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America's Long History of Meddling in Russia

Ted Rall on

In 1962, then-President John F. Kennedy took the world to the brink of World War III because the Soviet Union had placed missiles in Cuba, 90 miles away from Florida. Yet two years earlier, the Soviets had shot down American spy pilot Gary Powers in what became known as the U-2 incident. There's no question that the plane was over Soviet airspace. It was an act of war. But even at the height of the Cold War, the Soviets chose to look the other way. Can you imagine what would have happened if Russia had done the same thing to us?

In 1982, then-President Ronald Reagan approved an ingenious CIA operation to blow up a huge natural gas pipeline running across Siberia. "In order to disrupt the Soviet gas supply, its hard currency earnings from the West, and the internal Russian economy, the pipeline software that was to run the pumps, turbines and valves was programmed to go haywire after a decent interval, to reset pump speeds and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to pipeline joints and welds," recalled a former member of Reagan's national security council. The result was economic disruption, environmental catastrophe and "the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space."

Blowing up the equivalent of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was a tad more dramatic than releasing Democratic National Committee emails, not that there's any evidence Russia was behind that.

In 1983, Korean Airlines Flight 007 -- gotta love the subtlety of the number -- was shot down over northeastern Russia after its pilot turned off the plane's transponder and ignored orders to withdraw from militarily sensitive Soviet airspace. The plane had penetrated 587 kilometers into the USSR, a world record for "off-course" aerial navigation. It's impossible to know for sure, but given the close ties between South Korea and the U.S. at the time, it's likely that the airline allowed the CIA to affix high-resolution spy cameras to the plane. It gambled the lives of the passengers on the assumption that the Russians wouldn't fire on a civilian airliner.

Another Reagan-era project involved economic sabotage. Because oil and gas were major Soviet exports, the U.S. convinced Saudi Arabia to ramp up production of its own energy reserves. Oil and gas prices fell globally; the Soviet economy went into a tailspin; and U.S. taxpayers compensated the Saudis for doing them a favor. If Russia had purposefully caused the 2007-09 financial meltdown just to mess with us, we would view it as an act of war.

In 1991, the U.S. got its way; the Soviet Union collapsed; and Russia transitioned to free market capitalism. You'd think that the Americans would reach out to help. They did send money: bribes for the tiny clique of corrupt former bureaucrats surrounding Russia's first post-Soviet president, Boris Yeltsin, from whom soon emerged a new class of violent oligarchs. Ordinary Russians got nothing. It is estimated that between 2.5 and 3 million Russian citizens died of hunger and other causes as a result of the collapse of communism and the refusal of the international community to step up.

Talk about interference! The Americans worked hard to destroy the USSR. After they succeeded, when interference would have been welcome and appropriate, they left Russia to die.

 

When the U.S. worries about Russia messing with its internal politics, it sounds a lot like psychological projection.

Or just desserts.

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Ted Rall, the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of "Francis: The People's Pope." He is on Twitter @TedRall. You can support Ted's hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.

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Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
 

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