The Obama administration described Russia as interfering with the 2016 presidential election. As far as I can tell, the complaint isn't merely limited to a phishing scam against Podesta, but a widespread mobilisation of sentiment against Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Did the US, under the Obama administration, interfere with the elections of other countries? Bonus points for using definitions of interference used by the Obama administration against them if they were guilty of interference.

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    Are you requesting information on clandestine psychological operations and counter intelligence operations to impact foreign elections? Or are you asking for evidence of soft-power projection to sway sovereign states into a particular course of action. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_power They are different things and it is unlikely that you can find an authoritative source for any orders or direction from any member of any administration. Feb 25, 2017 at 11:28
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    If you are interested only in covert actions, we may never know. But certainly the US did interefere in Israel as well as in Ukraine. Is your question may be more about the degrees to which the Obama administration interfered in other countries' elections compared with the degree to which Russia meddled in US elections?
    – user5155
    Feb 25, 2017 at 14:09
  • @JeffLambert - www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2015/mar/25/blog-posting/blog-claims-us-funded-anti-netanyahu-election-effo/ - Politifact rates that claim about Israel as "mostly false." May 12, 2017 at 15:56
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    You may be interested to know that Clinton herself openly supported the idea of interfering in foreign elections before she was SoS. google.com/…
    – J Doe
    May 12, 2017 at 21:54
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    @JeffLambert - This is one of those five degrees of Kevin Bacon claims, where, under this criteria, anyone who ever gave money to anything could be claimed to have "unofficially" or "indirectly" influenced something. Again, the money was spent before Netanyahu decided he wanted to call an early election. You need add magical time travel powers to make this claim stick. May 15, 2017 at 13:51

3 Answers 3


TL;DR: The USA has interfered in election in the past. It is extremely likely the USA has interfered in elections in the present. No evidence currently exists to prove it. Sanctions are not interference, trade statements are not interference, foreign influence and regime change are not interfering in elections. A careful cross-referencing of intelligence leaks with the election calendar may find something.

Barack Obama has been the President of the United States of America for 2 terms, totalling January 20, 2009 – January 20, 2017.

There is a fairly well cited summary of his foreign policy effort at his wikipedia page.

Let me begin by saying that it is inconceivable that every and any administration in the United States has not interfered in elections either directly or indirectly. That is the role of foreign intelligence services (FIS) possibly with military support. Proving a particular event is another matter.

Do sanctions count as election hacking?

This report by von Soest, Christian, and Michael Wahman argues quite clearly that sanctions are a tool to promote western democratic ideals onto nations. However they are considered relatively weak and ineffective.

If you class sanctions as an attempt to distort sovereign elections then the Obama Administration extended sanctions against Iran in 2016.

Does Regime Change count as interfering in elections?

My initial assessment is to say no since leaders in non-Democratic nations don't have a democratic mandate from the populace that Western nations can be accused of interfering in. They are affecting change in a sovereign nation; but that is not the same of interfering with independent, democratic elections whereby the populace are attempting to enforce their free will.

If you subscribe to this assessment we can rule out US intervention in the Middle East as "election-rigging or hacking."


In Budapest in December 1994 the Ukraine Memorandum of Security Assurances was signed. This document was designed to protect the integrity of the Ukrainian state through "Welcoming the accession of Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as a non-nuclear-weapon State."

One of the key tenets of the Memorandum was the following;

The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defense or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

It is against this backdrop the USA and Russia have made move, counter-move and pre-emptive moves to ensure that the Ukraine maintains sovereign status and does not fall within the sphere of one power bloc or the EU. Accusations of the USA supplying material aid to rebels can be argued successfully that they are protecting the democratic integrity of the nation by countering Russian attempts to bring Ukraine back within the sphere of the Russian nation-state; events which played out in former Caucuses theatre in the last 10 years (Crimea etc). For instance Russia, using Gazprom as a tool of state power, famously cut off the gas to Ukraine.

How you view this interfering is largely through the prism of how you see Obama and Russia. Is Russia merely attempting to maintain control of it's access to the Black Sea and the European Theatre and ensure Ukraine does not join the EU or is Obama rightfully protecting a democratic Bishop on a larger chess board of strategy? Your own political persuasion could make this argument either way.

What you could do

Fortunately a consolidated list of worldwide elections is contained in the following Wikipedia pages

and so on until 2017.

As you can see; the list is in the thousands and these are just major elections. In order to find verifiable proof of election rigging you would need a sound investigative basis.

You could start by cross-referencing each of these years with the various leaked caches of intelligence documents found in Wikileaks, for example;

Afghan War Logs which contain 91,000 documents covering all aspects of the PMESII factors in Central Asia.

You could also simply trawl all of the major Wikileaks publications which could help you target your efforts.

What we know for certain

we know that the United States eavesdropped on confidential Heads of State including trade deals etc all of which could help direct domestic affairs. But even a cursory reading of historical intelligence operations would remind us that every nation does this regularly.

Not proof of election rigging

For instance, there is a Russian intelligence gathering and electronic warfare ship parked off the shore of the United States right now. Military doctrine states that the first 100 miles inland of any country are the preserve of Naval Electronic Warfare so it's likely that the ship can gather electro-magnetic signals as far afield as Philadelpha and Washington. The ship is the Viktor Leonov out of interest and it is a Vishnya-class intelligence ship.

Historical Precedent

There are 10 excellent examples of the USA interfering in sovereign elections but they occurred long before Obama.

  • Italy 1948
  • Vietnam 1955
  • Syria 1949
  • Iran 1953
  • Guatemala 1954
  • Brazil 1964
  • Chile 1973
  • Congo 1960
  • Turkey 1980
  • Nicaragua 1984


To truly investigate this, you would be conducting the work of numerous intelligence agencies who have massive staff counts and world-class data import, cleansing, processing and exporting facilities including Palantir.

Failing that; your only recourse is to run a number of Google searches for investigative journalism that has looked into election interference by Obama but unfortunately any key string is likely to be contaminated with the events of the US 2016 Presidential Election Campaign.

The problem with such a rebuttal (Obama did it too!) against the allegations against Donald Trump is that the intelligence community of the United States itself is the one confirming the existence of election interference by Russia. They are not as likely to confirm that they themselves had broken international law by diverting the course of a sovereign nation's elections.

The intelligence community, normally reserved and stoic, taking such an unprecedented steer to inform the populace of the United States should be equally alarming and reassuring to all citizens of that nation.

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    Thank you for writing such a long answer and finding so many sources, but unfortunately your answer isn't actually answering the question. You are just providing a conclusion what research one would need to do to actually answer the question. I know that it must be frustrating to invest that much work into research and then just end up hitting roadblocks. But when you discover that the work which would be required to properly answer the question would be unreasonable, please vote to close as too broad.
    – Philipp
    Feb 25, 2017 at 13:09
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    Yes, you are right. That would have been advisable. I don't think it's necessarily too broad. I just don't think anyone can find proof. Feb 25, 2017 at 13:14
  • "Accusations of the USA supplying material aid to rebels" - which rebels? The current rebels are pro-Russia, not pro-US.
    – Golden Cuy
    Feb 26, 2017 at 3:09
  • Rebels was the term used by the Russian Foreign Minister in describing US actions pre-2014. It's one of the cited sources IIRC. As you say, since 2014 the use of the word rebel has been reserved for pro-Russian elements. Feb 26, 2017 at 3:15

Barack Obama "interfered" in the Brexit vote rather openly.

“I think it’s fair to say that maybe some point down the line there might be a US-UK trade agreement, but it’s not going to happen any time soon because our focus is in negotiating with a big bloc, the European Union, to get a trade agreement done,” he said at a joint conference with David Cameron in April. “The UK is going to be in the back of the queue.”

Some believe that Obama interfered in Israeli elections. Of course, the net result of that was to strengthen the person that Obama did not want to win. And British Prime Minister Theresa May's office criticized the Obama administration for complaining about the makeup of Israel's government.

Under Obama, the United States (US) interfered in Ukraine, Egypt, and Libya. On one hand, these were more successful. The previous governments were ousted. On the other hand, Ukraine's in the middle of a war with a Russia; Egypt elected their version of the Taliban, followed by a coup; Libya remains a mess.

Obama made very clear that he thought that Bashar al-Assad should go in Syria.

Of course, the last four examples aren't elections. But they are examples of the larger theme of regime change.

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    I don't consider the Obama declaration about free trade with the EU and the USA to be an interference. It was simply contrary to what the Brexit proponents wanted to hear. As an elected leader being told that the UK would be seeking bi-lateral trade links he had every reason to give his honest assessment that those trade agreements were not planned, not in scope and not likely to progress as quickly as Brexiters were indicating. Feb 25, 2017 at 15:15
  • I vaguely remember that Obama semi-openly endorsed one of the candidates in one of India's elections, but I can't find the link right now. Ill post back if I find it. Feb 25, 2017 at 18:39
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    Though you did wrap it in quotes, I don't think this really meets the definition of "interfered"--with or without the quotes.
    – user1530
    Feb 25, 2017 at 18:49
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    None of those was meddling in an free and open election to alter the outcome of who runs the government, which is what the OP is asking about. May 12, 2017 at 13:52
  • @PoloHoleSet By that standard, Russia didn't interfere in the US election. Yet the question assumes that Russia did: "a widespread mobilisation of sentiment against Obama and Hillary Clinton." Obama certainly did attempt to mobilize sentiment against Brexit.
    – Brythan
    May 12, 2017 at 14:35

Did the US, under the Obama administration, interfere with the elections of other countries?

Some of that may require a link to NSA archives, ;). alternatively, Nuland and her ukraine friends could help providing authoritative answers on that question.

But seriously, not only we interfere in elections (we practically ran the elections in iraq and afghanistan for example), we regime-change if an election turns out against our liking.

and we have been doing that consistently over the last few decades.

we haven't learned not to dish out if we don't want to be at the receiving end of our own stick.

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    "we regime-change if an election turns out against our liking. and we have been doing that consistently over the last few decades." This really requires for some proper examples.
    – Philipp
    Feb 25, 2017 at 12:10
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    Nothing you have posted has a cited reference. The elections in Iraq were ran by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq under the auspices of the United Nations and dozens of international bodies and humanitarian organisations. More to the point, Barack Obama was elected in 2008 - a full 3 years AFTER the elections in Iraq and the 6 years after the establishment of the Government Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA). news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4555850.stm Feb 25, 2017 at 12:31
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    Can you cite a regime change of a democratic leader? You asserted this in your statement "we regime-change if an election turns out against our liking." Do you have an example of a regime change because we didn't like a democratic vote? Feb 26, 2017 at 0:10
  • @Philipp - it's more that doing it for decades does not address the question about Obama doing it. However, examples do abound, Iran and the installation of the Shah being the most blatant one. May 12, 2017 at 13:55

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