The University of Arizona

Overriding Democracy: American Intervention in Yeltsin’s 1996 Reelection Campaign

David A. Strickland


Still in the recent past, the 1996 Russian presidential election has not received sufficient historical attention for an event of its magnitude. Although there has always been evidence that the United States supported Boris Yeltsin’s reelection campaign, additional documentation regarding the Clinton administration’s direct interference to that end has since surfaced. This article aims to tell the story of that intervention and assess the impact it had on Yeltsin’s unexpected 1996 electoral comeback. I will outline the strategic incentives that pushed the administration toward pro-Yeltsin policies and stances in post-Cold War Russia, including the threat that Yeltsin’s strongest opponent posed to US interests in the region. After analyzing recently declassified Yeltsin-Clinton meeting transcripts, I will argue that the US manipulated international institutions and democracy promotion to help Yeltsin win reelection. Finally, I will compare this case of electoral intervention to others in history and discuss the legacy of it in the context of US-Russia relations since 1996.

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