While the issue of Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections is hysterically debated on almost all the news channels 24/7, almost no one ever mentions the fact that the US meddled in almost every country's elections in the last century, and more crucially, how the US interfered in the last free Russian democratic election in 1996, and helped Boris Yeltsin, an alcoholic who almost destroyed Russia, win his second erm in office.
But while Americans feel justifiably angry at alleged interference with their political process, they have also been handed a mirror, and the reflection should disturb them.
A Carnegie Mellon scholar, Dov H. Levin, has scoured the historical record for both overt and covert election influence operations. He found at least 81 instances where the US interfered in the democratic elections of sovereign nation states between 1946 and 2000.
His findings underscore how routine election meddling by the United States — sometimes covert and sometimes quite open — has been.
However, the case of the American meddling in the 1996 Russian presidential elections stands out and is not even mentioned in the media these days.
American fears that Boris Yeltsin would be defeated for re-election as president in 1996 by an old-fashioned Communist led to an overt and covert effort to help him, urged on by President Bill Clinton.
It included an American push for a $10 billion International Monetary Fund loan to Russia four months before the voting. As the New York Times noted at the time – the loan was “expected to be helpful to President Boris Yeltsin in the presidential election”.
Also a special of team of American political consultants who had direct connections to the White House and to Bill Clinton himslef basically ran Yeltsin's election campaign.
On almost every level of him campaign, Boris Yeltsin colluded with the then American president , Bill Clinton, who helped him get elected.
When Yeltsin eventually won, the US media not only did not criticise the overt US meddling in the Russian elections, they celebrated it. Time magazine even posted Yeltsin on his cover holding an American flag with the caption “Yanks to the rescue: The secret story of how American advisers helped Yeltsin win”.
The Time cover In 1996.
The reason why the US had to help Yeltsin get relected was because his first term in office was an unmitigated disaster for Russia and the Russian people. Between 1990 and 1994, during Yeltsin's first term in office, life expectancy for Russian men and women fell from 64 and 74 years respectively to 58 and 71 years.
While it was boom time for the new oligarchs, poverty and unemployment surged; prices were hiked dramatically; communities were devastated by deindustrialisation; and social protections were stripped away.
However Yeltsin's greatest "asset", and the reason why the US wanted to preserve him in office, was that he very very pro American, and was easily influenced by Clinton and the US administration, and did almost everything they asked of him.
Yeltsin and Clinton.
Yeltsin second term in office would prove to be even worse then his first, and would bring Russia to the brink of bankruptcy, and on the verge of becoming a failed state.
The Russian economy contracted by over 80% during Yeltsin’s reign. The ruble crashed. The privatisation ensured state industries such as oil were sold to Yeltsin’s cronies at obscenely low prices. Corruption became endemic. Welfare programs were essentially cancelled and people starved while Yeltsin and his drinking buddies partied and embezzled money. The military fell from being the world’s strongest to being a laughing stock. Yeltsin invited thousands of Western investors into the country to try and attract foreign investment. They became a catalyst for the massive embezzlement and the largely criminal acquisition of state assets.
In an ironical twist, it was Yeltsin who appointed a then unknown Vladimir Putin as his prime minister in 1999, and thanks to that appointment Putin would later succed him and remain the leader of Russia until this very day, and would in 2016 meddle in the US 2016 elections.