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Meddling in foreign elections nothing new by Russia and US

By Chen Weihua | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-01-09 10:35

Over the past six months, many Americans have been surprised and outraged at alleged Russian hacking that might have somehow benefited the campaign of Republican candidate Donald Trump, who won the election on Nov 8.

US President Barack Obama not only lashed out at Russia verbally but announced punitive measures on Dec 29, including expelling 35 Russian diplomats and closing two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland.

Last Friday, the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence released its declassified report on Russia's efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 US election.

Few, including Obama, seem to care about the facts revealed by the hacked emails, which actually showed that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was the major victim due to the bias at the Democratic National Committee.

Those Americans expressing anger have accused Russia, and Russian President Vladimir Putin specifically, of trying to interfere in the most sacred democratic process in the US.

However, these people have either a short memory or are just plain ignorant of history. The fact that the US has been interfering in the national elections of other countries has been no secret to people the world over.

A more comprehensive account was revealed in a 2016 report by Dov H. Levin, a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie-Mellon University. Levin, who received his PhD from UCLA, did his doctoral dissertation on the causes and effects of partisan electoral interventions by the US and USSR/Russia from 1946 to 2000.

Levin found that the US and the Soviet Union/Russia had intervened in about one in every nine of the 937 competitive national-level executive elections during the period.

These included financing the election campaigns of specific parties, disseminating misinformation or propaganda, training locals on one side or the other in various campaign or get-out-the-vote techniques, helping one side design campaign materials or making public pronouncements or threats in favor of or against a particular candidate and providing or withdrawing foreign assistance.

The report shows that the US attempted to influence the elections of foreign countries 81 times in some 45 countries across the world during the period, often to prevent the successful election of candidates the US disliked.

The top targets of US electoral interventions might be surprising to many because they include some of the US' closest allies. Levin's report shows that the US intervened in Italy's elections eight times; Japan's five times and Israel's four times.

Laos, which Obama visited in September in a so-called landmark visit by a US president, was also among the top, along with Sri Lanka, each with four electoral interventions.

Overall, about 33 percent of US electoral interventions occurred in Europe, 28 percent in Asia, 28 percent in Latin America, 8 percent in the Middle East and 3 percent in Africa.

According to news reports, the US also tried to influence the Russian election in 1996 under President Boris Yeltsin. President Bill Clinton endorsed a $10.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund that Yeltsin used to boost his popular support.

The Levin report found that the USSR/Russia had attempted to influence 36 foreign elections during the 1946-2000 period, far fewer than the US targeted.

Of course, the US, an interventionist nation for much of the post-World War II period, has done things far more appalling than interfering in others' elections - including regime changes by invading Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and bombing countries in the name of the war on terror in the last two decades.

Many Americans like to think that their interventions are justified. It is like when US politicians and TV commentators talk about foreign hacking into the US, they have forgotten that the massive cyber army in the National Security Agency is doing the same thing to other nations, only more aggressively, given the US' technological edge.

They should simply heed Confucius words: "Don't do unto others what you don't want others to do unto you."

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