Jill Stein, the outsider Green candidate in the 2016 US elections, it turns out was also at that infamous Kremlin dinner with Russian despot Vladimir Putin and now-disgraced US General Michael Flynn.
For anyone living in a former Soviet country – like Ukraine or Russia – Stein’s role is immediately recognisable and is further powerful evidence of Kremlin interference in the 2016 American presidential election.
In Ukraine people like Stein are called “tekhnichni kandidaty” (technical candidates) – persons without a hope of winning themselves but put up, spouting an agenda appealing enough to split the vote of rivals from ostensibly the same part of the political spectrum.
US NBC News examined photographs of the infamous dinner and discovered that Stein was one of the others seated at Putin’s table. NBC suggests she took enough votes off Hillary Clinton to tip the election in Trump’s favour. NBC writes:
“Her vote totals in the crucial states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan were all greater than Clinton’s margin of defeat, and arguably denied Clinton an Electoral College victory.”
That’s in precise accordance with routinely-operated schemes used in former Soviet countries to help the desired, pro-government candidate (except the ones, as in Central Asia, where everyone knows the incumbent is so splendid that nobody else need exert themselves by running). The method has been commonly used in all Ukraine’s elections since 1991 independence.
Sign up for the Week in Review Email
Every Sunday: Read the week’s most read articles, watch Iain Martin’s Authors in Conversation series, listen to The Reaction podcast & receive new offers and invites.
Another dramatic similarity between the recent American election and 2014 elections in Ukraine was there involvement of Russian state-sponsored hackers. After the violent revolution that overthrew pro-Putin Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and triggered war between Ukraine and Russia, elections were held for a new parliament. Kremlin hackers actually tried to directly alter the balloting results by hacking into Ukraine’s central electoral office computers collating the counts from all the country’s constituencies.
The hackers were so confident they had circumvented Ukrainian hacking precautions that Russian TV blithely broadcast the fake results Russian hackers were feeding into the Ukrainian system and portrayed those as the results being seen by Ukrainian TV viewers. The fake results showed that Ukrainian extreme right-wing parties were sweeping the polls.
The Kremlin knew that the results would eventually be revealed as fakes and the true election outcome, in which the ultra-right got less than five percent of the vote, could be ascertained by recounting the physical ballots. But the intention was to cast doubt on the election by forcing a recount and planting the notion that a “fascist junta” was in control of Kyiv that would linger in some memories long after the true results emerged.
However, the Ukrainians had found out long before the election about Russian intentions but had not publicised them. Instead, they quietly blocked Russian hackers and broadcast the true results on Ukrainian TV. Meanwhile, the Russian channels were broadcasting the Kremlin’s fake results until they realised Ukrainian computer geeks had outwitted them. They abruptly and without explanation stopped their fake coverage.
Ukrainian media had a lot of fun showing the expressions of the Russian TV presenters and pundits when the Kremlin ruse fell apart live on air. Some of them took longer than others to realise what had happened as they hadn’t been let in on the disinformation scam.
But back to the Jill Stein and the US presidential election. The dinner in December 2015 was to celebrate the 10th anniversary of one of the Kremlin’s most formidable propaganda tools, Russia Today (RT) – its template for the fake news that has spread like a plague around the world.
Flynn took $45,000 fee to praise RT and Putin. The US intelligence community says RT engages in information warfare against American policies. Flynn was fired as Trump’s National Security Adviser after it emerged he had unauthorised discussions with the Russian ambassador in Washington about the US sanctions against Moscow.
But RT also lavished much broadcast time to give Stein’s 2016 campaign positive coverage. Inevitably now questions will, and should be, asked about what other help Moscow might have given to Stein and who were the donors who paid for her campaign.