America’s Long History of Meddling in Russia

            Russia — OK, not the actual Russian government but a private click-farm company located in Russia — bought $100,000 worth of political ads on Facebook designed to change the outcome of the 2016 election. Except that only a small fraction of those ads were political. Also except that that small fraction was divvied up between pro-Hillary Clinton and pro-Donald Trump ads. And especially except that $100,000 in Facebook ads can’t affect the outcome of a $6.8 billion election.

            Now the same media outlets who touted Robert Mueller’s fizzled Russiagate investigation daily for three years is warning that Russia is planning to do the same thing in 2020.

            Be slightly afraid. Very slightly afraid.

            “Our adversaries want to undermine our democratic institutions, influence public sentiment and affect government policies,” read a statement from top Trump Administration security officials issued in November. “Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions.”

            Setting aside the question of whether it’s smart to take the U.S. government at its word — it isn’t — if Russia were to meddle in our domestic politics, we would have it coming.

            To say the least.

            Throughout its history the United States repeatedly attacked, sabotaged and undermined the Soviet Union. U.S. interference was one of the major contributors to the collapse of that country in 1991. So the Russian government that followed — the Russian system now in place — might not even exist if not for the United States.

            Imagine being one of the freshly-minted leaders of Russia in the months following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. You have a lot on your plate. The last thing you need is a U.S.-led invasion force of tens of thousands of troops invading your chaotic new country, most of which is primitive and dirt-poor. But that’s what they got. It took three years to kick out our troops.

            That’s a little more interferency than Facebook ads.

            During World War II the U.S. and the USSR were allies against Nazi Germany — enemy of my enemy and all that — but even after promising to jump in the feckless Americans dragged their feet for three years before getting into the war, content to stand down as tens of millions of Soviet citizens died. FDR “deliberately made the Soviet people shoulder the hardships of war and hoped to see the Soviet Union bled white,” a wartime commander named Ivan Kuzovkov told Tass news service in 1984.

            In 1962 JFK took the world to the brink of World War III because the Soviet Union had placed missiles in Cuba, 90 miles away from Florida. Yet two years earlier the Soviets shot down American spy pilot Gary Powers in what became known as the U-2 incident. There’s no question that the plane was over Soviet airspace. It was an act of war. But even at the height of the Cold War the Soviets chose to look the other way. Can you imagine what would happen if Russia had done the same thing to us?

            In 1982 President Ronald Reagan approved an ingenious CIA operation to blow up a huge natural gas pipeline running across Siberia. “In order to disrupt the Soviet gas supply, its hard currency earnings from the West, and the internal Russian economy, the pipeline software that was to run the pumps, turbines and valves was programmed to go haywire after a decent interval, to reset pump speeds and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to pipeline joints and welds,” recalled a former member of Reagan’s national security council. The result was economic disruption, environmental catastrophe and “the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space.”

            Blowing up the equivalent of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was a tad more dramatic than releasing DNC emails. Not that there’s any evidence that Russia was behind that.

            In 1983 Korean Airlines flight 007 — gotta love the subtlety of the number — was shot down over northeastern Russia after its pilot turned off the plane’s transponder and ignored orders to withdraw from militarily-sensitive Soviet airspace. KAL flight 007 had penetrated 587 km into the USSR, a world record for “off course” aerial navigation. It’s impossible to know for sure but given the close ties between South Korea and the U.S. at the time it’s likely that the airline allowed the CIA to affix high-resolution spy cameras to the plane. They gambled the lives of the passengers on the assumption that the Russians wouldn’t fire on a civilian airliner.

            Another Reagan-era project involved economic sabotage. Because oil and gas were major Soviet exports, the U.S. convinced Saudi Arabia to ramp up production of its own energy reserves. Oil and gas prices fell globally, the Soviet economy went into a tailspin and U.S. taxpayers compensated the Saudis for doing them a favor. If Russia had purposefully caused the 2008-09 financial meltdown just to mess with us we would view it as an act of war.

            In 1991 the U.S. got its way, the Soviet Union collapsed, and Russia transitioned to free-market capitalism. You’d think that the Americans would reach out to help. They did send money: bribes for the tiny clique of corrupt former bureaucrats surrounding Russia’s first post-Soviet president, Boris Yeltsin, from whom soon emerged a new class of violent oligarchs. Ordinary Russians got nothing. It is estimated that between 2.5 and 3 million Russian citizens died of hunger and other causes as a result of the collapse of communism and the refusal of the international community to step up.

            Talk about interference! The Americans worked hard to destroy the USSR. After they succeeded, when interference would have been welcome and appropriate, they left Russia to die.

            When the U.S. worries about Russia messing with its internal politics it sounds a lot like psychological projection.

            Or just desserts.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

13 thoughts on “America’s Long History of Meddling in Russia

  1. If misery loves company, Ted, you will be comforted to know that it’s the same, same here in Sweden. At the ongoing annual so-called «People and Defence» conference, the head of our secret police claimed that the efforts of 15 nations were undermining our fine «democracy». He named three : the military threat constituted by Russia, the economic threat constituted by China, and Iran, which is just generally nasty. No other country was mentioned, and certainly not the United States, which now controls just about everything relevant to its interests that we do. «Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel….»

    Henri

    • As if the head of the Swedish secret police is going to suggest combatting America! Frankly he may be better off not even trying.

      • Gospodin Adamov, you seem to share the view of national sovereignty (of other nations) asserted by the government of the United States. Why am I not surprised ?…

        Henri

  2. Dopey Reagan reflected American’s need to create a narrative in which we are the knight in shining armor rescuing the damsel in distress. If there are no real dragons to slay we make them up in the form of Latin American invaders, Russian spies, or Iranian terrorists.

  3. “During World War II the U.S. and the USSR were allies against Nazi Germany ”
    When we are allied with Eurasia against Eastasia, we have always been allied with Eurasia against Eastasia. The Soviet Axis controlled the entire Eastern Hemisphere when the US realised it needed to save the world, and worked with Western European and Japanese leaders to liberate Western Europe and Japan from the evil USSR Empire, which still holds China and, except for the Baltics, everything east of the Ukraine. Sadly, the German leader who was helping the US was surrounded by Soviets and committed suicide as preferable to being in a Communist Germany before the US forces could reach Germany and save him.
    (NB: The Great Depression was only ended by WWII, and experts predicted it would return, worse than before, once the war was over. Fortunately, the war continues, generating lots of jobs in the military-industrial complex.)

    • Well, Michael, as we know – and to paraphrase Calvin Coolidge –

      The business of America is war

      Henri

  4. What I like about the establishment media is that they reiterate that only tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorists do not believe that Russia stole the election by hacking the DNC, hacking the voting machines in 21 states, and convincing people with Facebook, and, had it not been for Russia, Secretary Clinton would have won at least 41 states, and probably all 57.
    We get this from Obama and 17 intelligence and justice agents, with no proof because it’s all classified, so no patriot would ever question any of it. And everyone who doesn’t wear a tinfoil hate knows Obama, the Intelligence Department and the Justice Department personnel cannot lie, and have a long record of always telling the truth.
    (And right now, there’s a big sale on a bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn.)

  5. The American Mystique: There is not an evil bone in America’s political body.

    America’s intentions are always good. Its apparent crimes are never really crimes but only innocent mistakes.

    The Afghanistan Papers and the Pentagon Papers reveal America’s history of mistake ridden benevolence.

    Only when the countries America invades mistake our benevolence for evil, and resist total submission, do the horrors of mass murder, genocide, and torture occur.

    Note the passive sense of “horrors that happen” without any personal responsibility by anyone.

    The American Mystique: Horrors just happen, but Americans remain innocent, even with bloody hands.

  6. The exceptional episode in US depravity in the post-USSR Russia from 1991 has been somewhat glossed over.

    In comparison to the alleged Russia-RTP© “meddling” in 2016, for example, US citizens, not just its money, were in Russia essentially running Yeltsin’s 1997 campaign that “miraculously” saw him rising from 7% favorable poll ratings to his ultimate victory.

    The entire history can be read in “Failed Crusade” by Stephen F Cohen.

  7. Falco, falco, you fail to grasp that what the United States does is «promoting democracy» and thus something which even a Swedish security police chief should support, while what other countries – particularly ones like that horrid troika, Russia, China, Iran, do is «interference», and thus to be condemned by that good functionary….

    I suggest you reconsider the matter and report back when you’ve realised your error…. 😉

    Henri

  8. Ted,

    If you’re going to blame the US for KAL 007, at least be accurate. The Russians confused it with a US Air Force spy plane of similar design that was in the area at the same time. If there was no USAF spy plane, one could argue there wouldn’t have been a lethal response.

    If KAL 007 itself was a spying, the civilian South Korean crew would’ve had to be in on it. The cockpit voice recorder, which was recovered by the Soviets, gave no indication of this.