The Bush Administration’s democracy building exercise in Iraq is so botched that America’s ability and willingness to promote democracy elsewhere has became questionable. True, democracy has made spectacular advances across the globe over the past decade or so. But democracy doesn’t follow a similar route or timetable everywhere. In fact, democracy grows differently on different soils.
Mongolia is holding parliamentary elections in June this year. This time, the 1.2 million Mongolian voters will vote under a party list system. Except for four years of Democratic Party control after the 1996 election and a fragile Democratic Party-led government that took power in 2004, power has remained largely in the hands of the former communist Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP).
The Bush Administration seems to have forgotten that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. When the Soviet Union disintegrated and the many breakaway republics like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and others turned to West, it was seen as a march of democracy. Now that many have again moved closer to Moscow, the trend is being described by the likes of Thomas Friedman as “petro-authoritarianism”, a rollback of democratic gains and the like. The light proffered by the “coloured” revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrghyszstan has now dimmed. But that has not prevented Washington from exporting it to Eurasia.
AFTER the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US began to quietly build its influence in the Central Asian region. It established significant military-to-military relationship with Kyrghyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhastan. Soldiers from these countries were trained by Americans and they received military aid. Uzbekistan even allowed the US to establish a military base. Within a few years Tashkent decided to cast its lot with Moscow and in 2005 Kazazhstan, Kyrghzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan called on Washington to set a date for its military withdrawal from the region.
When Mongolia sends a few hundred armed personnel to Iraq, it is seen by President Bush as a democratic model for Eurasia, but when a particular regime collapses under the weight of its own contradictions, the US cries blue murder. This double-game has done no good either to Mongolia or to the US. One day, Mongolia is seen as a democratic model. Another day it becomes a country which is “reverting to closed markets, accordion wire and good old-fashioned communism”. What is ominous is the strong view held out by many in the Bush Administration that Mongolia is ripe for what is called a “democratic revolution”. In effect, it is seen as the next domino to fall.
Now the US is using civil society groups and democracy assistance organisations to further its devious game in Mongolia. An international seminar on “Election Monitoring and Advocacy” was held in Ulaanbaatar on March 27-28, 2008 under the auspices of the Open Society Institute. It was part of the Programme “East-to-East: Partners without Borders” with the objective of preparing the civil society in Mongolia to actively participate in “monitoring observation norms” during the June parliamentary elections. The international participants were dominated by those who had practical experience of organising mass demonstrations and movements in their respective countries. These included, among others, the Philippines’ People’s National Movement for Free Election, International Organisation for Protecting the Rights of Migrants based on Prague, Young Lawyers Association of Georgia, International Society for Fair Election and Democracy, Public Policy Institute of Romania, and MEMO 98 of Slovakia. Sources in the Mongolian Government say that NGOs with connections with the Opposition played a key role in the seminar. Interestingly, of the 25-odd presentations that were made at the conference, 19 were made by international participants. The Soros Foundation incurred all the expenses of hosting the conference including those of foreign delegates. The Central and East Europeans played a major role. The Georgian delegation was equally active, for they have the experience of the “Rose Revolution”. It would not be surprising if the June elections are discredited by international groups and if things go as planned, Mongolia sees a variant of colour revolution blessed by outside powers.
MONGOLIAN democracy is not without flaws. But Mongolia’s march towards democracy is there for all to see. It has emerged, in less than two decades, as a vibrant democracy. The economy has also made impressive strides. It has grown by around eight per cent in the past few years. Ulanbaatar is not only a city of horsemen riding the crest of globalisation, but also a city of cranes. True, Mongolian democracy has benefited from the global march of democracy. But few people know that democratic principles were handed down to the Mongolian people by the legendary Genghis Khan. It was Genghis Khan who codified the four basic principles of democracy: participatory government, rule by law, equality under the law and personal freedoms. What is even remarkable is the fact that Genghis Khan established these democratic principles nine years before King John signed the Magna Carta.
Squeezed between the two giants, Mongolia has forged relations with “third neighbours”, more distant nations that can offset the larger-than-life influence of Russia and China. Japan, for instance, has become Mongolia’s largest aid donor. Germany and South Korea have also pitched in. However, it is the US that sees a big opportunity in Mongolia to counter the influence and clout of China and Russia. There are some who believe the US is exploring the possibility of establishing a military base in Mongolia. No one expects Russia and China to grant overflight permission to the US if it builds a base there. The Americans’ stakes in Mongolia are not insignificant. For years, Washington has sought to use Mongolia as a poster-boy of democracy in Eurasia. Mongolia is of critical geopolitical importance to the US.
Mongolians have forged their identity as descendants of Genghis Khan—a proud people with a great heritage. They resent foreign interference. China has its own share of concern in Mongolia. Mongolians are devout Buddhists. The Dalai Lama is held in high esteem. Beijing feels the US may use the pro-Tibet people to undermine its interest. In November 2002, Beijing cut all rail service to Mongolia for 20 hours while Mongolia hosted the Dalai Lama. Mongolia is following a non-aligned foreign policy. It is a full participant in the ASEAN Regional Forum and an observer in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. The US has given assistance to Mongolia to the tune of $ 174.5 million from 1991 to 2008.
All said, the colour revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, the uprising in Kyrghzstan and other efforts to destabilise regimes in Armenia and Mongolia are part of a well-crafted American plan to wrest the Balkans, Baltics, Caucasus and the Central Asian states away from Russia’s sphere of influence. The foundations of this plan were laid in the Freedom Support Act that clearly defines which countries to be targeted by the American policy-makers. The aim of this Act is to support the spread of freedom and democracy throughout these states and to open their markets to American companies. Washington has channelled millions of dollars through NGOs like Freedom House to recruit agents, penetrate civil institutes, enable free media, encourage political dissent and foment public anger at pro-Moscow regimes. Mongolia must beware of this design.
The author is the Associate Director, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi.