by Bryan MacDonald, RT:
America’s ruling class has a curious attitude to democracy. It seems to be interpreted as something that’s good for the US and its allies but bad for critters who won’t accept their role in the ‘America-led international order.’
First off, let me be clear. I think all foreign electoral interference is wrong. In any country. And if it’s eventually proven that Russians meddled in America’s 2016 presidential election, I certainly won’t condone it. But I’ve have always doubted that the Russian state organized some heinous plan to tilt the contest to Donald Trump, so I’ll be shocked if something of this nature is ever proven.
Instead, I’ve always imagined the greatest extent of Russian ‘interference’ was probably some half-baked playing around by private individuals. Something akin to a “social media marketing campaign,” as the New Yorker’s Adrian Chan believes. And on a relatively minute scale, to boot. Because – given the billions of dollars swirling around American stumping – anything bar a full-scale FSB/GRU, all-hands-on-deck operation would probably amount to little more than a hill of beans.
By the same token, I was stunned back in 2011 when the Moscow Times (a pro-US title, overwhelmingly written by Westerners, despite its name) reported how ex-vice president Joe Biden had told fringe Russian opposition figures that “it would be better for Russia if Putin did not run” in the 2012 election. Indeed, when you see the opprobrium directed today towards US Green leader Jill Stein for once attending an RT banquet where Putin was present, its shows one hell of a double standard.
Being relatively new to Russia in those days, and far from Moscow, it also seemed bizarre when then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a “full investigation” of alleged irregularities in 2011’s parliamentary elections. And, even more absurd, that she did it in front of Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, at an OSCE meeting attended by 56 countries. Indeed, it seemed like a teacher wagging her finger at an errant student in front of his classmates, and not how you’d interact with the emissary of a powerful country.
At the time, something interesting happened. Many of my then-relatively new Russian friends had expressed concern about the vote, and a good few supported calls for a fresh ballot. However, once Clinton stuck her oar in, their anger switched to the American; with the attitude quickly transforming into outrage at her arrogance in trying to tell Russians how to manage their internal affairs. Last night, I reminded one of them, Vova, and he said: “Yeah, what did she think? That we were one of those sh*tty little countries the Americans can just push around?” This morning, he emailed me joking, “You know very well, I am not a huge fan of Putin but as soon as Hillary started that nonsense, it smelled to me of the Yeltsin years. I’d rather eat rats than go through that again.”
Time magazine, 1996. As you can see it's perfectly acceptable for Americans to interfere in Russian elections. pic.twitter.com/alH0BCl0uh
— Bryan MacDonald (@27khv) 26 July 2016
And this brings us to 1996. Back then, Russia’s economy was in serious trouble. American-backed neoliberal economic reforms had reduced ordinary Russians to penury. And Washington turned a blind eye when Yeltsin essentially dismantled the country’s nascent democracy in 1993, going so far as to take over the parliament in a tank battle, killing 187 people. He also banned opposition parties and newspapers. Of course, somewhat amazingly, Yeltsin is remembered as a “democrat” in the West – which is actually code for “he defended American interests.”
Anyway, by the spring of 1996, Yeltsin was in serious bother. The Communist Party, which had combusted in 1991, was back in business, with its new leader, Gennady Zyuganov, well ahead in the polls. And at this point, Uncle Sam got busy, in events which have been widely catalogued and even spawned a Hollywood movie, with the tagline “electing a Russian president, the American way.”
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