For one thing, the elections were important but not all that important for Washington and London to devote all that many intelligence assets here to deal with it. Were there people from the CIA here and other Western intelligence agencies? Absolutely. Were they here in force in a planned move to help the people overthrow their corrupt government? That is where it sounds too unreal for me.
No one thought this would happen, not even the most optimistic sounding of the analysts. That it did happen, that people took to the streets was a surprise to everybody who had studied the situation. To think that the CIA and MI6 would devote any significant people here other than their normal contingent is to have them devote those assets on the outside chance that something might happen that most people said wouldn't happen. The fact is that they have not had a good record predicting recently. And these guys don't have any closer inside track to the future by training or by anything else than a lot of other highly qualified people do. They are highly trained and highly competent but they are human beings after all. I think it is highly likely they were as surprised as everybody else.
When it happened, though, I have no doubt they got some satellite time and started to follow things a bit more closely than they had been. (Do you really think that satellite time was waiting for them to use if they needed it? That sort of thing is not unlimited and it is being used extensively in other areas of the world.) But I don't think they were in front of events at all. I think they were behind them like everyone else.
This one is interesting:
As support for Mr Yushchenko grew daily, the Yanukovich-Kuchma faction became more desperate. They decided to transport miners from Donetsk on the Russian border and diehard Yanukovich supporters to Kiev to counter-demonstrate the students. The intention was clear - they would spark a conflict and violence and crack down on the peaceful Orange Revolutionaries. The fighting would not just
crack skulls, it would lead to a suspension of Parliament, of the elections, a one-year state of emergency and the continued rule of President Kuchma.
Then a curious thing happened. As the miners gathered in Donetsk, free vodka was handed out. They got vodka on their coaches and trains, and they were met in Kiev by trucks loaded with crates of vodka. By the time they had been in Kiev for an hour or so, most were paralytically drunk.
"No, the vodka was not a coincidence," said Alex Kiselev, a close adviser to Yushchenko rival Yanukovich, glumly. "We realised what was going on too late. It wasn't illegal but it was damned clever. It was a trick and we were dumb enough to fall for it, we shot ourselves in the foot with that one. It was all very scripted. There
were hundreds of Western agents in Ukraine."
The last sentence makes a claim I don't believe at all. Resources are allocated based on likely outcomes not on speculative outcomes, weighing allocation against any potential benefit. The case would have to be made for those hundreds of agents to be sent to Ukraine in the face of all the effort internationally that is being put into finding and rooting out terrorists. For what benefit? Would Langley listen to an appeal even if that appeal were from a station chief, for lots of people and assets to be devoted to the Ukraine especially in the current climate? Let's face it, Ukraine is not and was not the number one item on the US's or anyone else's agenda, for that matter. It was on the list but other things were and still are more important, terrorism being the big one. (This is even important for European intelligence agencies notwithstanding what their governments might say.)
The insinuation in that quote is that it was Western intelligence agents that sent the truck of vodka. But this is looking at it from where we are now not from where things stood at that time. The argument is that Yanukovych's miners would make their way down to the square and start the fighting but that the vodka stopped them. Is it all that clear that vodka would stop such a thing? Might it not actually make things worse, raising the risk that there would be confrontation? It only looks like a stroke of genius perpetrated by some very clever operatives because nothing happened. There were no provocations.
I tell you my problem with the whole "the-CIA-did-it" belief and it has colored my point of view here. It is that it makes what are otherwise, fairly normal human beings into super clever, all-knowing creatures who go around from one success to another, always in the shadows, never detectable. That is not any kind of people I know.
It is a lot like the newspaper that my uncle used to read from a fairly right wing organization. One cover story when I was younger was on the assassination of J. Edgar Hoover. The whole gist of the article was that those clever Commies got J. Edgar with an undetectable poison. (See if you can spot the obvious problem.) But that group was always on the case of big communist conspiracies that were among us sapping our will or killing our people and being so clever about it to never be caught.
Human beings make mistakes and they are not all-knowing. And in government and even with the highly trained and competent people in these agencies, decisions are made and resources allocated on the basis of their best information. And that information can be and, more often than we like to think, is wrong. That means a lot of scrambling to catch up and a lot of doing things and making decisions on the fly.
We'll see how this all comes out later as the stories begin to come out more and more but, until we do, I would take this article with one very large grain of salt.