Scandinavia and the World
Scandinavia and the World

Comments #9703289:

Do you smell that? 25 11, 2:07am


That comparison is actually very unfair. The US or the west did nothing in 1996 like what Putin did in the US in 2016 and have since later tried to do in several European nations.

Russia in 1996 had only held one democratic Presidential election ever in it's history - which Yeltsin had won with a huge margin in June of 1991.
After that Yeltsin became world famously for standing up to a military coup of old Communist hardliners against Gorbachev in August of 1991 (that's when he climbed a tank and spoke to the people, urging them to resist the military).

Gorbachev's authority as Soviet leader was destroyed and popular Russian support instead flocked to Yeltsin.
In November 1991 Yeltsin banned Communist party activity in Russia and in December he met with representatives from Ukraine and Belarus and they jointly announced the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States in it's place - thus robbing Gorbachev of his remaining power base.

Now none of this was in accordance with Soviet law of course - but revolutions never are conducted according to the law, and what happened that year was a political revolution - and one supported by the vast majority of Russians who where fed up with the Communist one-party state.

Then followed the economic crash course in privatization that made life very hard for many ordinary Russians - and made the oligarchs around Yeltsin immensely rich by them being allowed to buy state property for next to nothing.

Now that was of course not fair to the Russian people at all - but unfortunately Russia had little to no democratic institutions that could defend the nation from being robbed like that.

So in 1996, when the next election rolled around many Russians where understandably disappointed in the promises of life after the Communists and wanted change.
The problem was that as a fledgling democracy the only real opposition that had the network and the resources to organize politically where the old Communists - and the thought of them retaking power rightly scared the west.

These where the same people that had supported dictatorship for 70 years and who had at least silently accepted the coup of hardliners trying to stop Gorbachev's policies of Glasnost and Perestroika - there was a fear that if they won that second democratic election ever in Russia, that could be the last and everything would go back to the dark old days of the Politburo and the Communist one-party state again.

So in that situation US president Bill Clinton offered Yeltsin some of his own political advisers help in crafting a modern political campaign to improve his chances in the election.
Russia had basically no experience organizing political elections as there hadn't been democratic elections before the one in 1991 so what the Americans could offer was expertise in how to craft a message that attracted voters, how to make effective TV adds and that kind of thing.
The US and the west also helped the Russian government with loans so wages could be paid to state workers for the first time in months - all to help improve Yeltsin's chances by lowering public discontent about the standard of living.

You could argue this was "interference" in the Russian election - but it's also a fact it helped the Russian people who hadn't been paid in months, and it was done to help stabilize Russia as a democracy so it didn't slide back into a Communist dictatorship.
And the help that was given Yeltsin and his campaign specifically was basic political campaign consulting that is common and legal in any democracy. And I don't think it was against Russian law at the time either, as Russia had little to no laws regarding political campaigning then - as democratic elections was all new to the Russian society.

Then, on top of that, and not related to what the west did to help Yeltsin and the Russian economy under him, he or the oligarchs around him may have engaged in much more shady things to help Yeltsin get elected - there are rumors about such things, but no proof.

And finally no one really knows if any of this made a decisive difference in the outcome of the election - and we certainly don't know what would have happened if the Communist had come back into power in 1996. Would Russia have reverted back to a one-party dictatorship again or would the Communists have kept democracy alive? No one can know for sure now.

But either way - and this is the interesting point:

Putin directly benefited from all this, as he was Yeltsin's right-hand man and later became his chosen successor.
Had Yeltsin lost the 1996 election, Putin might never have come to power at all.
So for him and his supporters to now push this talk about the Americans meddling in the Russian election in 1996 as something terrible is extremely hypocritical.

It might serve his interests now to paint the west as an enemy to Russia - but in reality the west's aim was to support the democratic principle and there is actually no greater beneficiary in Russia today then Putin, from the help the west gave Yeltsin.

Also, Putin and his handyman Medvedev has used these claims before to basically make the case that since Yeltsin (in their claims) stole the election in 1996, that makes it perfectly OK for them to steal elections now.
Which is obviously not what the west actually did at all. The west wanted Russia to develop into a stable democracy and Yeltsin who had stood up to the military coup in 1991 seemed like the best guarantee of that development, compared to the Communists who had stood silently by and hoped it succeed.

And comparing then and now, Putin can certainly not argue his meddling in western democracies today in any way, shape or form is to help democracy or to lower discontent.
Quite opposite, it's all about trying to sow discontent, create internal conflicts and weaken democracy.
Because Putin is of course no democrat at heart - he's an authoritarian criminal who's robbed the Russian people of billions, and he'll do anything to retain his power and his stolen wealth.

A source of interest on this:,8599,2107565,00.html

EDIT: The link above is correct, but apparantly this site can't deal with the commas in the URL, so anyone wanting to following the link has to copy-paste it to another window manually and open it there.
That works in Firefox 57.0 for me anyway.