There’s little understanding of Russian history in the mainstream media

Mar 1, 2022
Bay of Pigs Museum, Cuba
The US Cuban intervention is well known. First the 1961 Bay of Pigs and second the 1962 blockade of the island to force the withdrawal of Soviet missiles that were in the process of being installed. (Image: Flickr / Lens Envy)

What would the United States do if it had potentially hostile states threatening its borders, much as the Russians face the NATO military alliance?

You don’t have to trawl too far back in time to find the answer.

To get a hint you only have to recall US intervention in recent years in Cuba, Grenada, The Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Chile.

Cuba is well known. First the 1961 Bay of Pigs US-sponsored attempt to overthrow Cuban President Fidel Castro with the invasion of the Caribbean island; and second the 1962 blockade of the island to force the withdrawal of Soviet missiles that were in the process of being installed.

To resolve the crisis, a deal was done. The Soviets would dismantle and remove the missiles in Cuba that threatened the United States. In return the US pledged not to invade Cuba and agreed on the removal of its nuclear-armed missiles from Turkey – a secret promise that the US honoured.

A nuclear world war was averted.

But on numerous occasions the US administration has not responded to perceived threats — whether they be from the election or installation of a government of a different political colour, or a country’s foreign policy, nationalistic inclinations, or armaments policy — with civil negotiations.

In late 1983, for example, the tiny island nation of Grenada with a population of roughly 100,000 people had become an obsession for US President Ronald Reagan.

According to Washington Post investigative journalist Bob Woodward, with Cuban and Soviet assistance, Grenada was building a 9,000-foot runway.

Reagan complained publicly about “the Soviet-Cuban militarization” of the 133 square mile territory. His administration feared the formation of a red triangle with Cuba to the north, Nicaragua to the west and Grenada to the East.

Of the three countries only Cuba could be said to border the US. By way of contrast five countries, now members of the NATO military alliance, border Russia. If Ukraine were to join NATO, Russia would be confronted with an additional 2,295 kilometres of NATO land and sea border, and the Ukraine border would be only 490 kilometres from Moscow.

Grenada is 4,377 kilometres from the US.

But the potential Soviet airstrip on the island and a deep-water port were too close for Reagan. When the island’s Marxist leader, Maurice Bishop was murdered on 19 October 1983 the US administration grabbed the opportunity.

In his book, VEIL: The Secret Wars of the CIA1981-1987, Woodward says the absence of a government on Grenada provided a rare chance to invoke mutual-security agreements the US had with other small Caribbean islands. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States was headed by strongly pro-American Dominican Prime Minister Eugenia Charles, who had received funding from the CIA. The US administration sent word to Charles that the prospect of US military intervention in Grenada would be substantially increased if the Organisation requested it.

This they did, claiming that US assistance was necessary to restore order and democracy on the island.

On 25 October US forces with several hundred token soldiers from other Caribbean countries invaded, with Reagan telling the world that it was a matter of “preventing this thing [Marxism] from spreading to all the islands.”

The UN General Assembly did not swallow the line. It voted 108 to 9 for a resolution deploring the “armed intervention.” Only Israel and El Salvador joined the US and the six Caribbean countries that participated in the invasion to vote against the resolution.

Even Australia voted in favour, as did Ireland, France, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Spain and other American friends, including Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia, and most of Latin America.

Many of those who abstained made public statements of opposition to the U.S. action, including Britain, Japan, West Germany and Canada.

But it doesn’t require a perceived military threat to justify US military intervention in its immediate sphere of influence. The banana republics and the poverty in central and South American are a direct results of US foreign policy.

US administrations have repeatedly interfered in the affairs of these countries on behalf of US corporations. The “Banana Republics” are the creation of this intervention.

Guatemala In June 1952 the Guatemalan National Assembly passed critical land reform legislation to give packages of fertile land to peasant families. Some 100,000 families initially received 1.5 million acres of land. The government then expropriated 234,000 acres from the US-owned banana producer, the United Fruit Company — paying it $1.18 million, the exact figure the company had chosen to value the land for tax purposes.

According to David Halberstam in his book The Fifties, United Fruit, the largest employer in the country, was furious and, acting on its behalf, the US State Department presented the Guatemalan government with a bill for $15.8 million in compensation.

But that wasn’t enough. What was needed was an excuse to justify American action. This came in the revelation that a Swedish ship was taking Czech arms to Guatemala.

Mercenaries at two CIA camps were activated. According to Halberstam the last crucial ingredient was the co-operation of the American press telling the public that the coup was the work of an indigenous Guatemalan force.

The coup began on June 18 with US CIA air support. The key to victory was the CIA radio station based outside the country. The Agency jammed the government station while the CIA station broadcast that two huge columns of rebel soldiers were almost on top of Guatemala City. With that President Jacobo Arbenz resigned.

A year after the coup US Secretary of State Foster Dulles inquired if they had found anything connecting Arbenz with Moscow.  The answer: No.

Iran A little further afield, in 1953 the CIA orchestrated the removal of the elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, when his government sought a fair share of the Iranian oil revenue that at that time flowed almost entirely to British interests. A Western boycott put pressure on the government and people. With the Shah of Iran lined up to depose Mossadegh, CIA funded mobs took to the streets, the army sided with the Shah and Mossadegh fled.  Under a new charter Anglo-Iranian (later know as British Petroleum) retained 40 per cent of Iranian oil and a syndicate of the major US oil companies got 40 per cent.

Vietnam was a long way from the US  but half-a-million US troops were deployed to the South East Asia country based on the domino theory on the fear of the spread of communism. US bombing and chemical warfare destroyed the country. In the period of US involvement an estimates 1.3 million civilians died in the North and South.

Panama Siding with the US in its cold war with the USSR hasn’t always helped Banana Republic dictators. Even though his drug dealing was well known, Panama’s dictator Manuel Noriega was propped up by the US for decades before relations turned sour and the US invaded and overthrew him in December 1989.

The US government justified its actions as “self-defence” but the United Nations General Assembly passed a motion deploring the action. The majority of the Security Council also agreed that the action was a flagrant violation of international law but this resolution was vetoed.

Chile Declassified US documents  show that the US spent  $3 million in anti-Salvador Allende propaganda between 1962 and 1964 even before he was elected President and gave $2.6 million to finance the campaign of his opponent. Following his election US administration detested him for his left-leaning polices and US President Nixon authorised the CIA to do everything in its power to unseat him. In September 1973 Allende proposed solving a constitutional crisis with a plebiscite but on 11 September the Chilean military, aided by the CIA, staged a coup that deposed him. After the delivery of a radio farewell speech to the Chilean people, Allende was found dead.

Direct attack on US. When the United States was actually attacked on September 11 2001, it was not the home of 15 of the 19 terrorists — the oil-rich and US-regime friendly Saudi Arabia — that the US chose to attack. Poor Afghanistan, that had sheltered the Al Qaeda leadership, suffered the consequences. A twenty-year war and occupation has left the country impoverished and back in the hands of the Taliban.

The George W. Bush administration also pushed false claims of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s links with Al Qaeda, as one of the justifications for the invasion of Iraq. The other claim that Hussein held weapons of mass destruction was also found to be false.

Today the United States reaps the proceeds of its military intervention and its imposition of self-interested, inequitable economic policies in its region. The impoverished flee homelands that have repeatedly been prevented by US actions from implementing policies that locals see as in their own best interests.

At the same time, US politicians, who have imposed these policies on neighbouring countries, build walls to stop the poor entering the US, or incarcerate those who do.

If we are to stand any chance of bringing the war in Ukraine to an end there must be some understanding of Russian history. But there’s little sign of this in the main stream media. There’s little mention of the assurances the US gave the Russians on NATO not expanding to the East even though the assurances are well documented in the US archives.

And there’s no discussion on the way in which the US has responded in the past to much milder perceived threats.


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