Before you get too excited about Russia’s meddling in US politics

Before you get too excited about Russia’s meddling in US politics



By Jan Oberg

We’ve witnessed a sustained Western media attention to the alleged interference by Russia (Putin) in American politics in favour of President Trump’s election. The same media seem to find it less interesting to write about US meddling in the political affairs, including elections, in other countries. But scattered articles – good ones – do exist.

This biased media attention supports a typical psycho-political projection: Look what bad things they are doing (omitted: that we have done much more and worse ourselves).

Look at the Time front page above from 1996, the time of the Clinton administration. There is a very good article with links and a PDF on OffGuardian here. It’s a mind-boggling story about how five Americans were tasked with influencing the election of Boris Yeltsin in competition with other candidates who, when they started working in Moscow, had much higher poll figures than he had.

This was a couple of years after Bill Clinton had broken all important Western politicians promises to Mikhail Gorbachev to the effect that NATO would not expand “an inch” and started doing exactly that – a process that ended with the crisis and tension in today’s Ukraine.

Fortunately, there are Western media that have told you quite a bit about US meddling in the elections and other political affairs of other countries:

Huffington Post
“The US has been meddling in other countries’ elections for a century. It doesn’t feel good.”

Los Angeles Times

The US is no stranger to interfering in the elections of other countries
– “it’s done so as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000, according to a database amassed by political scientist Don Levin of Carnegie Mellon University. That number doesn’t include military coups and regime change efforts following the election of candidates the US didn’t like, notably in Iran, Guatemala and Chile. Nor does it include general assistance with electoral processes, such as election monitoring.”

Los Angeles Times has also covered Russia’s meddling in the affairs of other countries offering examples but not comparative statistics.

Washington Post

The long history of the US interfering with elections elsewhere.
This article states that the US and Russia interfered 117 times in the period covered by the analysis by Don Levin mentioned above. That would mean 36 cases for Russia.


USA Today
Alleged Russian political meddling documented in 27 countries since 2004. (More or less documented, one might add).


Wikipedia carries a well-documented page on US involvement in regime change 1846 to 2017 – quite a list.


The US Global Policy Forum has this list of US Military and Clandestine Interventions in Foreign Countries 1798-2005 – 184 for the whole period, of which 81 already before 1900.


Robert W. Merry, in The American Conservative
Russia’s election meddling: Worse than a crime; a Blunder


Scott Shane, in the New York Times on February 17, 2018
Russia isn’t the only one meddling in elections. We do it, too.

– note this quotation: “Loch K. Johnson, the dean of American intelligence scholars, who began his career in the 1970s investigating the C.I.A. as a staff member of the Senate’s Church Committee, says Russia’s 2016 operation was simply the cyber-age version of standard United States practice for decades, whenever American officials were worried about a foreign vote.

“We’ve been doing this kind of thing since the C.I.A. was created in 1947,” said Mr. Johnson, now at the University of Georgia. “We’ve used posters, pamphlets, mailers, banners — you name it. We’ve planted false information in foreign newspapers. We’ve used what the British call ‘King George’s cavalry’: suitcases of cash.”


And, finally, here is William Blum’s intervention map based on his classical study Killing Hope from 2004.


4 Responses to "Before you get too excited about Russia’s meddling in US politics"

  1. Gunnar Westberg   March 1, 2018 at 7:00 am

    And then we have Daniele Ganser: Gladio and Nato’s secret armies.
    But it seems that most well informed Americans know quite well that USA has interfered whenever US leaders – political and business – feel the need. If propaganda and bribes do not work, there is always the Marines.

    • JO   March 1, 2018 at 9:17 am

      Yes, thank you, Gunnar. You’re right that many know – and I think both in the US and particularly abroad. But it’s worth the be reminded of just how comprehensive, frequent and ongoing this interference has been when, in today’s world, the mainstream media focus more on how we should see the “enemy” and not how the “enemy” may see his/her enemy… us. That said – enjoy Tom Lehrer’s classical, “Send The Marines” – nothing much has changed 🙂

  2. Lis Lendal   February 28, 2018 at 9:16 am

    C.I.A. betalte for mange tidsskrifter i Vesteuropa i halvtredserne og tresserne.

    • JO   February 28, 2018 at 9:38 am

      Tak Lis – det har du helt ret i. Een af de mest grundige analyser af det er Frances Stonor Saunders’ bog Who Paid The Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War, Granta Books, London 1999.


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