The latest allegations that Russia may have hacked into the DNC’s email server to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton are reminiscent of the time the Americans helped Boris Yeltsin win an election against the Communists.

A couple kisses in front of graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania. Photo: AP

The article is first published at The Guardian's The New East network.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump once again shocked Americans when he appeared to call on Russia to hack and release his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton’s emails from the personal server she used while she was U.S. secretary of state. His comments came as allegations swirled that Russian authorities had hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails in an attempt to sabotage Clinton.

Political pundits and Democratic leaders were quick to express outrage that the GOP candidate would even jokingly invite a foreign government, let alone Russia, to interfere. But surely if WikiLeaks has taught us anything over the years, it’s that foreign meddling is a global business – one the U.S. does very well in.

This isn’t even the first time the U.S. and Russia have interfered in each other’s presidential campaigns. In a little-known quirk of post-Cold War history, the 1996 re-election campaign of Putin’s mentor, Boris Yeltsin, was secretly managed by three American political consultants who on more than one occasion allegedly received direct assistance from then-President Bill Clinton’s White House.

There’s even a movie about it.

The 2003 comedy film Spinning Boris dramatizes the true story of three American consultants who were hired to manage Yeltsin’s 1996 re-election campaign. The film stars Liev Schreiber as Joe Shumate, a Republican data analysis expert, Jeff Goldblum as George Gorton (who later became the campaign manager for Arnold Schwarzenegger), and Anthony LaPaglia as Richard “Dick” Dresner, a highly skilled political consultant who in the early 1980s helped elect Bill Clinton governor of Arkansas.

Dresner was a close associate of Dick Morris, a top political advisor in the Clinton White House who in 1996 was in the midst of managing Clinton’s own re-election campaign.

While mostly a comedy of errors about the differences between Russian and American political culture (Yeltsin’s Russian advisors don’t understand why the Americans think the candidate should kiss babies and smile for the cameras), "Spinning Boris" also dramatizes the behind-the-scenes political backscratching between Dresner and Morris.

At one point, after weeks of trying to convince Yeltsin’s handlers that he needs to personally appear in his campaign ads, the film shows Dresner calling Morris to ask if Clinton will make “a long distance call to lend a gentle guiding hand to Boris as he takes his first steps toward democracy.”

The team of consultants was assembled by Felix Bryanin, a politically connected Russian-American businessman who became concerned by the Communist Party’s gains in the 1996 parliamentary elections. Fearing that it was a precursor to a Communist presidential victory, Bryanin contacted officials close to Yeltsin, including Oleg Soskovets, then first deputy prime minister, and suggested that American-style campaign maneuvering might be Russia’s only hope of keeping the Communists at bay.

Also read: "What's behind the Russia narrative in US presidential election?"

Shumate, Gorton, Dresner, and Steven Moore (who came on later as a PR specialist) gave an exclusive interview to Time magazine in 1996 about their adventures working as political consultants in Russia. They also detailed the extent of their collaboration with the Clinton White House.

They said they dealt mostly with Morris, and were sure to speak in codes, referring to Clinton as the Governor of California and Yeltsin as the Governor of Texas.

Sources close to Yeltsin have denied the involvement of American political consultants in the 1996 election. “It’s bullsh**,” Sergei Filatov, Yeltsin’s former head of staff, said in 2003. “I never saw them. They weren’t needed at all. But as they had been paid we decided to let them sit quietly in the President Hotel and not interfere.”

The film’s director, Roger Spottiswood, said that he expected Russian politicians to deny that America played any part in defeating the Communists in 1996. He also denied that that was the aim of his film.

“Spinning Boris is not about Americans saving Russia, but a look at Russian and American political life. The Americans bring negative campaigning, walkabouts with rehearsed spectators and false campaign promises.”

Indeed, Spinning Boris, while ostensibly a film about the Russian presidential election, is actually about how in a globalized world, unshielded by Iron Curtains, it should come as no surprise that Russia and the United States have a vested interest in one another’s political elections. And, to quote a Russian expression, dirty politics “has no nationality.”

For this reason, the continued outrage over Trump’s ties to Russia rings hollow to anyone willing to recognize some fundamental truths about the way foreign policy really works. Outside intervention in domestic politics is as old as politics itself. Maybe Putin does want Trump to be President, maybe he doesn’t.

The only real question is – who’s going to play them in the movie?

The article is first published at The Guardian's The New East network.