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Meddling 101: This is how the US rigs elections in Russia, Georgia, and worldwide

As it turns out, Russia is a total amateur and the election meddling business

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(New Eastern Outlook) – Whenever national-level elections take place in any country, other countries have an interest in the outcome. Major powers want to make sure smaller ones continue to toe-the-line, or are ripe for conversion to their side of the argument. Smaller countries want to remain, or become, first in the queue when new aid or partnership arrangements are discussed. So every country tries to influence elections, in the same way they try and influence governments when they are in power.

Sometimes this attempt to influence takes absurd forms. At the 2008 US Presidential election Mikheil Saakashvili and his cronies in Georgia were openly canvassing for John McCain, and putting McCain bumper stickers on their cars. Very few Georgian citizens are able to vote in US elections, and those who can are not likely to be swayed by the antics of some other country’s president. Then when McCain lost, Saakashvili said how much Barack Obama had supported Georgia and spent three months running round the US trying to force him to meet him, while Obama’s agents tracked his movements and shepherded their boss out of any place Saakashvili turned up.

But for over two centuries it was Russia, not Georgia, which was thought to be the world leader in vote rigging. The classic example of a country influencing another’s election was held to be the Russian army surrounding the Polish nobles who were electing their new king in 1764. Though the Russians didn’t actually surround the field as depicted, this behaviour resulted in an association being made in the public mind between “Russia” and “rigged elections”. The long years of Russian domination of Eastern Europe under the Soviet system only magnified this perception.

So perhaps it is surprising that the Russia-hating West is only now accusing The Kremlin of rigging a Western election, despite the hundreds we have seen in Western Europe since then. As a result of the allegations against Donald Trump, and the widespread desire to pin anything on him which might remove him from office, the hand of Russia is now being seen everywhere: for example, links have been alleged between The Kremlin and Robert Mercer’s Cambridge Analytica, which has targeted articles in this journal, even though Mercer’s politics are far removed from Putin’s.

But is rigging elections a uniquely Russian phenomenon? Is it even a largely Russian trait? If you want to know about rigged elections, you need to ask those who know. You won’t have any difficulty understanding the answer because these experts speak English, after a fashion. What Russia did in 1764 has been developed into such a sophisticated weapon by its enemies that it is like comparing a bicycle with a motor car.

Blank cheques for marked ballots

When Watergate was being investigated one of the key figures in the scandal was the lawyer Don Segretti, who had run the dirty tricks campaign undertaken by Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President. Amongst other things, Segretti had produced faked letters on stolen notepaper which smeared every serious Democratic candidate and caused each one to drop out, one by one. Segretti himself regarded this behaviour as inconsequential, compared with what he had been doing in college whilst studying for a career serving justice.

In consequence Nixon ran against George McGovern, the opponent he had wanted all along, who could be presented as a wild, anti-American radical out of touch with “decent” people. Nixon won by a landslide, and only when the actions of people like Segretti become known was he forced to resign.

Segretti was sent to prison. But apparently he is still seen as a good man to have around, even today. He lives in Orange County, California, and as recently as 2000 was the co-chair of the presidential campaign of – you guessed it – John McCain.

Five years before he had stood for election as a judge in the county, and had to withdraw when he realised people had still not forgiven him for Watergate. That didn’t stop McCain believing him to be a suitable person to help his own ambitions, aided by a strange silence from the Senate’s Ethics Committee.

The US and its compliant allies don’t rig elections by sending the army to surround the polling stations. They send the army in if the results are not to the White House’s liking, as in Ukraine, Iran and many other places.

But there are many ways to skin a cat. The Western world is able to identify alleged election rigging because most of the examples it has seen are not Soviet, the sort of thing you would expect in a dictatorship you don’t agree with, but American, and therefore attract greater suspicion and comment.

Bend it, break it

A common rigging tactic is limiting choice. In any “reconstruction”, it is the “liberators” who decide which parties are allowed to stand for election. Those they deem unacceptable are treated as anti-state forces which should not exist. Yet nevertheless the world is told that the options available represent the entire political spectrum, and thus the government is a product of democratic choice.

Uganda is one place where this has happened again and again. The old president is removed, and then his supporters are declared enemies and either excluded from participating in elections or massacred. When that still doesn’t work, other methods are used.

The 1980 elections were held after the overthrow of the notorious Idi Amin, who had alienated all Western nations. The West wanted his predecessor Milton Obote to return, rather than the once-dominant Baganda people, represented by the Democratic Party, being allowed to run the country. Though the Democratic Party got fractionally more votes than Obote’s UPC it won 25 fewer seats because many UPC candidates were elected unopposed. Strangely enough, they had stood in Baganda areas known to be Democratic Party strongholds.

But often restricting choice has the opposite effect. You end up with a bunch of people all as bad as each other, because no one has ever had to respond to public opinion. In such cases, the opposite is done: a new saviour is parachuted in from nowhere as the favoured son of the Western sponsors who provide the only way out of the mess the politicians are alleged to have made, though it was those who restricted public choice who actually created this problem.

Spinning Yeltsin

Russians remember who gave them Yeltin, and how they did it. There was even a movie made about it. Even today the media is speaking of how highly paid and catered US advisors used polling company methods, focus groups, negative campaigning and rigging polls to ensure that Yeltsin won that election. This was followed by the wholesale looting of Russia under the guise of market economics, conducted by hired gun economic advisors, often funded by USAID and the World Bank. So this practice isn’t going to end anytime soon, if ever.

Writing the book again

In this field as in any other, if you want to see what the US wants to do anywhere given the chance you look at what is happening in Georgia. Georgians are used to both these methods being used. After the overthrow of the first democratically elected Georgian president Zviad Gamsakhurdia, with Western help, all the parties which supported him boycotted subsequent elections.

When the West got tired of its poster boy Shevardnadze it promoted Saakashvili to replace him, and after him Bidzina Ivanishvili, who was only necessary because no opposition politician in situ had any credibility. In all three cases, the public was left in no doubt what the West wanted and would get. Elections were meaningless, because the people would have to kick their Western sponsors out to change anything, and no one knows how to do it.

Jeffrey Silverman, Veterans Today Bureau Chief in Georgia, has seen it all. This is what he had to say about the forthcoming Georgian elections in a recent interview with the Georgian media:

“Whoever has the most money and government support will win, and that is already decided. Like it was before, with the UNM, the Georgian Dream has all the material resources it needs because it is the majority party. The margin of victory will not be large, but just enough for the winning party to claim “free and fair” elections.

“Georgian politics are really much more complicated than that, but much of the problem as to why “multi-party democracy” does not work in Georgia derives from who controls the media and the people’s level of education. Real issues are not being discussed, and elections are more a beauty contest about who has the best looking family and most impressive dog. Debate is non-existent or superficial at best.

“The US government gave too much money and trust to so-called “democratic organisations”, and then put “all its eggs in one basket” after the 2003 Rose Revolution, which was more a staged performance than anything close to a revolution. That is where most of the problem started with elections. For all practical purposes, Georgia still has a single party system. They can pretend to be different but they are all the same trash, “იგივე ნაგავი“– and that is the civilised translation.

Khurcha Incident

“I have seen with my own eyes how election fraud is carried out, as I was once an election monitor in Zugdidi with the Human Rights Centre in May 2008 and also was involved in investigating the Khurcha Incident together with the Georgian Human Rights Centre Norwegian Helsinki Committee. This investigation was the basis for the UN conclusion which confirmed that the attack was planned.

“The US and UNM worked hand in hand to provide a distraction from their stealing of the election back in 2008, and could have started a war over Abkhazia in the process. Let’s not forget what happened, and how the Potomac Institute, a Washington-based think tank, was involved in rigging elections in Georgia. I have written several reports and articles on this topic, and personally know many details which would seriously impact Georgia’s attitude towards the United States if totally made public.

“Democratic elections have never been a priority of the United States. It puts its own National Security Interests first, which is why it was so willing to support and turn a blind eye to election fraud and human rights violations. Just look at its track record in South America for starters, and they is no question as why they so hate the US government.

“Once the UNM got into power it cut back on funding independent NGOs and put money into government pockets. Much of the money stolen from various US-sponsored programmes was used as payoff for election fraud. That practice goes back to the period of Shevardnadze and the Citizens Union: even food aid, delivered under the American “Food for Peace Program” and other mechanisms of assistance to IDPs, was distributed during election rallies as part of the US government efforts to influence elections.

Care International and UMCOR were two of the NGOs much involved in such schemes. I worked with another part of the US government, providing information, about such schemes, Office of Inspector General, OIG. They were able to investigate such manipulations, and found that many of these were organised by the US State Department and the CIA. However, nothing could be done but to move but were not able to do anything about it.

Free from political bias

Keep in mind; he adds that, “Assistance to Georgia is supposed to be free from political bias, at least in theory. But in practice a Georgian NGO could lose its funding if it started asking questions about the government in office. Having purchased the government it wanted, the UNM, the US was not going to have the Georgian people complaining about its choice. USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, is especially guilty of providing the means to meddle in the democratic process, but it is only one organisation at the top of a long list: for example, the NDI, National Democratic Institute, and the National Endowment for Democracy, NED, are simply fronts for manipulating and changing governments.

“One only has to compare the reports published by NDI with those of the OSCE and local NGOs, like the Human Rights Centre, to get a full picture of how far the US government is willing to lie about election processes and try and whitewash massive corruption. If you also look at the media coverage, especially in the English language press, you get a full picture of how the US supported the UNM over other parties, and either ignored or under-reported intimidation of opposition parties and voters, faked election lists, people voting at different polling stations on the same day, and how the electoral commissions were packed with people close to the ruling party”.

Pattern perception

Hillary Clinton has emerged from hiding to make a series of statements about how and why she lost the presidential election to Trump. She has even begun to admit she might have made mistakes in that campaign.

But no matter what Clinton apologises for, she will never admit that one of the reasons for her defeat was that her own supporters had seen how she won the nomination. Long before it was mathematically certain, the press insisted she would be the candidate, and she had only got to that position by excluding registered voters in various states who supported Bernie Sanders. This may be OK in Third World countries the US sponsors, but not the US itself. However obnoxious Trump was to many, Hillary’s vote rigging made her the devil they knew only too well.

Why did she think she could get away with it? Because the US has made rigging votes in other countries a standard official practice. Getting the result which suits the US is more important than how it is done. As a political insider and former Secretary of State, Clinton would know the fine details of such schemes as well as anyone.

Duck Test

Next time you hear people talking about mysterious Russians rigging elections, ask how they know. The rest of the world can only identify vote rigging because they have seen it so often in the Western-backed countries they are more familiar with – and as Americans say, if it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

Americans wrote the play book as how to rig elections.

Credit: Seth Ferris

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Multipolar World Order in the Making: Qatar Dumps OPEC

Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The decision by Qatar to abandon OPEC threatens to redefine the global energy market, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s growing difficulties and the growing influence of the Russian Federation in the OPEC+ mechanism.

In a surprising statement, Qatari energy minister Saad al-Kaabi warned OPEC on Monday December 3 that his country had sent all the necessary documentation to start the country’s withdrawal from the oil organization in January 2019. Al-Kaabi stressed that the decision had nothing to do with recent conflicts with Riyadh but was rather a strategic choice by Doha to focus on the production of LNG, which Qatar, together with the Russian Federation, is one of the largest global exporters of. Despite an annual oil extraction rate of only 1.8% of the total of OPEC countries (about 600,000 barrels a day), Qatar is one of the founding members of the organization and has always had a strong political influence on the governance of the organization. In a global context where international relations are entering a multipolar phase, things like cooperation and development become fundamental; so it should not surprise that Doha has decide to abandon OPEC. OPEC is one of the few unipolar organizations that no longer has a meaningful purpose in 2018, given the new realities governing international relations and the importance of the Russian Federation in the oil market.

Besides that, Saudi Arabia requires the organization to maintain a high level of oil production due to pressure coming from Washington to achieve a very low cost per barrel of oil. The US energy strategy targets Iranian and Russian revenue from oil exports, but it also aims to give the US a speedy economic boost. Trump often talks about the price of oil falling as his personal victory. The US imports about 10 million barrels of oil a day, which is why Trump wrongly believes that a decrease in the cost per barrel could favor a boost to the US economy. The economic reality shows a strong correlation between the price of oil and the financial growth of a country, with low prices of crude oil often synonymous of a slowing down in the economy.

It must be remembered that to keep oil prices low, OPEC countries are required to maintain a high rate of production, doubling the damage to themselves. Firstly, they take less income than expected and, secondly, they deplete their oil reserves to favor the strategy imposed by Saudi Arabia on OPEC to please the White House. It is clearly a strategy that for a country like Qatar (and perhaps Venezuela and Iran in the near future) makes little sense, given the diplomatic and commercial rupture with Riyadh stemming from tensions between the Gulf countries.

In contrast, the OPEC+ organization, which also includes other countries like the Russian Federation, Mexico and Kazakhstan, seems to now to determine oil and its cost per barrel. At the moment, OPEC and Russia have agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day, contradicting Trump’s desire for high oil output.

With this last choice Qatar sends a clear signal to the region and to traditional allies, moving to the side of OPEC+ and bringing its interests closer in line with those of the Russian Federation and its all-encompassing oil and gas strategy, two sectors in which Qatar and Russia dominate market share.

In addition, Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey (a future energy hub connecting east and west as well as north and south) and Venezuela. In this sense, the meeting between Maduro and Erdogan seems to be a prelude to further reorganization of OPEC and its members.

The declining leadership role of Saudi Arabia in the oil and financial market goes hand in hand with the increase of power that countries like Qatar and Russia in the energy sectors are enjoying. The realignment of energy and finance signals the evident decline of the Israel-US-Saudi Arabia partnership. Not a day goes by without corruption scandals in Israel, accusations against the Saudis over Khashoggi or Yemen, and Trump’s unsuccessful strategies in the commercial, financial or energy arenas. The path this doomed

trio is taking will only procure less influence and power, isolating them more and more from their opponents and even historical allies.

Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi, the Eurasian powerhouses, seem to have every intention, as seen at the trilateral summit in Buenos Aires, of developing the ideal multipolar frameworks to avoid continued US dominance of the oil market through shale revenues or submissive allies as Saudi Arabia, even though the latest spike in production is a clear signal from Riyadh to the USA. In this sense, Qatar’s decision to abandon OPEC and start a complex and historical discussion with Moscow on LNG in the format of an enlarged OPEC marks the definitive decline of Saudi Arabia as a global energy power, to be replaced by Moscow and Doha as the main players in the energy market.

Qatar’s decision is, officially speaking, unconnected to the feud triggered by Saudi Arabia against the small emirate. However, it is evident that a host of factors has led to this historic decision. The unsuccessful military campaign in Yemen has weakened Saudi Arabia on all fronts, especially militarily and economically. The self-inflicted fall in the price of oil is rapidly consuming Saudi currency reserves, now at a new low of less than 500 billion dollars. Events related to Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) have de-legitimized the role of Riyadh in the world as a reliable diplomatic interlocutor. The internal and external repression by the Kingdom has provoked NGOs and governments like Canada’s to issue public rebukes that have done little to help MBS’s precarious position.

In Syria, the victory of Damascus and her allies has consolidated the role of Moscow in the region, increased Iranian influence, and brought Turkey and Qatar to the multipolar side, with Tehran and Moscow now the main players in the Middle East. In terms of military dominance, there has been a clear regional shift from Washington to Moscow; and from an energy perspective, Doha and Moscow are turning out to be the winners, with Riyadh once again on the losing side.

As long as the Saudi royal family continues to please Donald Trump, who is prone to catering to Israeli interests in the region, the situation of the Kingdom will only get worse. The latest agreement on oil production between Moscow and Riyad signals that someone in the Saudi royal family has probably figured this out.

Countries like Turkey, India, China, Russia and Iran understand the advantages of belonging to a multipolar world, thereby providing a collective geopolitical ballast that is mutually beneficial. The energy alignment between Qatar and the Russian Federation seems to support this general direction, a sort of G2 of LNG gas that will only strengthen the position of Moscow on the global chessboard, while guaranteeing a formidable military umbrella for Doha in case of a further worsening of relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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Constantinople: Ukrainian Church leader is now uncanonical

October 12 letter proclaims Metropolitan Onuphry as uncanonical and tries to strong-arm him into acquiescing through bribery and force.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The pressure in Ukraine kept ratcheting up over the last few days, with a big revelation today that Patriarch Bartholomew now considers Metropolitan Onuphy “uncanonical.” This news was published on 6 December by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (running under the Moscow Patriarchate).

This assessment marks a complete 180-degree turn by the leader of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, and it further embitters the split that has developed to quite a major row between this church’s leadership and the Moscow Patriarchate.

OrthoChristian reported this today (we have added emphasis):

A letter of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine was published yesterday by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in which the Patriarch informed the Metropolitan that his title and position is, in fact, uncanonical.

This assertion represents a negation of the position held by Pat. Bartholomew himself until April of this year, when the latest stage in the Ukrainian crisis began…

The same letter was independently published by the Greek news agency Romfea today as well.

It is dated October 12, meaning it was written just one day after Constantinople made its historic decision to rehabilitate the Ukrainian schismatics and rescind the 1686 document whereby the Kiev Metropolitanate was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church, thereby, in Constantinople’s view, taking full control of Ukraine.

In the letter, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that after the council, currently scheduled for December 15, he will no longer be able to carry his current title of “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.”

The Patriarch immediately opens his letter with Constantinople’s newly-developed historical claim about the jurisdictional alignment of Kiev: “You know from history and from indisputable archival documents that the holy Metropolitanate of Kiev has always belonged to the jurisdiction of the Mother Church of Constantinople…”

Constantinople has done an about-face on its position regarding Ukraine in recent months, given that it had previously always recognized the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate as the sole canonical primate in Ukraine.

…The bulk of the Patriarch’s letter is a rehash of Constantinople’s historical and canonical arguments, which have already been laid out and discussed elsewhere. (See also here and here). Pat. Bartholomew also writes that Constantinople stepped into the Ukrainian ecclesiastical sphere as the Russian Church had not managed to overcome the schisms that have persisted for 30 years.

It should be noted that the schisms began and have persisted precisely as anti-Russian movements and thus the relevant groups refused to accept union with the Russian Church.

Continuing, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that his position and title are uncanonical:

Addressing you as ‘Your Eminence the Metropolitan of Kiev’ as a form of economia [indulgence/condescension—OC] and mercy, we inform you that after the elections for the primate of the Ukrainian Church by a body that will consist of clergy and laity, you will not be able ecclesiologically and canonically to bear the title of Metropolitan of Kiev, which, in any case, you now bear in violation of the described conditions of the official documents of 1686.

He also entreats Met. Onuphry to “promptly and in a spirit of harmony and unity” participate, with the other hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in the founding council of the new Ukrainian church that Constantinople is planning to create, and in the election of its primate.

The Constantinople head also writes that he “allows” Met. Onuphry to be a candidate for the position of primate.

He further implores Met. Onuphry and the UOC hierarchy to communicate with Philaret Denisenko, the former Metropolitan of Kiev, and Makary Maletich, the heads of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” and the schismatic “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” respectively—both of which have been subsumed into Constantinople—but whose canonical condemnations remain in force for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The hierarchs of the Serbian and Polish Churches have also officially rejected the rehabilitation of the Ukrainian schismatics.

Pat. Bartholomew concludes expressing his confidence that Met. Onuphry will decide to heal the schism through the creation of a new church in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Metropolitan Onuphry’s leadership is recognized as the sole canonical Orthodox jurisdiction in Ukraine by just about every other canonical Orthodox Jurisdiction besides Constantinople. Even NATO member Albania, whose expressed reaction was “both sides are wrong for recent actions” still does not accept the canonicity of the “restored hierarchs.”

In fact, about the only people in this dispute that seem to be in support of the “restored” hierarchs, Filaret and Makary, are President Poroshenko, Patriarch Bartholomew, Filaret and Makary… and NATO.

While this letter was released to the public eye yesterday, the nearly two months that Metropolitan Onuphry has had to comply with it have not been helped in any way by the actions of both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Ukrainian government.

Priests of the Canonical Church in Ukraine awaiting interrogation by the State authorities

For example, in parallel reports released on December 6th, the government is reportedly accusing canonical priests in Ukraine of treason because they are carrying and distributing a brochure entitled (in English): The Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Relations with the State. The Attitude Towards the Conflict in Donbass and to the Church Schism. Questions and Answers.

In a manner that would do any American liberal proud, these priests are being accused of inciting religious hatred, though really all they are doing is offering an explanation for the situation in Ukraine as it exists.

A further piece also released yesterday notes that the Ukrainian government rehabilitated an old Soviet-style technique of performing “inspections of church artifacts” at the Pochaev Lavra. This move appears to be both intended to intimidate the monastics who are living there now, who are members of the canonical Church, as well as preparation for an expected forcible takeover by the new “united Church” that is under creation. The brotherhood characterized the inspections in this way:

The brotherhood of the Pochaev Lavra previously characterized the state’s actions as communist methods of putting pressure on the monastery and aimed at destroying monasticism.

Commenting on the situation with the Pochaev Lavra, His Eminence Archbishop Clement of Nizhyn and Prilusk, the head of the Ukrainian Church’s Information-Education Department, noted:

This is a formal raiding, because no reserve ever built the Pochaev Lavra, and no Ministry of Culture ever invested a single penny to restoring the Lavra, and the state has done nothing to preserve the Lavra in its modern form. The state destroyed the Lavra, turned it into a psychiatric hospital, a hospital for infectious diseases, and so on—the state has done nothing more. And now it just declares that it all belongs to the state. No one asked the Church, the people that built it. When did the Lavra and the land become state property? They belonged to the Church from time immemorial.

With the massive pressure both geopolitically and ecclesiastically building in Ukraine almost by the day, it is anyone’s guess what will happen next.

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Ukrainian leadership is a party of war, and it will continue as long as they’re in power – Putin

“We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

RT

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Via RT…


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has branded the Ukrainian leadership a “party of war” which would continue fueling conflicts while they stay in power, giving the recent Kerch Strait incident as an example.

“When I look at this latest incident in the Black Sea, all what’s happening in Donbass – everything indicates that the current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this situation at all, especially in a peaceful way,” Putin told reporters during a media conference in the aftermath of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This is a party of war and as long as they stay in power, all such tragedies, all this war will go on.

The Kiev authorities are craving war primarily for two reasons – to rip profits from it, and to blame all their own domestic failures on it and actions of some sort of “aggressors.”

“As they say, for one it’s war, for other – it’s mother. That’s reason number one why the Ukrainian government is not interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Putin stated.

Second, you can always use war to justify your failures in economy, social policy. You can always blame things on an aggressor.

This approach to statecraft by the Ukrainian authorities deeply concerns Russia’s President. “We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been soaring after the incident in the Kerch Strait. Last weekend three Ukrainian Navy ships tried to break through the strait without seeking the proper permission from Russia. Following a tense stand-off and altercation with Russia’s border guard, the vessels were seized and their crews detained over their violation of the country’s border.

While Kiev branded the incident an act of “aggression” on Moscow’s part, Russia believes the whole Kerch affair to be a deliberate “provocation” which allowed Kiev to declare a so-called “partial” martial law ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election.

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