Friday, February 2, 2018

A Historical Look At Mutual Election Interference by Russia and the United States

Updated April 2018

With the publication of the so-called "Kremlin List", a document purporting to list the Russians that could, at some point in time, be punished for their association with the Putin government and its election-meddling ways:

...a look back in history to the Clinton White House gives us a sense that, in the case of election interference between the two nations, the United States "pot" is at least as black as the Russian "kettle".

On March 26, 1996, the Washington Post ran an article entitled "Clinton Vows Help for Yeltsin Campaign".  Here is a video of the two buddies in question:

The Post article is almost impossible to find online (rewriting history, perhaps?), however, thanks to a recent article written by Bill Gertz on the Free Beacon website, the original author of the Washington Post Clinton-Yeltsin story, the March 26, 1996 article is alive and well and can still be accessed if one is diligent enough.

As background, in early 1996, President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin met at Sharm el Shaykh, Egypt at an anti-terrorism summit.  The Clinton Administration had a long track record of supporting Yeltsin, particularly during Russia's constitutional crisis in 1993 which ended up with Yeltsin ordering the tank bombardment of the Russian parliament that killed 187 people.  At the time, here is what Bill Clinton had to say at the 1993 Annual AFL-CIO convention:

"The United States continues to stand firm in its support of President Yeltsin because he is Russia's democratically elected leader.  We very much regret the loss of life in Moscow, but it is clear that the opposition forces started a conflict and that President Yeltsin had no other alternative than to try to restore order . . . . I don't see that he had any choice . . . . If such a thing happened in the United States, you would have expected me to take tough action against it . . . . As long as he goes forward with the new constitution, genuinely democratic elections for the Parliament, genuinely democratic elections for the president, then he is doing what he said he would do.”

Interestingly, it is the December 12, 1993 referendum on a new constitution that created the legal basis for the power granted to current Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

According to Global Research, in the lead to the 1996 Russian presidential election, Boris Yeltsin had the support of only 8 percent of voters, putting him in fifth place overall.  The most popular candidate was the Communist Party's Gennady Zyuganov, a man who could well have rolled back the privatization of the Russian economy, a prospect that would not have been welcomed by the Russian oligarchy.

In February 1996, the International Monetary Fund supplied $10.2 billion in emergency funding to Russia followed by a significant number of funds as shown on this table, most of which took place during the Clinton Administration:

Certainly, it was the IMF which loaned the money to Russia but, as shown in this quote, from an IMF Working Paper "The IMF and Russia in the 1990s", we can see that one state was the driver behind the loans:

"Among the G-7 countries, the United States effectively determined the collective position. It was unusual for other countries to initiate approaches different from the U.S. one, or to strongly oppose U.S. initiatives, except on matters relating to Russia’s debt to G-7 countries." (my bold)

Basically, it was at the behest of the Clinton Administration that $114.9 billion was loaned to Yeltsin's Russia up to and including the year 2000.

With that background, let's look at an excerpt from Bill Gertz's Washington Post article from March 26, 1996:

"President Clinton, in a private meeting at the recent anti-terrorism summit, promised Boris Yeltsin he would back the Russian president's re-election bid with "positive" U.S. policies toward Russia.

In exchange, Mr. Clinton asked for Mr. Yeltsin's help in clearing up "negative" issues such as the poultry dispute between the two countries, according to a classified State Department record of the meeting obtained by The Washington Times.

Mr. Clinton told Mr. Yeltsin that "this is a big issue, especially since about 40 percent of U.S. poultry is produced in Arkansas. An effort should be made to keep such things from getting out of hand," the memo said.

White House and State Department spokesmen confirmed the authenticity of the memo but declined to comment on what they acknowledged was an extremely sensitive exchange between the two leaders.

The memorandum on the March 13 talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, does not quote the two presidents directly but paraphrases in detail their conversation.

According to the classified memorandum, Mr. Yeltsin said "a leader of international stature such as President Clinton should support Russia and that meant supporting Yeltsin. Thought should be given to how to do that wisely."…

Mr. Clinton told Mr. Yeltsin "there was not much time" before the Russian elections and "he wanted to make sure that everything the United States did would have a positive impact, and nothing should have a negative impact," the memo said.

"The main thing is that the two sides not do anything that would harm the other," Mr. Clinton said to Mr. Yeltsin. "Things could come up between now and the elections in Russia or the United States which could cause conflicts."

The memorandum, contained in a cable sent Friday by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, was marked "confidential" and was intended for the "eyes only" of Thomas Pickering, U.S. ambassador to Russia, and James F. Collins, the State Department's senior diplomat for the former Soviet Union." (my bold)

Present at the Sharm el Shaykh meeting between Clinton and Yeltsin was White House Press Secretary Michael McCurry, Secretary of State Warren Christopher, CIA Director John Deutch, National Security Advisor Anthony Lake and four Russian officials.  

President Clinton was not the only American politico to pledge his allegiance to Boris Yeltsin.  According to a post-Russian election July 9, 1996 article in the Los Angeles Times by Eleanor Randolph, we find the following as quoted by George Gorton, a political strategist that helped former Senator and California Governor Pete Wilson (R) with his aborted 1996 presidential bid:

"The Americans were brought in by a circuitous route. Felix Braynin of San Francisco, a Soviet immigrant who is now a wealthy consultant to American businesses working in Russia, began helping the Yeltsin campaign last year.

After he asked about American advisors who could help, San Francisco lawyer Fred Lowell suggested Gorton and Joe Shumate, an expert on political polling, and Richard Dresner, a political strategist who has helped not only Wilson but President Clinton in his earlier campaigns for governor of Arkansas.

The Americans will not say how much they were paid, although their fee has been estimated at about $250,000. They were told that their involvement had to be treated like a state secret because of fears that the Communists would use their presence to try to foment anti-Western sentiment among voters....

The team is still secretive about some of its Russian business. Dresner prefers to stay mum about whether he was in touch with his old colleague Dick Morris, now Clinton's chief campaign advisor. Citing certain "agreements" that they refuse to explain, Dresner and Gorton acknowledge only that information about their work was made available to the Clinton White House.

The American advisors also worked with the Russians on such details as replacing a poster of a scowling Yeltsin with a smiling version. They suggested that some negative ads needed to be more subtle--persuading the Yeltsin campaign to pull one poster that showed a hammer and sickle made of cockroaches."

As we can see, history shows us that the United States is not particularly adverse to interfering in Russian elections when it is seen to be beneficial to its own global agenda.  Unfortunately, Washington's current Russophobia is accomplishing little more than reviving the Cold War rhetoric that absorbed it for nearly half a century after the end of the Second World War.

Let's close with this statement from Senator John McCain, release shortly after the release of "The Memo":

There is something rotten in Washington and it has been in existence for decades.  That is undeniable.

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