The debate on the color revolutions is principally about the relative importance ascribed to diffusion versus certain key structural factors. Among these factors is the extent and impact of Western pressure, which varies depending on the degree of linkage to Western Europe and the United States. In the low-linkage former Soviet states, domestic forces—notably, the strength of the incumbent state and party—have weighed more heavily. Contingent factors played a role both in mobilizing opposition and in defeating incumbents, but diffusion was only one such contingent factor, and not necessarily the most important.

The color revolutions illustrate both the prevalence of diffusion and the potential limits of its impact on political change.