Election meddling has become the watchword of the day in Washington. According to America’s mainstream media, Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election is unprecedented and the allegiance that Donald Trump pays to (his handler) Vladimir Putin is another sign of how the Trump Administration is willing to sell its soul to Russia. While I have posted on this subject before, a look back at long-forgotten history shows us that election meddling between the United States and Russia is hardly knew; the characters and mechanisms may change but the impact on democracy still reigns. Before you start reading this posting, I would like to apologize for its length, however, I wanted to ensure that I provided you with all of the background that you needed to better understand election meddling and its impact on geopolitics.
Let’s open by looking at this article from the September 24, 1993 Los Angeles Times:
“Responding to President Clinton’s call to help Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin, the U.S. Senate approved a $12.5-billion foreign aid bill Thursday that includes $2.5 billion in economic assistance for Russia and other former Soviet states.
Acting with uncommon speed, the Senate voted 88 to 10 to approve the 1994 foreign operations appropriations bill only one day after Clinton had urged its swift passage as a tangible sign of American support for the beleaguered Russian president.
Although the Senate imposed some conditions under which part of the aid might have to be withheld, only a handful of conservative Republicans took issue with what Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) said was the urgent need to show Yeltsin and his supporters that “we are in their corner” in the political struggle now unfolding between reformers and hard-liners in Moscow.
It is a measure of “the Senate’s support for the President’s decision to help Yeltsin . . . that we got this through in what must be record time” for a foreign aid bill, added Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that drafted the legislation.
The Senate package–which earmarks most of the Russian aid money for private sector development, pro-democracy programs and humanitarian assistance–must now be reconciled with a similar package approved earlier by the House. The House package, while identical in size, contains no earmarks and would allow Clinton to disburse the money to Russia in any manner he chooses….
Leahy said the latest crisis in Moscow–where Yeltsin moved to dissolve Parliament and it voted to impeach him–had increased Congress’ resolve to back Clinton in his support of the Russian leader.“I sensed that support (for the aid package) was growing, but I am still surprised that there wasn’t more debate,” he added.
He credited intensive lobbying by Clinton, Secretary of State Warren Christopher and other officials for that. But Republicans also noted that a broad bipartisan consensus had already existed on what one GOP leadership aide described as “the need to help Yeltsin at almost any cost.”
Administration officials on Thursday continued to praise Yeltsin and said it appeared he was gaining the upper hand over his hard-line opponents.
Appearing before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on refugee policy, Christopher said the Administration was encouraged by Yeltsin’s announcement that he will move up the date for Russia’s next presidential elections. It “confirms that he has a deep belief in democracy,” Christopher said.”
Here’s how Congress justified the aid to Yeltsin:
“The Congress finds that–
(2) President Yeltsin was given a mandate by the Russian people to hold elections and continue the process of economic reform;
(3) Boris Yeltsin is the first and only popularly elected president of Russia, and the parliament of Russia is a holdover from the Soviet regime;
(4) the conservative parliament has consistently impeded political and economic progress in Russia;
(5) slow progress on economic reform has prompted the IMF to review its disbursement of Russia’s second tranche from the SystemicTransformation Facility;
(6) political and economic reform has been impeded by the actions of the hardline parliament; and
(7) corruption is rampant and is impeding economic and political reform and must be vigorously and effectively combated.
It is the sense of the Congress that—
(1) the Congress supports President Yeltsin in his effort to continue the reform process in Russia, including his call for new parliamentary elections consistent with the results of the April 25, 1993 referendum; and
(2) further United States Government economic assistance should be provided in accordance with President Yeltsin’s call for the holding of free, fair, and democratic parliamentary elections.”
As background, the $2.5 billion worth of taxpayers’ money that was sent to Russia took place in the run-up to the 1996 Russian presidential elections. Boris Yeltsin, the pro-western incumbent, was polling very poorly with some polls showing that he was in fifth place, well behind the Communist Party’s candidate of choice, Gennady Zyuganov, who was polling in first place by a wide margin. The Clinton Administration believed that Yeltsin represented Russia’s continuing moves toward democracy and, as such, backed him to the exclusion of all other candidates.
It is also important to keep in mind that, just prior to the Senate’s consideration of H.R. 2295, the aforementioned foreign aid bill, that Boris Yeltsin had dissolved the Russian legislature on September 21, 1993 and called for elections, a move which led to this:
Yeltsin’s actions were challenged by hard-liners in the Russian parliament who declared that his actions were unconstitutional. As such, with the aforementioned Congressional justifications, the Senate approved H.R. 2295 on September 23, 1993 after just two days of debate by a vote of 88 to 10 (following a vote of 309 to 111 in the House). Here are the “yeas and nays” from the Senate vote with some names that you might be quite familiar with:
To help you put the $2.5 billion aid to Russia into perspective, in the same bill, Israel was granted a sum of not less than $1.2 billion and Egypt was granted a sum of not less than $815 million for economic support along with foreign military financing of not less than $1.8 billion for Israel and not less than $1.3 billion for Egypt.
Here’s how the assistance to Russia was designated:
Here are the restrictions:
On June 16, 1996, presidential elections were held in Russia with Yeltsin receiving 35.8 percent of the votes compared to 32.5 percent for Zyuganov. In the second round of elections (the runoff between the two top candidates) which were held on July, 3, 1996, Yeltsin received 54.4 percent of the votes compared to 40.7 percent for Zyuganov in an election that was marred by fraud.
The Los Angeles Times covered the Yeltsin election victory with this item from July 9, 1996:
“A team of American political strategists who helped Gov. Pete Wilson with his abortive presidential bid earlier this year said this week that they served as Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin’s secret campaign weapon in his comeback win over a Communist challenger.
And while some Muscovites are debating whether the Americans saved Yeltsin’s job or merely provided one voice among many working to revive the Russian president’s political chances, the consultants have now emerged to give interviews about how they quietly peddled advice to Yeltsin’s 36-year-old daughter and key advisor, Tatyana Dyachenko.
“I don’t have candidates generally who are as responsive as Boris Yeltsin,” said George Gorton, who worked for Wilson in 1994 and later ran Wilson’s abortive bid for the GOP nomination. “Certainly not Pete Wilson.”
Hired in February through a San Francisco firm with connections in Moscow, Gorton said that the team members never met Yeltsin. Instead, they sent their detailed, unsigned memos to his daughter. “We were told that we were formally retained as advisors to the Yeltsin family.”
Although the Americans spoke no Russian and worked through translators, they began secretly laying out an American-style campaign to counter the public sentiment running against Yeltsin.
When they started, Yeltsin’s approval rating was about 6%, and, as they told Time magazine, Josef Stalin had a higher positive rating in their polls. Yet last week, Yeltsin defeated Communist candidate Gennady A. Zyuganov by more than 13 percentage points…
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. (my bold)
Let’s close with this video showing what the United States taxpayer got for their $2.5 billion investment:
And, in case you’d forgotten, this happened on December 31, 1999:
Boris Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin to the position of First Deputy Prime Minister on August 9, 1999, moving Mr. Putin into the inner sanctum of the Kremlin at the same time as he announced that he wished Mr. Putin to be his successor. This is yet another fine example of an unintended consequence of Washington’s geopolitical meddling.
All of this in the name of Democracy – American Style since it is the template that Washington expects of the world. And, let’s not forget that these foreign election shenanigans took place under a Democratic president that is now practically canonized by the left-leaners in the United States.
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