Russia’s attempt to sway the United States 2016 election continues to consume mainstream media, with the former FBI director James Comey being questioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
In the uproar about the extent to which Russia meddled in the U.S. election and whether they wanted to put Donald Trump into the presidency, one key point has not been reported:
The U.S. is no stranger to election meddling. In fact, research shows that the U.S. attempted to influence the elections of foreign countries as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000.
According to political scientist Don Levin, the U.S. has a long and stunning history of attempting to influence foreign presidential elections.
Often covert in their execution, these efforts included everything from CIA operatives running successful presidential campaigns in the Philippines during the 1950s to leaking damaging information on Marxist Sandanistas in order to sway Nicaraguan voters in 1990. In total, the U.S. allegedly targeted the elections of 45 nations across the globe during this period. In the case of some countries, such as Italy and Japan, the U.S. attempted to intervene in four or more separate elections.
Levin’s numbers do not include regime change attempts in the form of U.S. supported military coups, such as when the CIA helped overthrow Mohammad Mosaddeq, Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, in 1953.
Levin defines an electoral intervention as follows:
“A costly act which is designed to determine the election results in favor of one of the two sides.”
In Levin’s analysis, this includes:
- Peddling misinformation or propaganda;
- Creating campaign material for preferred candidates or parties;
- Providing or withdrawing foreign aid; and
- Making public announcements that threaten or favor certain candidates.
Levin built his database from declassified U.S. intelligence and Congressional reports on CIA activity. He also used academic research on U.S. intelligence, diplomatic histories of the Cold War and memories of former CIA officials.
Much of the U.S.’s election meddling happened during the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was engaging in similar behavior. Yet even after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the U.S. continued its interventions abroad, including elections in Israel, former Czechoslovakia, and even Russia in 1996, Levin found.
In the video below, the activist and linguist Noam Chomsky explains how U.S. outrage over Russian election interference is laughable given their own history of overthrowing governments.