Liliya Shevtsova, formerly head of the Carnegie Foundation Moscow Center and a fellow at Brookings ,is a prolific writer on Russian Politics. She was also the cofounder of the Davos World Economic Forum Global Council on Russia’s Future. In this article for the liberal Echo Moscow website, Shevtsova explores Russia’s hate-love relationship with the United States, which has remained a constant from Lenin to Putin. Russia has mastered the art of exploiting American resources without renouncing an ideology of eventually destroying its adversary.
“Imagine that the United States of America suddenly disappeared – flew to the Moon or something. What would we do in Russia? What would we talk about – who would we denigrate or secretly admire? What would the TV prattle about? And whom would Putin talk to, if the American president was unavailable? Russian foreign policy would disappear completely, since it is based on the conviction that the world held together is our enmity-cooperation with the US.
“However hard we try to banish this unpleasant thought, America has become our systemic ‘adhesive’. After all the unifying ideas have been exhausted, America as a ‘threat’ helps mobilize all the people around the rulers and makes them forget about their needs. No other nation can replace the Americans in the role of ‘the enemy’. It is humiliating for a great power to see Ukrainians, Poles or other neighbors in this role. The Chinese are unsuitable as well, since they may take this role seriously, with all that it entails. Germans? That’s dangerous, too: who will we be selling our gas to later? While the US is the perfect enemy who will hardly act rashly. The case of Obama who did everything possible to avoid angering Putin, confirms that Americans are level-headed, sensible people.
“There is another reason that makes the US our ‘adhesive’: the Americans assisted in the establishment of the Soviet economy and the military-industrial complex. Without the US aid, the Soviet Union could have hardly become a global power.
“‘Almost 90-95% of Soviet technology came directly or indirectly from the US and its allies. In effect, the United States and the NATO countries have built the Soviet Union, its industrial and its military capabilities… through trade and the sale of plants, equipment and technical assistance’, wrote the British-American researcher Antony Sutton in his fundamental work National Suicide: Military Aid to the Soviet Union. 
“Even Stalin acknowledged it. Ambassador Averell Harriman reported to the State Department, retelling his conversation with Stalin in June 1944: ‘Stalin highly appreciated American aid to Soviet industry before and during the war. Stalin said that two thirds of all large industrial enterprises in the USSR were built either with the help of the US or with American technical assistance’.
“Here are just a few facts from the ‘Sutton list’. Since late 1920s, the Americans designed and built Soviet tractor and aircraft manufacturing plants, oil refineries, chemical concerns, telecommunication enterprises, automobile plants. Uralmash, Magnitka, Stalingrad and Chelyabinsk tractor plants, Leningrad Kirov plant, Rosselmash, Kramatorsk factory, Kharkov electro-mechanic plant and dozens of others, as well as DniproHES power station were either built or reconstructed with American help. All the major American companies – Ford, General Motors, Packard, Kahn Group, Unversal Oil, Radio Corp., Badger Corporation, Lummus Company, Petroleum Engineering Corporation, Alco Products, McKee Corporation, Kellogg Company McClintock & Marshall, Austin Company, etc. – worked in the USSR. Americans sold to the USSR licenses for the latest technologies as well as product samples, primarily weapons.
“What made the Americans build up the military-industrial potential of the USSR when it was clear already that the Soviet Union is their adversary? Out of all the motives Sutton mentions, two seem convincing: the Americans believed that trade and cooperation will allow them to tame the Soviet giant; and business logic at work (“if we don’t do it, somebody else will”).
“It was not only the pursuit of profits that made the US help the Soviets. After the revolution, hundreds of Americans came here, captivated by the idea of building communism. American volunteers developed Kuzbass and Donbass, created agricultural cooperatives, built garment factories.
“Perhaps the most amazing story is the US participation in rescuing Soviet Russia from starvation in 1921-1923. It was a humanitarian operation on an unprecedented scale. The Americans managed to save up to 10 million people in Soviet Russia. At first, Lenin categorically opposed the idea of the American aid. But after millions died of hunger, Lenin was forced to accept America’s aid, although with squeaking. The person in charge of organizing the aid was the future American president Herbert Hoover, who hated Bolsheviks and considered them bandits, but thought that human lives had to be saved irrespective of who ruled Russia. [The poet] Maxim Gorky, dumbstruck over the way the Americans organized the rescue of the starving, addressed words of gratitude to the US – something the Soviet leaders were parsimonious with: “Your help will enter history as a unique, gigantic achievement, worthy of the greatest glory, which will long remain in the memory of millions of Russians… whom you have saved from death”.
“Thus, America has demonstrated not only capitalist pragmatism but also generosity and compassion.
“During the war, the US came to the rescue again. President Roosevelt, in an address to the American nation in November 1942, said: ‘We are grateful to the Russian people, the heroic people… If I could I would kneel before these people… they are a great people!’
“From 1941 to 1945, as part of lend-lease, America sent the USSR military equipment worth $11.3 billion (equivalent to $146 billion today). For this money, the USSR received 3770 bombers, 11,594 fighter planes, 5,980 anti-aircraft guns, 2,000 railway engines, 51,000 army jeeps, 361,000 trucks, 56, 445 field telephones, 600,000 kilometers of telephone wire, 22 million artillery shells, almost a billion rifle cartridges, and 15 million pairs of army boots.
“Aid to the Soviet people did not come only through official governmental channels. Americans created the Committee for Russian War Relief. Americans donated millions of dollars to the Committee to purchase food, medicines, clothes, and essential commodities to be sent to the USSR.
“And in 1990s, the US came to the rescue of post-Soviet Russia. Its chief task was now helping the Russian population get through the difficult years following the collapse of the USSR. In 1992-2007, the overall volume of US government’s aid to Russia was $16 billion. The aid was mostly for humanitarian aims, support for economic development, education and health. The very structure of American aid attested to the fact that the US was trying to support stability in Russia and help it solve its security problems (nuclear waste disposal, etc.).
“Russia has thanked America for its help and support by appointing it to an honorary role of the constant and irreplaceable enemy!
“Thus, the Soviet leaders managed to build a mechanism of exploiting the resources of a hostile civilization, at the same time not renouncing the idea of destroying their adversary. Moreover, the Kremlin managed to use its own technological dependence to strengthen the power status of Russia. What a great political paradox! Still, back in 1991, the art of the absurd could not prevent the collapse of the USSR…
“Today, as then, Russia needs American technologies and investments. It needs America to validate its [great] power status. Yes, that’s it: the key to Russian autocracy’s revival is in the American pocket. The regulated anti-Americanism of the Russian elite and its obsession with the US are only a confirmation of the fact that the elite knows about it. One question only remains: does the US know it is a systemic ‘adhesive’? Or is it pretending not to know? Or does it know but does not understand what to do with this role?
“And what if the US no longer wants to provide fodder for our great power statehood “on steroids” and doesn’t help us in our hour of need? What then?
“PS. There is one other nation that has had great influence on Russia. But more on that [will appear] in my next post.
Full article: God Keep America Safe (MEMRI)
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