Foreign intervention in the Soviet Union

The newly formed Red Army, 1918

The newly formed Red Army, 1918

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Foreign intervention in the Soviet Union

Once the capitalist and imperialist countries (which had been trying to destroy each others power for four years in the ‘First World War’ of 1914-19) realised that the October Revolution in Russia of the Bolsheviks, led by VI Lenin, was a revolution of a ‘new type’ they did all in their power to destroy the first workers’ state.

In this they used outright military intervention – when 14 nations united on the side of the reactionary forces of feudalism and Tsarism, the so-called ‘Whites’ – but also conspiracy, espionage, sabotage and any other tactics to undermine the revolution. Assassination was part of their game, using local dupes to carry out the act, which included the failed attempt upon the life of Comrade Lenin himself.

Once defeated in the Civil War the imperialists used economic warfare to frustrate the nascent Soviet Union from building a society that was organised for and by the workers and peasants, those who produced all the wealth of the country. Later traitors, and those disaffected within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik), were also recruited in activities that sought to weaken the country in the face of threat of fascism from Germany and Japan.

The documents below seek to tell a small part of that history.

The ‘Hands off Russia’ Movement, direct action against military involvement, Laura Forster and Patricia Wheeler,. nd., n.p., 3 pages.

The Epic of the Black Sea, mutiny against fighting the Russian people following the October Revolution, Andre Marty, Modern Books, London, n.d., 37 pages.

Memoirs of a British Agent, being an account of the author’s early life in many lands and of his official mission to Moscow in 1918, R. H. Bruce Lockhart, Putman, London, 1931, 355 pages.

Armed Intervention Russia 1918-1922, WP and Zelda Coates, Gollanz, London, 1935, 400 pages.

The Great Conspiracy against Russia, Michael Sayers and Albert E Khan, Collets Holdings, London, 1946, 486 pages.

The State Department and the Cold War, DN Pritt, International Publishers, New York, 1948, 96 pages.

Conspiracy against peace, Ralph Parker, Literaturnaya Gazeta Publishers, Moscow, 1949, 248 pages. (There’s a printing error on pages 145-161. They are all there – but not in the correct order.)

The truth about American diplomats, Annabelle Bucar, Literatunaya Gazeta Publishers, Moscow, 1949, 176 pages.

Why have you come to Mourmansk?, leaflet, addressed to ‘English’ soldiers sent to fight against the Russian revolutionaries, signed by N (VI) Lenin and G Tchitcherine (Chicherin), no date but probably mid to late 1918, 1 page.

Armed Intervention in Russia: 1918-1922, W. P. Coates & Zelda K. Coates, Victor Gollancz, London, 1935, 400 pages.

They are betraying the peace, Jean Cathalo, former chief of the Information Department of the French Embassy in Moscow, Literaturnaya Gazeta, Moscow, 1951, 232 pages.

The Western Interventions in the Soviet Union, 1918-1920, D. F. Fleming, reprinted as a pamphlet from New World Review, Fall 1967, 16 pages.

Special issue of Wisconsin Magazine of History, with 3 articles about American military intervention in Archangel, 1918-1919, and the American military landing in Vladivostok and its operation of part of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Well illustrated. Volume 62, No. 3, Spring 1979, 92 pages.

The secret war against Soviet Russia, David Golinkov, Novosti, Moscow, 1981, 105 pages.

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Arms industry sees Ukraine conflict as an opportunity, not a crisis

Ukranian tanks - January 2022

Ukranian tanks – January 2022

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Arms industry sees Ukraine conflict as an opportunity, not a crisis

[The article below first appeared on the Truthout website on 2nd March 2022.]

Arms industry sees Ukraine conflict as an opportunity, not a crisis

by Jonathan Ng

In February, a photograph of Russian President Vladimir Putin sitting hunched over a 13-foot table with French President Emmanuel Macron circulated the globe. News about their sprawling table and sumptuous seven-course dinner was reminiscent of a Lewis Carroll story. But their meeting was deadly serious. Macron arrived to discuss the escalating crisis in Ukraine and threat of war. Ultimately, their talk foundered over expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), yielding little more than the bizarre photograph.

Yet the meeting was surreal for another reason. Over the past year, Macron, the leading European Union (EU) peace negotiator, has led an ambitious arms sales campaign, exploiting tensions to strengthen French commerce. The trade press even reported that he hoped to sell Rafale fighter jets to Ukraine, breaking into the “former bastion of Russian industry.”

Macron is not alone. NATO contractors openly embrace the crisis in Ukraine as sound business. In January, Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes cited “tensions in Europe” as an opportunity, saying, “I fully expect we’re going to see some benefit.” Likewise, CEO Jim Taiclet of Lockheed Martin highlighted the benefits of “great power competition” in Europe to shareholders.

On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, pounding cities with ordnance and dispatching troops across the border. The sonic boom of fighter jets filled the air, as civilians flooded the highways in Kyiv, attempting to flee the capital. And the stock value of arms makers soared.

The spiraling conflict over Ukraine dramatizes the power of militarism and the influence of defense contractors. A ruthless drive for markets — intertwined with imperialism — has propelled NATO expansion, while inflaming wars from Eastern Europe to Yemen.

Selling NATO

The current conflict with Russia began in the wake of the Cold War. Declining military spending throttled the arms industry in the United States and other NATO countries. In 1993, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Perry convened a solemn meeting with executives. Insiders called it the “Last Supper.” In an atmosphere heavy with misapprehension, Perry informed his guests that impending blows to the U.S. military budget called for industry consolidation. A frantic wave of mergers and takeovers followed, as Lockheed, Northrop, Boeing and Raytheon acquired new muscle and smaller firms expired amid postwar scarcity.

While domestic demand shrunk, defense contractors rushed to secure new foreign markets. In particular, they set their sights on the former Soviet bloc, regarding Eastern Europe as a new frontier for accumulation. “Lockheed began looking at Poland right after the wall came down,” veteran salesman Dick Pawlowski recalled. “There were contractors flooding through all those countries.” Arms makers became the most aggressive lobbyists for NATO expansion. The security umbrella was not simply a formidable alliance but also a tantalizing market.

However, lobbyists faced a major obstacle. In 1990, Secretary of State James Baker had promised Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that if he allowed a reunited Germany to join NATO, the organization would move “not one inch eastward.” Yet lobbyists remained hopeful. The Soviet Union had since disintegrated, Cold War triumphalism prevailed, and vested interests now pushed for expansion. “Arms Makers See Bonanza In Selling NATO Expansion,” The New York Times reported in 1997. The newspaper later noted that, “Expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — first to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic and then possibly to more than a dozen other countries — would offer arms makers a new and hugely lucrative market.”

New alliance members meant new clients. And NATO would literally require them to buy Western military equipment.

Lobbyists poured into Washington, D.C. fêting legislators in royal style. Vice President Bruce Jackson of Lockheed became the president of the advocacy organization U.S. Committee to Expand NATO. Jackson recounted the extravagant meals that he hosted at the mansion of the Republican luminary Julie Finley, which boasted “an endless wine cellar.”

“Educating the Senate about NATO was our chief mission,” he informed journalist Andrew Cockburn. “We’d have four or five senators over every night, and we’d drink Julie’s wine.”

Lobby pressure was relentless. “The most interested corporations are the defense corporations, because they have a direct interest in the issue,” Romanian Ambassador Mircea Geoană observed. Bell Helicopter, Lockheed Martin, and other firms even funded Romania’s lobbying machine during its bid for NATO membership.

Ultimately, policy makers reneged on their promise to Gorbachev, admitting Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO in 1999. During the ceremony, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright — who directly cooperated with the Jackson campaign — welcomed them with a hearty “Hallelujah.” Ominously, the intellectual architect of the Cold War, George Kennan, predicted disaster. “Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion,” Kennan cautioned.

Few listened. Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Chas Freeman described the mentality of policy makers: “The Russians are down, let’s give them another kick.” Relishing victory, Jackson was equally truculent: “‘Fuck Russia’ is a proud and long tradition in US foreign policy.” Later, he became chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which paved the way for the 2003 invasion, the biggest industry handout in recent history.

Within two decades, 14 Central and Eastern European countries joined NATO. The organization originally existed to contain the Soviet Union, and Russian officials monitored its advance with alarm. In retrospect, postwar expansion benefited arms makers both by increasing their market and stimulating conflict with Russia.

Targeting Ukraine

Tensions reached a new phase in 2014 when the United States backed the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine. Yanukovych had opposed NATO membership, and Russian officials feared his ouster would bring the country under its strategic umbrella. Rather than assuage their concerns, the Obama administration maneuvered to slip Ukraine into its sphere of influence. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland coordinated regime change with brash confidence. Nuland openly distributed cookies to protesters, and later, capped a diplomatic exchange with “fuck the EU.” At the height of the uprising, Sen. John McCain also joined demonstrators. Flanked by leaders of the fascist Svoboda Party, McCain advocated regime change, declaring that “America is with you.”

By then, newly minted NATO members had bought nearly $17 billion in American weapons. Military installations, including six NATO command posts, ballooned across Eastern Europe. Fearing further expansion, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and intervened in the Donbas region, fueling a ferocious and interminable war.

NATO spokespeople argued that the crisis justified expansion. In reality, NATO expansion was a key inciter of the crisis. And the conflagration was a gift to the arms industry. In five years, major weapons exports from the United States increased 23 percent, while French exports alone registered a 72-percent leap, reaching their highest levels since the Cold War. Meanwhile, European military spending hit record heights.

As tensions escalated, Supreme Commander Philip Breedlove of NATO wildly inflated threats, calling Russia “a long-term existential threat to the United States.” Breedlove even falsified information about Russian troop movements over the first two years of the conflict, while brainstorming tactics with colleagues to “leverage, cajole, convince or coerce the U.S. to react.” A senior fellow at the Brookings Institution concluded that he aimed to “goad Europeans into jacking up defense spending.”

And he succeeded. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute registered a significant leap in European military spending — even though Russian spending in 2016 equaled only one quarter of the European NATO budget. That year, Breedlove resigned from his post before joining the Center for a New American Security, a hawkish think tank awash in industry funds.

The arms race continues. After European negotiations gridlocked, Russia recognized two separatist republics in the Donbas region before invading Ukraine this February. Justifying the bloody operation, Putin wrongly accused Ukrainian authorities of genocide. Yet his focus was geopolitical. “It is a fact that over the past 30 years we have been patiently trying to come to an agreement with the leading NATO countries,” he said. “In response to our proposals, we invariably faced either cynical deception and lies or attempts at pressure and blackmail, while the North Atlantic alliance continued to expand despite our protests and concerns. Its military machine is moving and, as I said, is approaching our very border.”

In retrospect, three decades of industry lobbying has proved deadly effective. NATO engulfed most of Eastern Europe and provoked a war in Ukraine — yet another opportunity for accumulation. Alliance members have activated Article 4, mobilizing troops, contemplating retaliation and moving further toward the brink of Armageddon.

Yet even as military budgets rise, European arms makers — like their American counterparts — have required foreign markets to overcome fiscal restraints and production costs. They need clients to finance their own military buildup: foreign wars to fund domestic defense.

Yemen Burning

Arms makers found the perfect sales opportunity in Yemen. In 2011, a popular revolution toppled Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had monopolized power for two decades. His crony, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, became president the next year after easily winning the election: He was the only candidate. Thwarted by elite intrigue, another uprising ejected Mansour Hadi in 2015.

That year, Prince Salman became king of Saudi Arabia, but power concentrated into the hands of his son, Mohammed bin Salman, who feared that the uprising threatened to snatch Yemen from Saudi Arabia’s sphere of influence.

Months later, a Saudi-led coalition invaded, leaving a massive trail of carnage. “There was no plan,” a U.S. intelligence official emphasized. “They just bombed anything and everything that looked like it might be a target.”

The war immediately attracted NATO contractors, which backed the aggressors. They exploit the conflict to sustain industrial capacity, fund weapons development and achieve economies of scale. In essence, the Saudi-led coalition subsidizes the NATO military buildup, while the West inflames the war in Yemen.

Western statesmen pursue sales with perverse enthusiasm. In May 2017, Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia for his first trip abroad as president, in order to flesh out the details of a $110 billion arms bundle. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, arrived beforehand to discuss the package. When Saudi officials complained about the price of a radar system, Kushner immediately called the CEO of Lockheed Martin to ask for a discount. The following year, Mohammed bin Salman visited company headquarters during a whirlwind tour of the United States. Defense contractors, Hollywood moguls and even Oprah Winfrey welcomed the young prince.

Yet the Americans were not alone. The Saudi-led coalition is also the largest arms market for France and other NATO members. And as the French Ministry of the Armed Forces explains, exports are “necessary for the preservation and development of the French defense technological and industrial base.” In other words, NATO members such as France export war in order to retain their capacity to wage it.

President Macron denies that the coalition — an imposing alliance that includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Sudan and Senegal — uses French weapons. But the statistics are suggestive. Between 2015 and 2019, France awarded €14 billion in arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia and €20 billion in licenses to the United Arab Emirates. CEO Stéphane Mayer of Nexter Systems praised the performance of Leclerc tanks in Yemen, boasting that they “have highly impressed the military leaders of the region.” In short, while Macron denies that the coalition wields French hardware in Yemen, local industrialists cite their use as a selling point. Indeed, Amnesty International reports that his administration has systematically lied about its export policy. Privately, officials have compiled a “very precise list of French materiél deployed in the context of the conflict, including ammunition.”

Recently, Macron became one of the first heads of state to meet Mohammed bin Salman following the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Like Trump’s trip, Macron’s diplomatic junket was a sales mission. Eventually, Macron clinched a deal with the United Arab Emirates for 80 Rafale fighters. The CEO of Dassault Aviation called the contract “the most important ever obtained by French military aerospace,” guaranteeing six years of work for a pillar of its industrial base.

French policy is typical of NATO involvement in Yemen. While denouncing the war, every Western producer has outfitted those carrying it out. Spanish authorities massage official documents to conceal the export of lethal hardware. Great Britain has repeatedly violated its own arms embargo. And the United States has not respected export freezes with any consistency.

Even NATO countries in Eastern Europe exploit the war. While these alliance members absorb Western arms, they dump some of their old Soviet hardware into the Middle East. Between 2012 and July 2016 Eastern Europe awarded at least €1.2 billion in military equipment to the region.

Ironically, a leading Eastern European arms exporter is Ukraine. While the West rushes to arm Kyiv, its ruling class has sold weapons on the black market. A parliamentary inquiry concluded that between 1992 and 1998 alone, Ukraine lost a staggering $32 billion in military assets, as oligarchs pillaged their own army. Over the past three decades, they have outfitted Iraq, the Taliban and extremist groups across the Middle East. Even former President Leonid Kuchma, who has led peace talks in the Donbas region, illegally sold weapons while in office. More recently, French authorities investigated Dmytro Peregudov, the former director of the state defense conglomerate, for pocketing $24 million in sales commissions. Peregudov resided in a château with rolling wine fields, while managing the extensive properties that he acquired after his years in public service.

The Warlords

Kuchma and Peregudov are hardly exceptional. Corruption is endemic in an industry that relies on the proverbial revolving door. The revolving door is not simply a metaphor but an institution, converting private profit into public policy. Its perpetual motion signifies the social reproduction of an elite that resides at the commanding heights of a global military-industrial complex. Leading power brokers ranging from the Mitterrands and Chiracs in France, to the Thatchers and Blairs in Britain, and the Gonzálezes and Bourbons in Spain have personally profited from the arms trade.

In the United States, the industry employs around 700 lobbyists. Nearly three-fourths previously worked for the federal government — the highest percentage for any industry. The lobby spent $108 million in 2020 alone, and its ranks continue to swell. Over the past 30 years, about 530 congressional staffers on military-related committees left office for defense contractors. Industry veterans dominate the Biden administration, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin from Raytheon.

The revolving door reinforces the class composition of the state, while undermining its moral legitimacy. As an elite rotates office, members insulate policymaking from democratic input, taint the government with corruption and mistake corporate profit with national interest. By 2005, 80 percent of army generals with three stars or more retired to arms makers despite existing regulations. (The National Defense Authorization Act prohibits top officers from lobbying the government for two years after leaving office or leveraging personal contacts to secure contracts. But compliance is notoriously poor.) More recently, the U.S. Navy initiated investigations against dozens of officers for corrupt ties to the defense contractor Leonard Francis, who clinched contracts with massive bribes, lavish meals and sex parties.

Steeped in this corrosive culture, NATO intellectuals now openly talk about the prospect of “infinite war.” Gen. Mike Holmes insists that it is “not losing. It’s staying in the game and getting a new plan and keeping pursuing your objectives.” Yet those immersed in its brutal reality surely disagree. The United Nations reports that at least 14,000 people have died in the Russo-Ukrainian War since 2014, and over 377,000 have perished in Yemen.

In truth, the doctrine of infinite war is not so much a strategy as it is a confession — acknowledging the violent metabolism of a system that requires conflict. As a self-selecting elite propounds NATO expansion, military buildup and imperialism, we must embrace what the warlords most fear: the threat of peace.

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Bob Dylan, Masters of War and the Ukraine Crisis

Ukrainian servicemen on patrol

Ukrainian servicemen on patrol

View of the world

Bob Dylan, Masters of War and the Ukraine Crisis

[The article below was first published on the Common Dreams website on 22nd February 2022. It’s reproduced here as part of the anti-war campaign that must develop to prevent matters getting out of hand. This in no way means support for Putin’s actions (although there is an understanding of the threat the Russians feel from expansive NATO) but also highlights the overwhelming hypocrisy and lies that are emanating from both the Americans and the British.]

Bob Dylan, Masters of War and the Ukraine Crisis

by Norman Solomon

Red-white-and-blue chauvinism is running wild. Yet there are real diplomatic alternatives to the collision course for war.

Fifty-nine years ago, Bob Dylan recorded “With God on Our Side.” You probably haven’t heard it on the radio for a very long time, if ever, but right now you could listen to it as his most evergreen of topical songs:

I’ve learned to hate the Russians
All through my whole life
If another war comes
It’s them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side

In recent days, media coverage of a possible summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin has taken on almost wistful qualities, as though the horsemen of the apocalypse are already out of the barn.

Fatalism is easy for the laptop warriors and blow-dried studio pundits who keep insisting on the need to get tough with “the Russians,” by which they mean the Russian government. Actual people who suffer and die in war easily become faraway abstractions. “And you never ask questions / When God’s on your side.”

During the last six decades, the religiosity of U.S. militarism has faded into a more generalized set of assumptions—shared, in the current crisis, across traditional political spectrums. Ignorance about NATO’s history feeds into the good vs. evil bromides that are so easy to ingest and internalize.

On Capitol Hill, it’s hard to find a single member of Congress willing to call NATO what it has long been: an alliance for war (Kosovo, Afghanistan, Libya) with virtually nothing to do with “defense” other than the defense of vast weapons sales and, at times, even fantasies of regime change in Russia.

The reverence and adulation gushing from the Capitol and corporate media (including NPR and PBS) toward NATO and its U.S. leadership are wonders of thinly veiled jingoism. About other societies, reviled ones, we would hear labels like “propaganda.” Here the supposed truisms are laundered and flat-ironed as common sense.

Glimmers of inconvenient truth have flickered only rarely in mainstream U.S. media outlets, while a bit more likely in Europe. “Biden has said repeatedly that the U.S. is open to diplomacy with Russia, but on the issue that Moscow has most emphasized—NATO enlargement—there has been no American diplomacy at all,” Jeffrey Sachs wrote in the Financial Times as this week began. “Putin has repeatedly demanded that the U.S. forswear NATO’s enlargement into Ukraine, while Biden has repeatedly asserted that membership of the alliance is Ukraine’s choice.”

As Sachs noted, “Many insist that NATO enlargement is not the real issue for Putin and that he wants to recreate the Russian empire, pure and simple. Everything else, including NATO enlargement, they claim, is a mere distraction. This is utterly mistaken. Russia has adamantly opposed NATO expansion towards the east for 30 years, first under Boris Yeltsin and now Putin…. Neither the U.S. nor Russia wants the other’s military on their doorstep. Pledging no NATO enlargement is not appeasement. It does not cede Ukrainian territory. It does not undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

Whether or not they know much about such history, American media elites and members of Congress don’t seem to care about it. Red-white-and-blue chauvinism is running wild. Yet there are real diplomatic alternatives to the collision course for war.

Speaking Monday on Democracy Now!, Katrina vanden Heuvel—editorial director of The Nation and a longtime Russia expert—said that implementing the Minsk accords could be a path toward peace in Ukraine. Also, she pointed out, “there is talk now not just of the NATO issue, which is so key, but also a new security architecture in Europe.”

Desperately needed is a new European security framework, to demilitarize and defuse conflicts between Russia and U.S. allies. But the same approach that for three decades pushed to expand NATO to Russia’s borders is now gung-ho to keep upping the ante, no matter how much doing so increases the chances of a direct clash between the world’s two nuclear-weapons superpowers.

The last U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union before it collapsed, Jack Matlock, wrote last week: “Since President Putin’s major demand is an assurance that NATO will take no further members, and specifically not Ukraine or Georgia, obviously there would have been no basis for the present crisis if there had been no expansion of the alliance following the end of the Cold War, or if the expansion had occurred in harmony with building a security structure in Europe that included Russia.”

But excluding Russia from security structures, while encircling it with armed-to-the-teeth adversaries, was a clear goal of NATO’s expansion. Less obvious was the realized goal of turning Eastern European nations into customers for vast arms sales.

A gripping chapter in “The Spoils of War,” a new book by Andrew Cockburn, spells out the mega-corporate zeal behind the massive campaigns to expand NATO beginning in the 1990s. Huge Pentagon contractors like Lockheed Martin were downcast about the dissolution of the USSR and feared that military sales would keep slumping. But there were some potential big new markets on the horizon.

“One especially promising market was among the former members of the defunct Warsaw Pact,” Cockburn wrote. “Were they to join NATO, they would be natural customers for products such as the F-16 fighter that Lockheed had inherited from General Dynamics. There was one minor impediment: the [George H. W.] Bush administration had already promised Moscow that NATO would not move east, a pledge that was part of the settlement ending the Cold War.”

By the time legendary foreign-policy sage George F. Kennan issued his unequivocal warning in 1997—“expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the post-Cold War era”—the expansion was already happening.

As Cockburn notes, “By 2014, the 12 new members had purchased close to $17 billion worth of American weapons.”

If you think those weapons transactions were about keeping up with the Russians, you’ve been trusting way too much U.S. corporate media. “As of late 2020,” Cockburn’s book explains, NATO’s collective military spending “had hit $1.03 trillion, or roughly 20 times Russia’s military budget.”

Let’s leave the last words here to Bob Dylan, from another song that isn’t on radio playlists. “Masters of War.”

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good?
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could?

Norman Solomon is co-founder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death (2006) and Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State” (2007).

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