Sunday, February 19, 2017

Clinton Interferes in Russian Elections

From an academic paper published by Hamilton College (located, interestingly enough, in Clinton, New York):

Immediately after coming to power, the Clinton administration declared the consolidation of market and democratic institutions in Russia to be a vital American interest. The administration’s central tactic for promoting this outcome was to help Boris Yeltsin remain in power….

…Strobe Talbott, his chief adviser on the former Soviet Union, observes in his memoirs, the president himself quickly became “the U.S. government’s principal Russia hand, and so he remained for the duration of his presidency.”

Pot, meet kettle (translation: Hillary, meet Bill):

President Bill Clinton meddled in Russian affairs in the 1990s and helped Boris Yeltsin get elected to a second term, political analyst Dick Morris told Newsmax TV.

"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.

This was not a passive attempt by Clinton; “Dick, can you go do something about this Yeltsin guy; I have some work to do at my desk.”  No, Clinton was completely immersed in Yeltsin’s political future:

"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.

Bill was more successful advising Boris that he was at advising Hillary, it seems.

Of course, given that Yeltsin was a very popular figure in Russia, while the meddling might be ethically questionable it really had little influence

… Yeltsin faced growing opposition at home to his efforts to liberalize the economy and enact democratic reforms in Russia.

What? Yeltsin faced opposition at home?  Would a Clinton – any Clinton – disallow democracy from running its course?  From the academic paper cited above:

[We find]…that the U.S. government during Clinton’s years as president lent support, both material and moral, to Boris Yeltsin for the purpose of keeping him in power—is not open to dispute. …much of this aid was explicitly justified as necessary to help Russia’s president prevail in his intractable power struggle with a hostile legislature.

That doesn’t seem very respectful of representative government, does it?

In the meantime, Clinton initiates a modification to Mt. Rushmore:

…a year and a half into the [Chechnya] conflict, after tens of thousands of civilians had been killed but also just two months before the Russian presidential elections of 1996, Clinton publicly defended Yeltsin by comparing the war to Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to preserve the union.

This is a laugh-riot.  Yeltsin killed a few thousand; Lincoln killed over 700,000.  There is no comparison.  How does this paltry effort get Yeltsin into the club?  It seems a very cavalier attitude for Clinton to have taken. 

Anyway, whatever happened to “When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…”?  (Oh, never mind…)

In his autobiography, Clinton openly acknowledges that strengthening Yeltsin against his domestic opponents was one of his central concerns throughout his presidency.

Clinton is all for democracy except when he is against it, I guess.  A characteristic shared by others in his family.

Not everyone viewed Clinton’s efforts favorably:

An even more strident critique is offered by Peter Reddaway and Dmitri Glinski, who castigate President Yeltsin for “illegally suspending the constitution and dissolving the Russian parliament,” as well as more generally introducing “an authoritarian police regime.”

Authoritarian police regime?  Bill Clinton supported police-state autocrat who suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament?

Moreover, they bemoan [Yeltsin’s] victory in the presidential election of 1996 and suggest that his opponent, the leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) Gennady Zyuganov, would have formed a more representative government.

A more representative government?  Sounds more like Putin than Yeltsin.

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has an 83 percent approval rating. …[Some] claim that the poll numbers are manipulated, although most Western polling firms arrive at similar figures.

Obviously those polling firms – both Russian and western – haven’t included in their sampling the Russians living and working within the Washington beltway.


  1. There was reporting of CIA operatives in Russia bribing people to vote against Putin. Our agents were videoed placing cash in an artificial rock in some park as I recall.

  2. As the principal author of the article that forms the point of departure of this post, I want to thank Bionic Mosquito for bringing it to his or her readers’ attention. However, at least two sets of reservations somewhat temper my gratitude.

    First, it’s a shame that the author of the post utilized only the introduction and literature review of my article and neglected to report any of its empirical findings (which naturally constitute the core of the article). In this regard, those empirical analyses serve to validate the wisdom and morality of the Clinton administration’s support for Boris Yeltsin against his domestic political opponents, not to question them (which is the impression one gets from the post).

    Second, the post’s equation of Clinton’s interventions in Russia’s domestic power struggles and Russia’s recent interventions in the U.S. presidential election fails in at least two important ways. First, Clinton’s friendly relationship with Russia’s president and his open expressions of a preference for Boris Yeltsin remaining in power were legal; and the increases in U.S. bilateral aid and loans from international lending institutions that Clinton pushed for were publicly visible for all Russian voters to see and evaluate. In contrast, the Kremlin’s intervention in the U.S. election, which involved the illegal and covert theft of information and leaking that information to media organizations, etc., obviously represents something very different in nature (which is why the Kremlin refuses to admit to its actions).

    The second important difference between American and Russian actions is that Clinton’s interventions in Russia’s power struggles were motivated by the goal of preventing semi-fascists (in 1993) or an avowed and unapologetic Communist (in 1996) from coming to power. As such, they sought to promote freedom and democracy in Russia, not undermine them. In contrast, Russia’s interventions to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign sought the opposite: to undermine faith in the U.S.’s democratic system and to bring to power the candidate, Donald Trump, who (by his own numerous admissions) was less committed to the democratic process than Clinton. Libertarians should value the goals of advancing freedom and democracy in other countries (especially when they are pursued by non-military and very inexpensive means); and they should certainly recognize the distinction between intervening to promote democracy as opposed to intervening to undermine it.

    For those of you who might be interested in learning more about the most Liberal, democratic, and pro-Western leader to rule Russia since at least the 1880s (in other words, the kind of foreign leader whom libertarians should admire), I can highly recommend Leon Aron’s and Timothy Colton’s biographies of Yeltsin. They too serve to confirm the ultimate wisdom of the Clinton administration’s policy toward Russia in the 1990s.

    David Rivera
    Hamilton College

    P.S.: One point of fact for the benefit of your readings—Vladimir Putin did not back the Communist candidate for president, Gennady Zyuganov, in 1996. On the contrary, Putin at the time was deputy mayor to a figure, Anatolii Sobchak, who was in the liberal democratic camp that supported Yeltsin and feared the restoration of communist rule in Russia. Since Dick Morris gets this wrong, perhaps the rest of his testimony should be viewed with skepticism as well.

    1. Mr. Rivera

      Thank you for the extensive comments.

      “…utilized only the introduction and literature review of my article and neglected to report any of its empirical findings…” which “serve to validate the wisdom and morality of the Clinton administration’s support for Boris Yeltsin…”

      For my purpose, the actions were important. The empirical findings that you cite favorably were a) unimportant to my point, and b) are favorable based on the view of the beholder.

      Which brings me to your second point:

      “…the post’s equation of Clinton’s interventions in Russia’s domestic power struggles and Russia’s recent interventions in the U.S. presidential election…”

      Neither you nor I will change the others views regarding the interpretation of these events. I will suggest that I will likely never find common ground with anyone who uses the term “morality” when it comes to the actions of either Clinton.