Russian Interference In US Elections? Maybe. But The US Did Help Boris Yeltsin Get Elected

Swarajya Staff

Dec 18, 2016, 05:07 PM | Updated 05:07 PM IST

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Adam Berry/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (Adam Berry/Getty Images)

Ample reports have emerged of late suggesting the role of Russian interference in the United States’ decisive election of 2016. The media has quoted US intelligence officials as saying that they were not only convinced of the involvement of Russian hacking but also that it came from the highest ranks of the Kremlin, even up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

President Barack Obama has ordered a full investigation into the matter, but some media reports, including this CBS report, say Putin likely gave a go-ahead for a cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee. It says, “The hacks were so widespread and sustained over such a long period of time that U.S. Intelligence sources say it could not have been carried out without the knowledge of senior levels of the Kremlin.”

A group of US intelligence veterans have said the allegations of election hacking are baseless. They have said categorically that there is no evidence so far to suggest that Russian interference took place.

“We have gone through the various claims about hacking. For us, it is child’s play to dismiss them. The email disclosures in question are the result of a leak, not a hack.”

They say that if hacking was really involved, the NSA, given its extensive trace capability, would easily have been able to track down the sender and the recipient. But since they haven’t, it may have, in fact, been a case of an email leak rather than a hack.

In any case, the CBS report does not name any of the “US intelligence sources” it quotes therein. It repeatedly makes the claim of Russian hacking without providing any evidence or credible proof to back up its allegations.

But while the idea of Russian interference in US elections remains so far a conspiracy theory, the US did actually interfere in Russian elections back in 1991 to help Boris Yeltsin get elected.

As reported in Time magazine’s cover story from 15 July 1996, Yeltsin found much-needed help – in the winter before the Russian election, his approval rating was in single digits – from a group of American political consultants for close to four months. Yeltsin’s campaign was guided by these consultants in complete secrecy, producing a shock victory in which Yeltsin came out trumps over his communist rival Gennadi Zyuganov by a margin of 13 percentage points.

“Yeltsin is arguably the best hope Russia has for moving toward pluralism and an open economy. By re-electing him, the Russians defied predictions that they might willingly resubmit themselves to communist rule,” said the Time report.

According to political analyst and former Hillary Clinton confidant Dick Morris, in 1996 the then US President Bill Clinton meddled in Russian affairs, helping Yeltsin get elected to a second term. Morris said:

When I worked for Clinton, Clinton called me and said, ‘I want to get Yeltsin elected as president of Russia against Gennady Zyuganov, who was the communist who was running against him. Putin was Zyuganov’s major backer... It became public that Clinton would meet with me every week. We would review the polling that was being done for Yeltsin that was being done by a colleague of mine, who was sending it to me every week. We, Clinton and I, would go through it and Bill would pick up the hotline and talk to Yeltsin and tell him what commercials to run, where to campaign, what positions to take. He basically became Yeltsin’s political consultant....

Morris believes that Putin resented the intervention at the time by Bill Clinton and took his revenge out on Hillary Clinton. Although there is no indication of this belief from Putin himself, it seems like 2016 was karmic payback for 1996.

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