The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming

Author: us-russia
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The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming
Published 26-04-2020, 06:26

The 1966 Academy Award-winning film The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, directed by Norman Jewison, parodies the Cold War paranoia then pervading the United States, depicting the chaos that seizes a small coastal New England town after a Soviet submarine runs aground. Half a century later, Americans are again being warned daily of the Russian menace, with persistent accusations of Russian aggression, lies, violations of international law, and cyberattacks on U.S. elections, as reported in leading liberal outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post. The charges are many and relentless: the Russians invaded Georgia; the Russians tried to subvert and overthrow the Ukrainian government; the Russians shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014 over eastern Ukraine, or supported rebels that did so; the Russians annexed Crimea in 2014 in an aggressive move reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s postwar actions in Eastern Europe; the Russians have threatened smaller NATO nations in the region; and most recently, the Russians engaged in cyberwarfare by blatantly interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and then tried to manipulate the president through connections to key figures in his inner circle.

The 1966 Academy Award-winning film The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, directed by Norman Jewison, parodies the Cold War paranoia then pervading the United States, depicting the chaos that seizes a small coastal New England town after a Soviet submarine runs aground. Half a century later, Americans are again being warned daily of the Russian menace, with persistent accusations of Russian aggression, lies, violations of international law, and cyberattacks on U.S. elections, as reported in leading liberal outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post. The charges are many and relentless: the Russians invaded Georgia; the Russians tried to subvert and overthrow the Ukrainian government; the Russians shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014 over eastern Ukraine, or supported rebels that did so; the Russians annexed Crimea in 2014 in an aggressive move reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s postwar actions in Eastern Europe; the Russians have threatened smaller NATO nations in the region; and most recently, the Russians engaged in cyberwarfare by blatantly interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and then tried to manipulate the president through connections to key figures in his inner circle.

The consequences of this new anti-Russian hysteria has been very dangerous: It has resulted in a deadly proxy war in Ukraine that has cost over 13,000 lives, provocative military maneuvers by the United States, the abrogation of the Intermediate Nuclear Range Forces (INF) Treaty limiting mid-range nuclear weapons, and the growth of a dangerous new arms race, with the potential even for nuclear war. Former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry is among those who believe that the danger of nuclear catastrophe arising from the renewed arms race is "greater today than during the Cold War.” As in the original Cold War, U.S. arms manufacturers have fueled the escalation by lobbying Washington and NATO to maintain high levels of military spending, aided by hired-gun think tanks and professional "experts.”

In our book, The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce (Monthly Review Press, 2018), John Marciano and I seek to show how the present Russia panic follows an entire century of fearmongering and "threat inflation,” dating to the Russian Revolution, that has long served the interests of the U.S. military-industrial complex and security state. It has had little to do with either Russian or American realities, which have been consistently distorted.

It is a history, we show, that begins with U.S. aggression: after the triumph of the Bolsheviks in October 1917, the United States and other Western nations invaded Russia, fueling a legacy of mistrust that continues today. The Wilson administration sent ten thousand U.S. troops from the European theater of the First World War, alongside the British, French, Canadians, and Japanese, to aid the White generals in Russia’s civil war, who were later implicated in wide-scale atrocities, including pogroms against the country’s Jews. This "Midnight War” was carried out illegally, without the consent of Congress, and was opposed by the U.S. Army commander in Siberia, General William S. Graves, who expressed "doubt if history will record in the past century a more flagrant case of flouting the well-known and approved practice in states in their international relations, and using instead of the accepted principles of international law, the principle of Might makes right.”

As it turned out, in the United States, history hardly recorded these events at all. Historian D. F. Fleming wrote that:

For the American people, the cosmic tragedy of the intervention in Russia does not exist, or it was an unimportant incident, long forgotten. But for the Soviet people and their leaders the period was a time of endless killing, of looting and raping, of plague and famine, of measureless suffering for scores of millions—an experience burned into the very soul of the nation, not to be forgotten for many generations if ever. Also, for many years, the harsh Soviet regimentation could all be justified by fear that the Capitalist power would be back to finish the job. It is not strange that in an address in New York, September 17, 1959, Premier Khrushchev should remind us of the interventions, "the time you sent the troops to quell the revolution,” as he put it.

It is ironic that we in the United States have always been led to fear a Russian invasion, when Americans were in fact the original invaders—the Russians have never forgotten. In May 1972, on a visit to the USSR to promote the new détente, President Richard Nixon boasted to his hosts about having never fought one another in a war, a line repeated by Ronald Reagan in his 1984 State of the Union address. A New York Times poll the next year found that only 14 percent of Americans were aware that in 1918 the U.S. had landed troops in northern and eastern Russia, a figure likely even lower today. Deeper public awareness of history in the United States might force us to rethink the direction and the current slide towards renewed confrontation with Russia, and could enable us to see the world from Russia’s perspective, potentially opening possibilities for engagement.

There were periods of cooperation between the U.S. and Russia in history that should also be remembered. One was during the period of the American civil war, when in return for the U.S. having sent a military mission to Russia to assist Russian forces in the Crimean War, the Russians at the request of Abraham Lincoln sent a naval ship to the United States as a warning signal to the British and French to stop supporting the Southern confederacy (which they were doing in an attempt to sow disunion and weaken the U.S.). A second period of cooperation is what we are celebrating at this conference: the historic alliance between the U.S. and Russia after World War II and famed Elbe River meeting between U.S. and Russian soldiers, where this friendship was consolidated and a pledge of peace was made for the future.

As our book details,Today similarly, the Democratic Party establishment is dominated by Russophobes like Joe Biden intent on escalating tensions with Russia and who could provoke a possible nuclear war. The Progressive wing of the party led by Bernie Sanders has offered no push-back on this issue, or dissenting perspective, with Sanders often adopting some of the same anti-Putin, anti-Russia rhetoric as Biden. Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign was promoting better relations with Russia, but was placed under extreme pressure since becoming president, and has adopted mostly regressive policies – as in his escalation of lethal aide to Ukraine and his pulling the U.S. out of the INF Treaty.

The prospects for peace today are generally very bad overall. It is up to people like us, now, to get our message across. We need to work to educate the public about Russia and many of the positive features of its society, and to point the way for a new era of peaceful cooperation that draws upon the best traditions of our past.

Thank You.

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