The West fought a proxy war against Russia in Ukraine 100 years ago and failed

Sep 17, 2022
Battle of Warsaw 1920
Image: Wikimedia Commons

One hundred years ago, a Western proxy war against Russia had just been lost.  It was fought in Poland, Ukraine and in Russia. That war has lessons for us today.

The Polish-Soviet war began in 1919 with a major military thrust into Ukraine from Poland. By May 1920 Polish-Ukrainian forces had reached Kiev.

A few weeks later the Polish offensive was met with a Soviet counter-offensive, and Polish forces were forced into a retreat by the Red Army. The Army was driven out of Ukraine and back into the Polish heartland.

At the “Battle of Warsaw” the Poles managed a stunning counterattack that won the “Miracle on the Vistula” an iconic victory in Polish memory.

The Poles went back on the offensive, and the Reds were pushed East until both sides, exhausted, signed a compromise peace treaty in Riga.

The treaty gave Poland an eastern border well beyond what the peacemakers or the Soviets had envisioned in Paris at the Armistice.

The conflict added an additional 5,000,000 Ukrainians, Jews and Belarusians to Poland’s population.

When trying to understand Ukraine today we can only humbly and honestly enquire about its history. We might be surprised to discover Ukraine has been an epicentre of US-Russian rivalry for a century.

Knowing that should leave us less surprised that as far as the Russians are concerned Ukraine is the gateway to Russia, an invasion route and therefore the Russians see themselves, in 2022, as defenders of the Motherland. Facing European forces for the third time since the October revolution; after Germany in 1941 and the “allies” in 1918.

In 2022 we have all forgotten Poland had been partitioned by Empire and only became a modern state as part of the settlement of WW1.

And as soon as Poland came back into existence, the West used it in an attempt to destroy the USSR, by supporting the Poles to invade Russia via Ukraine.

Through the eyes of the Soviets, it was “the war against the “White Poles”. They were the allies of the “counter-revolutionary” tsarist Russian White Movement and the Western forces in Russia.

A document issued by the U.S. State Department in July 1918 set the terms by which the U.S. would assist the Allied powers in the so-called “interventions” in Russia: three infantry battalions and three companies of army engineers were sent to Archangel to join the British troops already there. A small force was also sent to Vladivostok.

These foreign forces failed in their mission “to strangle at its birth” the Bolshevik state, and left after two years, and seem subsequently deleted from history.

The young Winston Churchill, great Britain’s Minister for War and Air in the period, personally directed the invasion of the Soviet Union by the Allies (Great Britain, the US, France, Japan and several other nations) in support of the “White Army” and the Poles in 1918.

Years later, Churchill recorded his views of this singular affair for posterity. “Were they [the Allies] at war with Soviet Russia? Certainly not; but they shot Soviet Russians at sight. They stood as invaders on Russian soil. They armed the enemies of the Soviet Government. They blockaded its ports, and sunk its battleships. They earnestly desired and schemed its downfall.”

It was, he acknowledged, “a matter of indifference to him as to how Russians settled their own internal affairs” as he mimed a gunshot to the head.

Back in 1918 the Bolsheviks only wanted to be left to run Russia in their own way.

It is Russian memories of these events, no longer acknowledged by the West, that demonstrate the truth of Kissinger’s maxim “that the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”

In his address in New York, in September 17, 1959, Premier Khrushchev reminded the US of the interventions as “the time you sent your troops to quell the revolution”, as he put it. The Russians had not forgotten.

In 1918 and 1941 it wasn’t Russia who was being aggressive, it was Europe and North America. What Great Powers believe to be true that is no longer true or was never true is what defeats them.

We should proceed with caution.

Peace, people.

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