Foreign intervention in our politics is old hat

Ron Estes


St. Augustine

The hottest foreign policy issue these days seems to be accusations of Russian intervention in our recent election, and how we are going to punish Russia: which sanctions will do the most damage to the Russian economy.

President Trump has been ambivalent about the charge. The New York Times Moscow Bureau Chief, Neil MacFarquhar, quoted Russian Minister Lavrov saying, “Trump said he accepted statements from Putin that Russia had not hacked the election.” On the other hand, Trump said at the recent G-20 Conference, “I think it very well could be Russia but I think it could very well have been other countries, I think a lot of people interfere.”

The Trump claim that, “a lot of people interfere,” might be his most profound statement since taking office.

A 2016 study by Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University found that, among 938 global elections examined, the United States and Russia combined had involved themselves in about one out of nine (117), with the majority of those (68 percent) being through covert, rather than overt, actions.

The same study found that “on average, an electoral intervention in favor of one side contesting the election will have an effect large enough to have potentially changed the results in seven out of 14 U.S. presidential elections occurring after 1960.”

According to the study, the U.S. intervened in 81 foreign elections between 1946 and 2000, while the Soviet Union or Russia intervened in 36.

In their 2012 study involving 1,703 participants, Daniel Corstange, Columbia University Assistant Professor, Department of Government and Politics, and Nikolay Marinov, American Journal of Political Science, found that electoral interventions had a polarizing effect on political and foreign relations views, with the side favored by the external power more likely to favor improvements in relations between the two.

In U.S. elections, in October 2016 charges, the U.S. accused Russia of interfering through the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and leaking its documents to WikiLeaks.

In response, on 29 December 2016, President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and broadened sanctions on Russian entities and individuals.

In January 2017, following a British intelligence tip-off, the U.S. intelligence community expressed “high confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign designed to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections to harm Secretary Hillary Clinton’s chances, and help Donald Trump win.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is one such lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to the Congress and Executive Branch of the United States.

Its critics have stated it acts as an agent of the Israeli government with a “stranglehold” on the United States Congress. The group has been accused of being strongly allied with the Likud party of Israel, and the Republican Party in the U.S.

Typical among the charges was in 2012, when former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert claimed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to undermine President Barack Obama in favor of Republican candidate Mitt Romney. The accusations included claims that a Netanyahu appearance in a television advertisement was designed by Netanyahu to give support to Romney.

In February 1997, officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced they had uncovered evidence that the government of China had sought to make illegal foreign contributions to the Democratic National Committee.

Both the U.S. presidential administration and the Chinese government denied any wrongdoing.

So, what’s new?

Estes served 25 years as an Operations Officer in the CIA Clandestine Service