The Washington watchwords of the day seem to be "outside electoral interference", in particular, referring to the alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election which saw the "insiders' candidate of choice" go down in flames. Given the history of the United States since the Second World War, one would think that they would be familiar with the concept of "outside electoral interference", particularly given the conclusions of a study by Dov Levin at Carnegie Mellon University.
Dr. Levin's Ph.D dissertation looked at the causes and effects of outside partisan electoral interventions by the world's superpowers, the United States and the U.S.S.R./Russia, over the post-Second World War period between 1946 and 2000. In his recent article in Conflict Management and Peace Science, he establishes a dataset called the Partisan Electoral Intervention by the Great Powers or PEIG which "provides data on all such interventions". Rather than focussing on the more violent political interventions like those in Iran in 1953, Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Chile in 1973, he looks at less obvious versions of non-violent partisan electoral intervention. As well, he notes some patterns in the data which strongly contrast the publicly accepted versions of history as written by the two superpowers.
Let's look at the definition of a partisan political invention:
A partisan political intervention is "...a situation in which one or more sovereign countries intentionally undertakes specific actions to influence an upcoming election in another sovereign country in an overt or covert manner which they believe will favour or hurt one of the sides contesting that election and which incurs, or may incur, significant costs to the intervener(s) or the intervened country."
The acts must meet two criteria:
1.) the act must be done intentionally to help or hurt one of the sides contesting the election.
2.) the act must clearly carry significant costs that were immediate (i.e. the cost of subsidizing the preferred candidate's election) and/or long-term (i.e. the loss of prestige if the intervention fails or long-term damage to relations once the act is completed or exposed).
Here is a table showing the main activities that were coded by the author as an intervention and those that were excluded:
Partisan electoral interventions can have a very significant impact on the outcome of elections, quite often determining the winner. Not only can the interference impact the outcome of the election, they can impact the views of the local public on the intervening nation and ultimately impact the nation's domestic and foreign policies.
With that background, let's look at the results. Overall, between January 1, 1946 and December 31, 2000, there were 117 partisan electoral interventions made by the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia with 81 or 69 percent being conducted by the United States and 36 or 31 percent being conducted by the Soviet Union/Russia. This means that, between 1946 and 2000, the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia politically interfered in one of every nine global national-level elections. This compares to 18 foreign-imposed regime changes (i.e. military invasions and covert coups) conducted by the two nations over the same time period and 53 significant military interventions which included the deployment of at least 500 soldiers.
Here is a graphic showing the number of electoral interventions by decade for each of the two superpowers:
Here is a graphic showing the number of electoral interventions by region for the USSR/Russia between 1946 and 2000:
Here is a graphic showing the number of electoral interventions by region for the United States between 1946 and 2000:
The Russians intervened the most in Europe whereas the United States intervened the most in Asia. A total of 60 different nations were subjected to superpower electoral shenanigans with 19.5 percent of all electoral interventions occurring in founding elections.
Here is a listing of the top five targets of electoral interventions for the Soviet Union/Russia and the number of interventions:
West Germany: 5 interventions
Finland: 4 interventions
Italy: 4 interventions
France: 2 interventions
India: 2 interventions
Here is a listing of the top five targets of electoral interventions for the United States and the number of intervention attempts:
Italy: 8 interventions
Japan: 5 interventions
Israel: 4 interventions
Laos: 4 interventions
Sri Lanka: 4 interventions
While the study doesn't show political interference in either superpower nation by the other superpower, it clearly shows that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union/Russia have the rights to brag about non-interference in the political affairs of other nations. In this case, the pot and the kettle are both black.