We all know that Americans are born storytellers. It’s in their blood: literature, cinema, and journalism. They are absolute masters. Obviously, they haven’t been proven wrong this time, either, with newspaper’s commenting on Trump’s victory by introducing the effective slogan, “Putin’s revenge.”
In practice, it’s a slogan that rings like the title of a Hollywood blockbuster staring Tom Hanks that encompasses all of the interference and manipulations the Russians employed— apparently with success— during the 2016 US presidential elections, to contribute to The Donald’s election, a “friend” of their country; or, at least certainly more of a “friend” than the alternative, Hillary Clinton.
People are scandalized. And only the most objective niche of American newspapers made a fair comparison to the tactics their government has historically used to disseminate and strengthen democracy in the ex-Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries, even in terms of investments: amounts much more colossal than a Hollywood mega production.
For example, in 1992, to prop up the unstable Russian regime (and its economy), Congress approved the Freedom Support Act, which authorized a series of assistance programs for Russia as a reward for having a freely elected parliament, tax code reform, and diverse non-governmental organizations. Between 1993 and 2007, everyone who invested in US bonds helped fund $2.2 billion to “help” Russia, for a total amounting to $28 billion in favor of the 12 ex-soviet countries. Between 1992 and 1999, always as a result of pressure from the US, the IMF and World Bank lent $5 billion to the Russian government while American taxpayers “supported” them with another $9 billion. The sum of all this competes with the amount spent on the War on Terror, favoring the “transition from authoritarianism to democracy, a free market, and supporting globalization.” There are at least 20 US government agencies involved in socio-economic programs aimed at democratizing Russia.
It should be noted that the US assistance program for Russia— along with analogous programs for ex-Soviet and ex-Warsaw Pact countries— constitutes one of the most important and active non-military interventions that intruded on the politics of another (large) sovereign country in the history of humanity. Without a doubt, they were more invasive “interferences” than those Putin recently launched. However, they were done in the spirit of America’s founding principles: liberty and democracy (obviously the way they mean it). The US acted thinking they would change history, seeing a democratic-capitalist Russia as a gift to the world and its security— as well as their nation’s— after the dark years of nuclear threat during the cold war.
Did the US achieve its ambitious and expensive objective?
Clearly not. Because such an assistance program, even with the best intentions (according to the common vision the western world could give it), is considered—especially by the country subjected to it— intrinsically subversive, and it fights with every measure possible. Also because since 1999, there has been a figure of absolute importance (for good or bad) fighting for Russia— Vladimir Putin. Putin knew to concentrate “democracy” in Russia—and the same civil society— around his almost unlimited power, downsizing, year after year, everything that moved against him through American economic support.
After international sanctions—always pushed by the US— against Russia for its quasi war with Ukraine, Putin saw an opportunity in the 2016 presidential elections to return some interference to Russia’s historical enemy, also because his relationship with Trump was decidedly more friendly.
On the one hand, it’s a lesson to teach the US, definitively, that its “good intentions” for foreign politics are usually seen as intrusions fit for counterespionage of the worst kind. On the other, according to the motto, “tit for tat,” it looks like an act of revenge that probably won’t hurt anyone except for the American ego.