Economic blunders – The Island

By Savithri Guruge

The West sees Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is currently taking center stage in world news, as a comic book supervillain, a crackpot Borat-like dictator, someone to laugh at and to scared at the same time. time, fascist and communist, hitler and stalin wrapped up in a great mass of genocidal energy, a corrupt oligarch who somehow hands over his ill-gotten gains to his enemies to keep .

Moreover, he meddles in the elections of other peoples.

His Western opponents don’t seem to see the irony in accusing someone else of doing what they’ve been doing for years. This seems evident from the words of US President Joe Biden following his meeting with Putin last June:

“What if the United States was seen by the rest of the world as directly interfering with other countries’ elections and everyone knew about it? What would it be like if we engaged in activities in which he engaged? This diminishes the position of a country. According to Dov Levin, assistant professor of international relations at the University of Hong Kong, the US government interfered 81 times in foreign elections between 1946 and 2000, more than any other government. Of course, Biden’s attitude is very similar to one that finds Ukrainian victims of the current conflict in that country less acceptable than those in Iraq, Syria or Yemen – the former’s victims are blonde and blue-eyed, Us, as opposed to those of the second. ‘ Their. This attitude contains a certain degree of “holier than thou” white racism: we can bomb them, but they cannot bomb us. We can interfere in Their elections with impunity.

Interestingly, one of the 81 elections was the 1996 Russian presidential election. The resurgent Communist Party was poised to defeat incumbent President Boris Yeltsin, who had an approval rating of just 3% in January 1996. Yeltsin’s neoliberal “shock therapy” had reduced Russia’s economy, already battered by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s market reforms, to 70% of its 1988 level. caused most Russians to lose all their savings, but enriched a handful of oligarchs, who took advantage of the huge price difference between Russian and world market prices to buy and sell at huge profits – this that they didn’t. invest in Russia, but deposited in foreign banks

The American government intervened to ensure the victory of their protege. First, he convinced the IMF to grant the Yeltsin government a loan of US$10.2 billion to avoid economic collapse – after the elections, the economy sank to its lowest point, at 35% of its 1988 level. Parts of this loan, along with other Western aid, ended up in the overseas bank accounts of Yeltsin and his associates. The embezzlement of funds totaling US$10 billion dating back to 1994, with the aim of improving Yeltsin’s re-election chances, continued with the knowledge of Western governments and agencies, including the IMF .

Second, at Yeltsin’s urging, Clinton, who traveled to Moscow to boost the former’s chances, postponed NATO’s planned expansion until 1999. This allowed the West to be portrayed as non-threatening and won run-off support from nationalist candidates defeated in the first round. round. Chief among them were supporters of the ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who courted a series of vicious attacks on communism from a nationalist angle, using the Great Russian chauvinist trope that communists had favored the minorities against the majority, which had consequently declined in status and power.

This ultra-nationalist campaign was part of the US government’s third approach, an election campaign designed by a modern US election team, its highly paid US advisers using sophisticated techniques. They concluded early on that Yeltsin had nothing to recommend him, so they focused on a negative campaign against the most popular candidate, Gennady Zyuganov of the Communist Party.

Of course, it is likely that Yeltsin’s team also doctored the results. In 2011, Michael Meadowcroft, the head of the OSCE election observation mission to Russia in 1996, reported that OSCE and EU authorities pressured him to ignore election irregularities and that EU officials suppressed a report on media manipulation. In 2012, then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said of the 1996 elections: “There is hardly any doubt who won. It was not Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin. In response, Anatoly Chubais, who led Yeltsin’s re-election campaign, admitted there had been fraud, but said it was not enough to alter the election result.

By the way, Chubais recently resigned as a Kremlin adviser, in opposition to the current conflict in Ukraine. He first rose to prominence when he introduced Yeltsin’s unpopular “privatization by vouchers” program in 1992.

In 1999 Yeltsin appointed Putin as his prime minister. And, of course, Putin himself has another reason to be grateful for Western interference in Russia. Sir Richard Dearlove, head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in 1999-2004, admitted collaborating with Putin’s presidential election campaign in 2000. Then British Prime Minister Tony Blair attended public functions with Putin before the elections. He would hardly have done so without the consent of the White House.

“I think Putin has enormous potential,” US President Bill Clinton told him in 1999. “I think he’s very smart and thoughtful. I think we can do a lot of good with him.

“I believe that Vladimir Putin is a leader,” Blair said during his visit, “who is ready to embrace a new relationship with the European Union and the United States, who wants a strong and modern Russia and a strong relationship with the West… You have to be a strong leader to sort out your country.” Blair’s assessment was probably about right. However, a vast gap existed between what Putin saw as a new relationship – dialogue between equals – and the Western concept of Putin as a lackey Putin was willing to play along, for example by sending emissaries to Baghdad in 2003 to beg Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to go into exile. was a turning point. Putin found he had to balance his desire to foster Russia’s burgeoning relationship with the United States and Russia’s interests, as well as his personal ambitions: he could hardly support a a war that nine out of ten Russians opposed. As Russia regained strength, Putin’s course became more independent of the West.

And therein lies Putin’s great crime. The West’s reaction is not unlike that of Charlesworth the Struldbrug in Pohl and Kornbluth’s Gladiator-at-law: “We hate you, Mundin. You said we were not Almighty God.

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