He added that the EU tried to suppress a report about media manipulation submitted by a Belgian colleague working for an EU institution. When he was barred from releasing the report, he handed it over to Meadowcroft, who released it to the media as a private citizen. Few noticed or cared at the time.
Instead, here's the kind of spin Western publics heard after the 1996 election:
"The preliminary conclusion of the IRI delegation is that this election was Russia's best ever and reflected the great strides made by the Russian people in institutionalizing their democracy." American observer William Ball III, of the US-funded International Republican Institute NGO, July 1996.
"Voting was held... in a democratic, impartial and fair manner." Ernst Meulemann, an observer from the Council of Europe, July 1996.
"Now it's true that President Yeltsin used his incumbency to his own advantage. It's also true that the Communist candidate, Mr. Zyuganov, used the fact that the Communist Party, the Russian Federation, has a huge grassroots organization, by far the best, the biggest, and most complex organization in Russia, to its advantage. But a number of international observers have judged this to be a free and fair election." Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, July 1996.
"For all the mutual distrust and suspicion that preceded the election, there was consensus on the part of the Government, the Communist opposition and international observers that Sunday's election had been for the most part free and fair." New York Times, June 18, 1996
OSCE: ELECTION GENERALLY FREE AND FAIR. Even before the final results had been tabulated, a delegation of 500 election monitors from the OSCE issued a preliminary statement on 17 June declaring the first round of the Russian presidential election "generally free and fair." Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Europe, June 1996.
Meadowcroft is still shocked by the manipulation of his assessment of the election. "I never said 'free and fair.' The weasel words I used were something like 'a step forward for democracy,' but I certainly wouldn't say 'free and fair' as far as I was recording it," he said.
The OSCE continued pumping out glass-half-full reports into the Putin era. In 2000, it was quick to sign off on Putin's first-round victory, despite widespread evidence of fraud, some of it uncovered by the Moscow Times. "The OSCE should not have approved [the 2000 elections]," the Yabloko party spokesman, Sergei Loktyonov, told the eXile after Putin's 2003 reelection. "It's hard to say why they did that."
But is it? In 2000, Putin was still seen as a "reformer", as the West's guy. He had not yet begun to cross Western oil interests or to reassert an independent and muscular foreign policy. Fast forward to 2003 and the OSCE was singing a different tune.
The OSCE hasn't just destroyed its credibility with its strange criteria for judging some Russian elections fair and others not. As the world considers Moscow's charge of undue American influence on the organization, it's worth pulling an OSCE "greatest hit" out of the memory hole. In the run up to the Kosovo war, the organization was used a front for the CIA to deliver communications equipment to the Kosovo Liberation Army, and to gather targeting information for an expected upcoming NATO bombing campaign. As reported by the New York Times in March of 2000:
"When the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which co-ordinated the [human rights] monitoring, left Kosovo a week before airstrikes began a year ago, many of its satellite telephones and global positioning systems were secretly handed to the KLA, ensuring that guerrilla commanders could stay in touch with NATO and Washington. Several KLA leaders had the mobile phone number of General Wesley Clark, the NATO commander. European diplomats then working for the OSCE claim it was betrayed by an American policy that made airstrikes inevitable. Some have questioned the motives and loyalties of William Walker, the American OSCE head of mission. 'The American agenda consisted of their diplomatic observers, aka the CIA, operating on completely different terms to the rest of Europe and the OSCE,' said a European envoy."