In the Post’s article, “Obama administration announces measures to punish Russia for 2016 election interference,” it’s stated that:
The response, unveiled just weeks before President Obama leaves office, culminates months of internal debate over how to react to Russia’s election-year provocations. In recent months, the FBI and CIA have concluded that Russia intervened repeatedly in the 2016 election, leaking damaging information in an attempt to undermine the electoral process and help Donald Trump take the White House.
The “damaging information” that was leaked, however, was disseminated by Wikileaks, and likely the result of an internal whistle-blower, not Russian operatives. Questions surrounding the veracity of America’s claims are owed to a substantial lack of evidence provided by US departments and agencies involved in both the investigation and the punitive measures applied in its wake.
However, the US’ reaction to what it claims is “2016 election interference” could significantly backfire, since the US itself is engaged in very real, overt election interference globally, and for decades. In fact, even as the US berated Russia for allegedly interfering in America’s internal politics, its own organisations, including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), funded by the US government, openly admitted they were leaking information regarding China’s internal politics in efforts to undermine Beijing.
In fact, NED and its subsidiaries (including the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI) and Freedom House) as well as myriad fronts around the world these organisations fund, support and direct, are openly dedicated to manipulating foreign elections, creating US-friendly opposition movements and even overthrowing governments that impede US interests worldwide.
The New York Times, in fact, would admit in 2011 in an article titled, “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” that:
A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights organization based in Washington, according to interviews in recent weeks and American diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.
US interference across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in 2011 would eventually lead to regional war, the complete destruction of Libya and near destruction of Syria as well as regime change in a number of nations including Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen.
NED and its subsidiaries are also busy elsewhere. In Southeast Asia, NED backs opposition parties and media fronts in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and the current US-backed government in Myanmar led by Aung San Suu Kyi whose political party and associated media organisations have been NED aid recipients for decades.
For nations in Asia like China, Malaysia and Thailand that still face significant pressure from NED-backed opposition fronts, the US’ current “retaliation” against Russia could serve as an opportunity to likewise “expel” those who could easily be characterised as “interfering” with each respective nation’s internal politics, and particularly, with elections.
Recipients of US aid (particularly media fronts) could also be dismantled under the same pretexts used by American and European powers regarding “fake news,” by citing Washington’s current actions versus Moscow.
While the US has little evidence regarding Russia’s role in leaking what were genuine e-mails revealing very real impropriety among American political circles, nations like China, Malaysia and Thailand have verified evidence that opposition fronts are funded, backed and even directed by US organisations like NED. What has been perhaps preventing these nations from dismantling these foreign-backed networks, has been the illusion of America’s pro-democracy stance. However, with the US now cracking down on whistle-blowers, opposition media and shifting tides amid American politics all based on allegations of “Russian” involvement, what is preventing other states from cracking down on verified US interference in their own internal politics?
Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.