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Will Obama's Recent National Security Strategy Incite A Color Revolution?

Under the authority of the Goldwater-Nichols Act, President Obama’s recently updated National Security Strategy may incite a color revolution in Russia.[1]

A color revolution is a peaceful, political revolution with the intent to oust a corrupt governing regime. [2]  It has been seen in the past few years in states like Georgia and Ukraine. [3] Although generally peaceful, violence has given way in these revolutions. Russian diplomats have alleged that these revolutions are a result of the US and other Western governments using influence as a means of separating the Eastern bloc from Russian influence. [4]

On February sixth of this year, President Obama released the most recent version of the United States National Security Strategy.[5] In it, Obama renews his commitment to isolate Russia. “We will deter Russian aggression, remain alert to its strategic capabilities, and help our allies and partners resist Russian coercion over the long term, if necessary.” [6]

In response, The Security Council of the Russian Federation has stated that the updated strategy “ has an openly anti-Russian line and creates a negative image of our country.” [7] They further state, that the United States is attempting to create a new global order and that the continuing isolation of Russia could start a “color revolution.” [8]

Obama listing Russia as a threat is not surprising as it highlights the continued tense relations between the United States and Russia. [9] The United States and the European Union have placed sanctions on Russian businesses. [10] The sanctions are due to Russia’s involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. [11] Russia has been accused of supporting rebels in order to increase influence there. [12] Russia has continued to deny that they are assisting rebels, despite proof that Russia has been sending military equipment and aid. [13] Despite the decrease in violence and cease-fire in February, Russia’s presence can still be felt. [14]  This past weekend it was reported that twenty-two Russian tanks crossed over into Ukraine. [15]

Obama is operating under the authority of the Goldwater-Nichols Act. The Goldwater-Nichols Act was developed in an effort to reorganize and reform administrative problems within the Department of Defense (DOD). [16] From 1958 to 1983 the military experienced several operational setbacks, primarily due to poor military advice, lack of central command, and inability to work cohesively. [17] This led to the passing of the Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986 (signed by President Regan). [18]  This act led to the most comprehensive changes to the United States Department of Defense since the department was established. [19]

Republicans have argued that Obama should increase defense spending and take a more aggressive approach when dealing with President Vladimir Putin. [20]  History, however, indicates that Obama is following in the footsteps of his predecessors. [21] “Obama’s strategic patience on national security continues a pattern set by the most successful Republican foreign-policy presidents: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush.” [22]

Which begs the questions are the sanctions working? Tensions between the United States and Russia are the highest since the Cold War. [23]  The main target of the sanctions is the Kremlins, however, the sanctions have fueled anti-Americanism sentiment. [24] After shooting down a civilian jetliner over Eastern Ukraine, the United States responded with stronger sanctions. [25] Russia then responded with counter sanctions on import bans on Western products. [26]  Russia’s counter sanctions have caused the economy to contract. [27]

“Ordinary Russians are also feeling the pain. Julia Lebedeva, 46, said her refrigerator has slowly gotten emptier in recent months. Her pay as a customs broker was cut by a third even as prices have spiked.”[28]

“I eat fewer tomatoes, fewer cucumbers, less lettuce. We just don’t have them,” she said. Cauliflower, once a standby, is now a rare treat.” [29]

President Putin has come out and said that a color revolution would need to be prevented. “”In the modern world extremism is being used as a geopolitical instrument and for remaking spheres of influence. We see what tragic consequences the wave of so-called color revolutions led to,” expressing his concern that the unrest in Ukraine would spread to Russia. [30] Although the sanctions are having an impact on Russia’s economy Secretary of State John Kerry has stated “It’s obviously had a profound impact, but not sufficient that President Putin has decided that he isn’t going to pursue his particular strategy,” Kerry said.” [31]

Only time will tell if Obama’s strategy to continue to isolate Russia will incite the Russian people to follow in the footsteps of Ukraine and start a color revolution. For now, with Obama’s National Security Strategy and Russia still remaining active in Ukraine that question remains open.


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