The USA as the “leader of the free world” or, alternatively, of “The West” provides a classic example of the adage, “with a friend like this, who needs enemies?” America leaves in its wake a long line of ruined states and dead politicians who naively trusted the USA’s high-sounding moral principles. The USA traded on its image as the bulwark against communism for decades, and in the process frightened much of the world into its corral. The implosion of the Soviet bloc was a mixed blessing for American power elites, but it was soon replaced by another world bogeyman, “militant Islam.”

American Lt. Col. Nichols with the U.S. Army 31st Infantry at Vladivostok during the U.S. intervention in the Russian civil war (Photo: www.historyplace.com)

American Lt. Col. Nichols with the U.S. Army 31st Infantry at Vladivostok during the U.S. intervention in the Russian civil war (Photo: www.historyplace.com)

Where one is placed on the USA’s list of friends and enemies can change quite quickly. One can be the recipient of US largesse one moment, and scuttled and running for one’s life the next as per Batista,[1] Chiang Kai Shek,[2] Anastasio Somoza,[3] The Dalai Lama,[4] and the last leaders of South Vietnam. Certain forms of communism might also be serviceable by the USA while others are anathema: The Khmer Rouge “good”;[5] Stalin, “bad,”[6] for example.

In 1980 ex-President of Nicaragua, Somoza said: “I was betrayed by a long standing and trusted ally.”[7] He, and many others who found themselves in a similar position, could have learnt from history and from the words of the anti-Bolshevik “Leader of All the Russias,” Admiral Kolchak, who, shortly before his shooting in 1920, basically said of America’s “intervention”: “what the hell was that about, then?”

Wilson’s High Rectitude a Pose for US Hegemony

America’s reputation as the “leader of the free world,” always being stirred up against some world evil or other, largely traces back to Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” for post-World War I reconstruction. Ever since, the USA has postured on the world stage as moral guardian and conscience. This Wilsonian world democratic revolution – which continues under other names and under both Republican and Democratic Administrations – was presented as the liberal alternative to totalitarian Bolshevism. Wilson stated at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference of the Bolsheviks:

There is throughout the world the feeling of revolt against vested interests[8] which influence the world in both economic and political spheres. The way to cure this domination is, in my opinion, constant discussion and a slow process of reform; but the world at large has grown impatient of delay. There are men in the United States of the finest temper, if not of the finest judgment, who are in sympathy with Bolshevism because it appears to them to offer that regime of opportunity to the individual which they desire to bring about.[9]

His plan was not to fight Bolshevism, then in a very precarious position, but to accept the Soviets, with confidence that the Bolsheviks would, through “constant discussion and a slow process of reform”, be integrated into the “world community”; i.e. the “world market.”

Yet the great myth of a struggle of Zoroastrian proportions between democracy and communism, whereby communism was eventually defeated by the superiority of the USA, is one of the fundamental paradigms of political and historical analysis. Hence, US State Department expert on Russia, George Kennan, wrote of America’s role in the Allied “intervention” in Russia, supposedly to defeat the Bolsheviks by aiding the “White” movement:

There are those today who see the winter of 1917-1918 as one of the great turning points of modern history, the point at which there separated and branched out, clearly and for all to see, the two great conflicting answers – totalitarian and liberal – to the emerging problems of the modern age…[10]

America’s involvement in the “intervention” was nothing of the kind, and seems to have provided a blueprint for America’s scuttling of sundry states ever since.

Histories of the “Russian Civil War” therefore generally follow the line that, in the words of historian David S Fogles:

From the Bolshevik Revolution to the end of the Civil War the United States sought to encourage and support anti-Bolshevik movements in a variety of secretive and semi-secret ways. Constrained by a declared commitment to the principal of self-determination and hemmed by idealistic and later isolationist sentiments, Wilson and his advisors pursued methods of assisting anti-Bolshevik forces that evaded public scrutiny and avoided the need for congressional appropriations.[11]

However, Fogles also states that despite the US involvement in the Allied “intervention,” the Soviet regime considered the USA to be the most likely source from which to secure diplomatic and commercial relations.[12] While the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) was in Russia, Ludwig Martens, the Soviet representative in America, was carrying on lively communications with US business interests. Thus, when agents of the Lusk Committee of New York raided Martin’s Soviet Bureau offices on June 12, 1919, communications with approximately a thousand firms were found.[13] A British intelligence report noted that the J P Morgan enterprise, Guaranty Trust Company of New York, was funding Martens.[14]

Bankers at the Peace Conference

Meanwhile the paragons of capitalism, the international bankers, were busy at the Paris Peace Conference trying to get the Bolsheviks recognized, when the Soviet regime seemed unlikely to endure. Wilson and Lloyd George were eager to extend recognition to the Soviet government. That they did not do so was largely due to the opposition undertaken by Henry Wickham Steed, editor of The London Daily Times, who seems to have launched a one-man crusade to expose not only the Bolsheviks, but more importantly their friends in High Finance, reminiscing, “Potent international financial interests were at work in favour of the immediate recognition of the Bolshevists”, who were in return offering “extensive commercial and economic concessions.”[15] Steed related that he was contacted by Wilson’s adviser, Edward House, who was concerned at Steed’s exposé of the relationship between Bolshevists and financiers:

That day Colonel House asked me to call upon him. I found him worried both by my criticism of any recognition of the Bolshevists and by the certainty, which he had not previously realized, that if the President were to recognize the Bolshevists in return for commercial concessions his whole “idealism” would be hopelessly compromised as commercialism in disguise. I pointed out to him that not only would Wilson be utterly discredited but that the League of Nations would go by the board, because all the small peoples and many of the big peoples of Europe would be unable to resist the Bolshevism which Wilson would have accredited.[16]

House in Machiavellian manner asked Steed to compromise, to support humanitarian aid supposedly for the benefit of all Russians. Steed agreed to consider this, but soon after talking with House found out that British Prime Minister Lloyd George and President Wilson were to proceed with recognition the following day. Steed therefore wrote the lead article for the Paris Daily Mail of March 28 exposing the maneuvers and asking how a pro-Bolshevik attitude was consistent with Wilson’s declared moral principles for the post-war world?

Charles Crane[17], who had recently talked with Wilson, told Steed that Wilson was about to recognize the Bolsheviks, which would result in negative public opinion in the USA and destroy Wilson’s post-War internationalist aims. Significantly Crane also identified the pro-Bolshevik faction as being that of Big Business, stating to Steed: “Our people at home will certainly not stand for the recognition of the Bolshevists at the bidding of Wall Street.” Steed was again seen by House, who stated that Steed’s article in the Paris Daily Mail, “had got under the President’s hide.” House asked that Steed postpone further exposés in the press, and again raised the prospect of recognition based on humanitarian aid. Lloyd George was also greatly perturbed by Steed’s articles in the Daily Mail and complained that he could not undertake a “sensible” policy towards the Bolsheviks while the press had an anti-Bolshevik attitude. [18]

Reading newspaper accounts at the time, one continually sees on virtually a daily basis the question as to whether the Allies would recognize the White regimes, a matter to which Admiral A V Kolchak and others fighting the Red Army attached much importance. They never did receive recognition, de facto or de jure, and it is evident from what Wickham Steed relates that the Allies never intended to grant recognition, and that Wilson and George wished rather to recognize the Bolsheviks.