Russia Russian Foreign Policy Russian ontological security Russian Security Culture Russian Vigilance Norm Russian-Western relations Western Influence and Threat to Russian Ontological Security Western Influence in Russia Western Invasions of Russia Western Meddling in Russia

Russia’s Western Dilemma: Aspiration, Trepidation, and the Security Vigilance Norm, PART 3 of 3

**All of the below is covered in greater detail and fully documented in Gordon M. Hahn, The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (Jefferson: McFarland Publishers, 2021).

The European Birth of the Russian Imperial Death

As Russia began to adopt gradually the European enlightenment’s principles of rationalism and self-government, many Europeans had made a sharp ultra-rationalist, hyper-secularist behavioralist turn. Anarchists and socialists informed by French socialism, philosophical materialism, and Marxism provided the intellectual firepower for Russia’s superfluous men, nihilists, anarchists, socialists, and terrorists emerging from the disgruntled and alienated among the Russian aristocracy, landed gentry, intelligentsia, and raznochintsy. The resulting revolutionaries were able to avoid the Russian secret police in Europe once deprived of the thin cover provided by Alexander II’s liberalization. In Europe, they came to enjoy political, financial, and other forms of support for making revolution back home from governments and radical parties. In the end, the burden of participation in another European war and German support for Lenin and the Bolsheviks brought down the Imperial regime in Russia only to deliver a harsh blowback against the very West that had escorted them into power.

The European Intellectual Roots of Bolshevism

There is a direct connection between European radical ideas and late Imperial Russia’s revolutionary violence and terrorism. If previous Russian history had seen the West make much of Russian culture, the Imperial twilight of war and revolution was very much made in Europe. As one revolutionary put it when asked about his “career” as a revolutionary while traveling across the United States raising funds for revolution in Russia: “It is like the career of many another revolutionist. You begin with a book, and you wind up with a revolver.” The man who said this was Grigorii Gershuni. He was a leader of the Socialist Revlutionary Party’s (SRP) clandestine terrorist unit, the Combat Organization (CO). Gershuni had been arrested in Kiev after a 1903 assassination he masterminded. Tried and imprisoned, SRP members sprang him from a prison on the Inner Mongolian in 1906. Making his way to America, he was feted by the American Society of the Friends of Russian Freedom (ASFRF) founded by SRP member and self-exiled assassin Sergei Stepnyak-Kravchinskii (1851-1895), who had assassinated St. Petersburg police chief Mezentsev in 1878. With ASFRF support, Gershuni would tour America giving speeches to American supporters of revolution in Russia. The revolvers and nuclear weapons of Gershuni’s ideological successors would be targeting the progeny of these Americans in one of the greates blowbacks in geopolitical history.

The thousands of dead and wounded victimized by revolutionary terror in the last decades of the 19th century and the millions sacrificed on the altar of the Soviet Bolshevism throughout the 20th century were victims as well of the radical ideas to be found in the Western books that put revolvers in the hands of Russian revolutionaries. All of the great thinkers in 19th century Russia – from Pushkin and Chaadaev to Herzen and Plekhanov to Dostoevskii and Tolstoy to Berdyaev and Solovev – were shaped profoundly by Western thought. But this was far truer of the Westernizers, especially the anarchist and socialist revolutionaries. The Russian nihilists, narodniki, agrarian socialists, and revolutionary terrorists constituted the prophetic line in Soviet iconography leading to the maker of the ‘Great October Socialist Revolution’—V. I. Lenin. The entire iconography of Russia’s pre-revolutionary saints as determined in Soviet ideology, for example, was a list of profoundly Westernized socialist thinkers who preceded the coming of the equally Westernized V.I. Lenin: Alexander Herzen, Vissarion Belinskii, Dmitrii Pisarev, Nicholas Chernyshevskii, Nicholas Dobrolyubov, Peter Lavrov, and George Plekhanov. No less Westernized, less mentioned, but far more influential pre-revolutionary prophets usually not part of the official Soviet hagiography include: Nicholas Mikhailovskii, Sergei Nechaev, Peter Tkachev, Mikhail Bakunin, and Peter Kropotkin among others.

Lev Tikhomirov, main theorist of the People’s Will (Narodnaya volya) organization that succeeded in carrying out hundreds of assassinations, including that of Alexander II, took the same Western-revelatory path from book to revolver that so many of his comrades had traveled and knew Russia’s revolutionary milieu. He noted in his late semi-autobiographical book, The Beginning and the End – in which he described his disenchantment with revolution – that the revolutionary idea that embedded itself in Russia’s educated class came from Europe: “This faith in revolution was created with us again not by any conspirators, emigrants, or professional revolutionaries. This was the old ‘Westernist’ (zapadnicheskaya) idea, which came from France and quite logically took root in our educated class. That the world is developed by revolutions was in my era of education an axiom, it was a law. Like it or not, it (revolution) is coming to Russia… and people waited the arrival with joy.” He placed special emphasis on the crucial role of revolutionary literature from Europe:

From the year 1866 conspirators almost disappeared from us. In more advanced circles there was an awareness of the impossibility of revolution in the near future. The revolutionary spirit went almost entirely to its own type of ‘cultural work’… In the late 60s and early 70s there appeared a multitude of translations of various histories, revolutions, works of various types of socialists, etc. Lavrov, then still a Russian subject, although exiled administratively, writes his notable ‘Historical Letters,’ which remained for a long time the revolutionaries’ Gospel. There appeared a series of books such as The Proletariat in France; translations of Marx, of the works of Lasalle, the books of Auguste Vermorel such as The Actors of 1848 and The Life of Marat, a complete apology of Marat, banned but read. The publication of Louis Blanc broke with the first volume of his Revolution. A tremendous success was The Situation of the Working Class in Russia by Flerovsky. There were many such books, and all for the choosing. We were told: ‘We need knowledge, for this we need to read.’ We read – and all the books absolutely unanimously said one and the same thing. The result was a complete illusion without a doubt sincerely shared by the very figures of ‘cultural work.’ It seemed as if ‘science’ in and of itself leads to revolution. The successes of this movement were enormous.

After rejecting revolution for monarchism and returning to Russia from Europe later in life, Tikhomirov castigated his late father in print for allowing him to read Pisarev, his nihilist journal Russkoe slovo (The Russian Word), and French intellectuals, including anthropological materialists and admirers of the Decembrists and Napoleon III.

The leftist Russian journalist Ariadna Tyrkova – whose three closest friends ‘dislocated’ by falling in love with Lenin, Pyotr Struve, and Mikhail Tugan-Baranovskii, respectively – relays the strength of Russian Marxists’ revolutionary faith; they held “every letter in the works of Marx and Engels…sacred” with the “obedient insistence of a Muslim who professes the Koran.” The emotional sway of radical Western ideas incited not just dissent and dreams of alternative systems but also the strategy of violent revolution from below and the tactic of terrorism. From Herzen, through narodniki such as Chernyshevskii and Dobrolyubov, to ‘devils’ such as Lavrov, Nechaev, Tkachev, Chernov, Gots, Gershuni, Azef, and Lenin, we see an unbroken strand of fundamentally European-influenced political thinking that shaped the entire Russian and, less successfully albeit, European revolutionary zietgeist. Lenin had read much of the foreign literature – most thoroughly Marx and Engels – and the works of all the preceding revolutionary prophets, who as demonstrated were profoundly influenced by Western philosophy and socialist-anarchist theory.

Europe’s Great War and Russian Imperial Collapse

The first revolutionary gain won from the ideas adapted in these books came in 1905-1906. Russia had been defeated in the 1904-1905 war with Japan, causing public consternation and sparking revolt in the countryside. And even this war had a Western genesis among other causes: German Kaiser Wilhelm II had convinced Nicholas II of the utility of such a war in the hope that his cousin’s conquests in Asia would complicate his chief nemesis, Great Britain, diverting resources, in particular naval resources to the Far East from the North Atlantic. The 1905 ‘revolution’ Russia’s war defeat provoked was actually an aborted revolution that was staunched by Nicholas II’s concession – a kind of transition pact promising a path to a republican form of government over time. The Western-styled, though institutionally weak parliament, the State Duma, was denuded in 1907 as Nicholas essentially went back on his promise to a significant degree by diluting the representative content of the deputy corps. Revolutionary terror was reenergized until Russia was dragged into yet another Western conflagration in the Great War.

After the Russian army’s march to Paris and hegemony in the Vienna of Congress system, St. Petersburg was firmly established as a major player not just in Europe’s great game but in its global contest. Russia’s interest in the matrix of interests, alliances, and colonial competitions that brought World War I was relatively limited. Beyond competition with Great Britain in Central-South Asia regulated by a 1907 treaty and a confrontation in the Far East with Japan settling down after the 1906 peace treaty, St. Petersburg was singularly focused on the Slavic and Orthodox peoples in the Balkans and southwestern Europe. That interest had in part been constructed in the Slavophile reaction to Westernization. Pan-Slavism emerged among the second generation Slavophiles and was not only popular at court but among the people. Modern printing and communications interwove the idea into a better coalesced national identity.

But Russia was not the main proponent or instigator of war, and it was the war that gave Europe’s Russian demons the opportunity to make revolution. Parvus wrote: “Prussian guns played a larger role in it than Bolshevik leaflets….Russian émigrés would still be wandering in emigration and stewing in their own juice if German regiments had not reached the Vistula.” Almost all historians agree that German, Austro-Hungary were the main protagonists in sparking the war. Russia hesitated to fight, informed by recent prime ministers’ insistence on peace for the sake of domestic development and the lesson regarding its limited ability to project power taught by the war with Japan. The war proved the fatal blow to the regime’s capacity to stave off revolution. It put an unbearable burden on Russia’s economy, army, and peasantry, and Russia’s revolutionaries were well-positioned to take advantage of the resulting disorder and discord. Indeed, Western powers had been sponsoring and stepped up the sponsoring of the worst of the devils, helping them make and hijack by coup the February Revolution.

The Western Refuge of Russia’s Revolutionaries

For centuries, European socialists and governments offered Russia’s revolutionaries ideas and refuge. For decades they also had provided Russia’s radicals and terrorists with refuge among them. Increasingly, Western offerrings included financial support, and finally during the war Lenin and his Bolsheviks as well as the SRP received even more massive sums for the revolution and logisitical support enabling them to return to post-February Russia to organize October. During the war, Western support for Russia’s revolutionary devils would tip the scales first in favor of revolution and then in favor of a radical socialist takeover of power. In this way, Lenin and the Bolsheviks were able to hijack the February revolution in the October 1917 coup.

In addition to offering education, ideological orientation, and political refuge ro Russia’s revolutionations, the West offered refuge to revolutionaries when Russian state repression became too heavy. Almost of all of Russia’s anarchist and socialist revolutionaries spent many years, even decades in Europe. Since the 1880s the terrorist parties Land and Freedom (Zemlya i volya), Black Repartition (Chernyi Peredel), and the notorious People’s Will (Narodnaya volya), the SRP as well as the radical revolutionary Russian Social Democratic Workers Party and its offshoots Lenin’s Bolsheviks and Plekhanov’s Mensheviks, and other Russian socialist and anarchist parties had been based and held their conferences and congresses in Europe. Lenin himself spent most of his twenty years before ‘October’ in self-exile in the West.

Like the aforementioned Gershuni, Russian terrorists who had just mounted terrorist attacks at home fled abroad to the West and received protection from the Russian police there. For example, after carrying out the failed 19 November (1 December) 1880 attempt on Tsar Alexander II’s life by blowing up his train, People’s Will organizer Sofya Perovskaya fled to Paris with her co-plotter Lev Gartman. When Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Gorchakov demanded their extradition, the French government refused, despite being informed that Russian emigres close to Russian socialist ideologist and French resident Pyotr Lavrov were involved in bomb-making. Victor Chernov, the ideologist of SRP, a People’s Will successor party, noted, citing radical lawyer I. Rubanovich’s book The Foreign Press and the Russian Movement: “The French radical press noisily expressed approval of the Russian revolutionaries, in which they saw worthy successors of the Great French Revolution’s heroes.” The press campaign featured a series of pieces by Russian émigré-revolutionaries such as Lavrov and ‘father of Russian socialism’ Plekhanov as well as by France’s Victor Hugo condemning the autocracy’s ‘imperial terrorism.’ A prominent Frenchman “had the happiness to shake the hand of Vera Zasulich and called the tsar nothing other than the ‘All-Russian Hangman,’” and president of the French chamber of deputies granted Lavrov an audience. A Russian Third Department archival document drafted by then Russian ambassador to France, future State Comptroller and financial reformer Valerian Tatarinov describes concrete forms of assistance given to Russian revolutionaries in France,” indicating that the French government was intentionally providing refuge to revolutionaries and terrorists in order to assist their cause and clear “collusion between the instigators of these sentiments and the machinations of nihilists in Russia, the socialists in Germany and anarchists of all stripes in Italy, Spain and other places.” Tatarinov ended his memorandum proposing Russia make alliance with Bismarckian Germany against France. Ironically, German Kaiser Wilhelm was warning Alexander II not to establish a constitutional monarchy under any circumstances. Thus, the Russian tsar was caught between two European flames. Some from Russia’s constitutive Other were supported revolution against autocracy; others were resisting the best alternative to revolution—liberalization and democratization.

Opportunities to weaken the post-1905 second wave of SRP CO terrorism were lost because of the refuge terrorists found in Europe. The Gershuni episode was repeated in the case of his close CO associate Mikhail Gots. In March 1903, Gots was arrested in Naples where he was to meet his family for a cruise to the Riviera. St. Petersburg requested Gots’ extradition to Russia. Chernov relays in his semi-autobiographical Pered burei (Before the Storm) the shock felt at the SRs’ Geneva headquarters when the news of the arrest and the Russian request was received: “We felt we had been thrown back to the time when precisely the same kind of demand was declared by the Russian government to the French Republic’s government in regards to the refugee from Russia and representative of the Executive Committee of the Narodnaya volya, L. Gartman. That attack on the ‘right to refugee status’ was beaten back then.” Gots’ arrest was a golden opportunity for Okhrana police to uncover and neutralize the SRP and CO infrastructures before the terror campaign gained momentum. The SRs, as Chernov notes, “immediately raised the alarm” with their allies in Europe. A groundswell of support from socialists in Italy and across Europe, led by French Socialist Party leader Jean Georges and future prime minister George Clemenceau, forced Rome to refuse Russia’s request.

Western Financial and Material Support for Russia’s Demons

While Paris, Zurich, Geneva, London, and Berlin provided cover for Russia’s revolutionaries, the Germans – both its government and the Social Democratic Party – rendered invaluable financial assistance to the SRP and Lenin’s Bolsheviks before the war in addition to logistical assistance during the war. The aforementioned ASFRF and British elements also helped to fund and otherwise propmote the revolution at home and among Russians themselves. By the early 1900s, the ASFRF had become one of the SRP’s main sources of funding. In addition to raising funds, the ASFRF also played a leading role in a propagandizing the need for revolution in Russia. After SR member Kravchinskii had fled to London in the wake of the Mezentsev assassination, he began to publish the journal Free Russia in 1890. In 1891 he traveled to America, founded the ASFRF, comprised of influential opinion-makers from New York and Boston, while maintaining ties to SRP members back home. ASFRF publications of Russian revolutionaries’ works, including Kravchinskii’s books, and the works of journalist George Kennan’s 1891 book Siberia and the Exile System turned American public opinion against Russia after support had peaked in response to the Tsar-Liberator’s 1881 assassination. Naomi Wiener Cohen’s Jacob H. Schiff: A Study in American Jewish Leadership” details how Kennan fed the propaganda stream that helped spark the faild 1905 revolution by having the ASFRF to ship “revolutionary material” to Russian prisoners of war in Japan, producing 50,000 “ardent revolutiomaries.” By 1917, they constituted “’seeds of liberty’ in one hundred regiments” and so “contrubuted to the overthrow of the Tsar.” Russian General Arsenii de Gulevich (Arsene de Goulevitch) claimed at the time that the “main purveyors of funds for the revolution” were “certain British and American circles which for a long-time past had lent their support to the Russian revolutionary cause.” He also cited reports of “British and American agents handing out 25-rouble notes to soldiers of the Pavlovski Regiment just before the mutinied” in 1917.

But it was the German financial and logistical support rendered to the SRP and Lenin’s Bolsheviks that not just contributed to February’s revolution but to Lenin’s ability to seize power from the potentially republican Provisional Government in the October coup. Lenin had been a German beneficiary for many years. The importance of the Germans’ support for Lenin as a cause of the Bolsheviks’ rise to power in October goes only so far as the centrality of Lenin’s role in the successful coup. In this regard, even those historians whose work argues against an overemphasis on personalities, leadership, and ‘top-down’ political approaches and emphasize instead sociological and discursive approaches to the 1917 revolution acknowledge the pivotal role played by Lenin in the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power. Eminent social historian Ronald Grigor Suny acknowledges that “Lenin was instrumental in preparing the armed uprising,” despite his conclusion that “the actual constellation of social and political forces on October 24—most importantly the provocation by Kerensky—was responsible for the move into the streets.” By virtue of Germany’s strong backing of October’s prime mover and great responsibility for the outbreak of the war, the Germans were more instrumental than ‘Russian culture’ or ‘national character’ or even Lenin in the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power.

The central figure in the transfer of German funds to the Bolsheviks was the Westernized Russian social democrat, ‘German businessman,’ and self-described ‘German social-democrat’ Alexander Parvus, born Israel Helphand (1867-1924). Parvus was born in Russian Pale of Settlement in Western Russia in the Jewish shtetl of Berezino located in today’s Belarus. But he would study in the West and come to identify as German social democrat. His only interest in revolution in Russia was, as it was for Lenin, his belief that it would spark revolution globally and hence in Germany. The 1890s saw Parvus become deeply involved in the social democratic movement and Russian revolutionary émigré circles in Germany and Switzerland as a journalist, opinion maker, and social democratic theorist, writing for a series of social democratic journals and newspapers. He also made the acquaintance of Lenin and his cosest associates, spearheading in many ways the founding of the RSDLP’s Iskra, which Lenin edited and typically is credited with founding. Parvus financially and logistically supported the paper and various Russian revolutionary émigrés in Munich and Schwabing. He simultaneously had entry to the family of the German prime minister (and become an agent of the German Foreign Ministry) and an official on the German General Staff, an aide to the German military chief Eric von Ludendorff and was a close if not intimate friend of the German socialist revolutionary Rosa Luxembourg, a close associate of Lenin, Trotsky and other Russian socialists. He was, along with them, a key figure in the Russian revolution movement and Bolshevik rise to power.

As the central intermediary between the Central Powers, especially the German government, and the Bolsheviks, Parvus helped to transform Lenin into Berlin’s Trojan horse inside Russia. For Parvus, like Lenin, “Russia was no more than a springboard for a world revolution.” They first crossed paths around the time of the outbreak of World War I. Prior to the war, the Austria Foreign Ministry had sponsored the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine (ULU) to mobilize Ukrainian national separatism against the Russian Empire. At the same time, Lenin spent the last several years before the war’s outbreak in Cracow and developed ties to the ULU. Lenin’s support for Ukrainian nationalism was part of his strategy of forming a temporary alliance with ethno-nationalist movements against the regime during the ‘destructive phase’ of the revolution in order to facilitate the proletariat’s seizure of power. Parvus worked with the ULU in laundering Austrian and German governmental funds to Lenin in return for his support of Ukrainian aspirations. Lenin championed neither Ukrainian autonomy nor independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When arrested along with his close associate Grigorii Zinoviev by the Austrian police in summer 1914, Lenin’s ties with Parvus greased their release, as Austrian and Polish socialists, including Parvus employee and Lenin associate Jacob Ganetskii (Haniecki, aka Furstenberg), lobbied for their freedom. Vienna ordered Lvov’s viceroy to release the Bolsheviks but not simply because Lenin was “an enemy of tsarism,” as Richard Pipes cites. Lenin’s backing for Ukrainian independence from Russia had secured the support of Austrian military authorities who pushed for his release. Lenin and Krupskaya were transported on an Austrian military train to Switzerland. Zinoviev and his wife followed two weeks later.

Arriving in Switzerland, Lenin set to crafting his political strategy for the ‘capitalist war,’ “The Tasks of Revolutionary Social Democracy in the European War,” in which he condemned Europe’s socialist parties and parliamentarians for supporting their bourgeois regimes’ war effort and called upon socialists to do everything to facilitate the least evil outcome—Russia’s defeat in the war. In Russia, Lenin’s theses on the war prompted charges of treason and collusion with the German enemy. One well-informed Russian police official claimed that in June and July 1914 Lenin went to Berlin to work out a plan of subversion in the rear of Russia’s frontline forces. Lenin’s last war thesis recommended aggressive agitation and propaganda or agitprop targeting both civilian and military personnel in order to transform the inter-state war into a civil war between the proletariat and peasantry, on the one hand, against the warring powers’ bourgeoisie and governments.[1] “The proletarian slogan must be: civil war,” he wrote.[2] Lenin’s position made him a key potential ally for the Central Powers, as he was the sole European socialist to come out for the defeat of his homeland in the war.

When the war broke out, Parvus had moved to Constantinople and contacted the German ambassador to convince him that Germany should support Lenin’s revolutionary designs on Russia, because they would weaken the Germans’ enemy. Approaching Lenin, he was initially rebuffed perhaps because Lenin already had made common cause with the Germans through Bolshevik-turned-Estonian nationalist Alexander Keskula, who similarly viewed the German army as the best facilitator of revolution in Russia. Operating out of Switzerland and Sweden, he met with Lenin in October 1914. Subsidized by the Germans, Keskula subsidized the Bolsheviks’ publications, helped smuggle them into Russia, and contributed at least indirectly if not directly to Bolshevik treasury. In return, Lenin used Bolshevik agents in Russia to prepare detailed reports for Berlin on the situation inside Russia and propagandized the idea of transitioning the world war between bourgeois regimes into a proletarian-led revolutionary civil war at important international socialist conferences, such as the secret September 1915 Socialist International Congress in Zimmerwald, Switzerland and the April 1916 congress at Kiental.

When news of Nicholas II’s abdication reached Lenin, he turned to the German government to allow him safe passage through Germany to Stockholm in exchange for German and Austrian prisoners. The timing was propitious, since the Kaiser was already supporting a strategy of splitting the Entente by way of a separate peace on one or the other front. Since many parties constituted the western front, securing peace on the eastern front, dominated by Russia, was the simpler challenge. Operating an import-export company and a research institute that doubled as a base for espionage in Copenhagen with Lenin associate Jacob Ganetskii, Parvus convinced the German government to assist Lenin in his return to Russia and goal of revolution there. The deal reached between Berlin and the Bolsheviks provided for the clandestine transport to Russia of some 32 Bolsheviks and family members, including Lenin’s lover Inessa Armand. General Ludendorff provided a military transport train with the status of a supposed “extraterritorial entity.” Lenin’s train departed from Zurich on 9 April 1917. Upon reaching the Baltic sea, the German assets embarked on a Swedish ship for Trallerborg, where they were greeted by Ganetskii and the mayor of Stockholm. He, along with three socialist deputies from the Swedish parliament, accompanied Lenin on the more than 1,000-kilometer journey to the Swedish capitol, where among those who met him was Parvus. Lenin refused to meet with Parvus individually and had him sent to Austrian subject and Bolshevik Karl Radek, who could not be charged with treason in any untoward turn of events.[3] Radek spent most of the day with Parvus, then immediately set off for Berlin where he met privately with the German State Secretary a week later. The meetings’ subject was the amount of, and method for transferring funds to the Bolsheviks.[4]

Lenin arrived in Petrograd—renamed upon the war from the all too German ‘St. Petersburg’—on Easter Sunday at Finland Station. In the abovementioned May 1908 speech to the Duma, Stolypin warned that the Finnish breach in Russian security could end badly for the country.[5] In this, he proved right. Lenin’s train had traversed the Russian-Finnish administrative border and then much of Finland on its way to Finland Station. In the Russian capitol, Parvus through Ganetskii had organized a “grandiose” and “expensive show” of great “theatricality” that included an orchestra, military guard and salute. The orchestra played the ‘Marseilaise’ as Lenin stepped off the train, and Lenin issued a lackluster speech atop an armored car bathed in the rays of a beaming spotlight.[6] The arrival came on Easter Sunday and the final day of an “All-Russian Bolshevik Conference,” and Lenin was marched through the streets by a growing crowd from the station to the former mansion of the princess, ballerina, and mistress of Nicholas II, Mathilda Kshesinskaya, where he set up his headquarters and delivered a famous speech calling for ‘all power to the Soviets’ and an end to the war. Parvus and German intelligence were involved behind the scenes in each step of Lenin’s ‘appearance before the people.’[7] On April 4/17, German intelligence in Petrograd reported back to Berlin on Lenin’s successful arrival and first speeches, noting: “He is working exactly as we wish.”[8] The February revolution’s and October coup’s perhaps most other important leader, certainly for October, also received Western support for his return to making revolution in Russia. Just as the germans helped Lenin, Americans president Woodrow Wilson helped Leon Trotskii acquire an American passport, enabling him to re-enter Russia in 1917.

The assistance of Europe’s Central Powers under Parvus’s plan, however, had only just begun. Lenin and Trotsky were showered with money. From April 1917 through 1918, the German government furnished the Bolsheviks more than 60 million deutsch marks in gold. Perhaps some 30 million went to other Russian revolutionaries, including SR leader Chernov.[9] Lenin’s 60 million marks equal approximately 100 million dollars in today’s currency.[10] The money was transferred through German companies and banks to Stockholm’s Nye Bank, withdrawn by Ganetskii, deposited in Petrograd’s Siberian Bank and “Mr. Lenin’s account in Kronstadt.”[11] The transfers often involved Parvus or entities tied to him.[12] The Germans’ enormous funding of the Bolsheviks helped them survive and prevail in the upheavals of 1917-1918, financing their propaganda and the October coup, including large sums for an enormous agitprop campaign among Russia’s troops througout 1917.[13] Instead of faltering, the funding allowed the Bolsheviks to flourish, gaining pluralities in the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ deputies by September.

Lenin’s penultimate role in the revolution was his superb planning and organizing of the Bolshevik party propaganda machine and the Bolshevik Military Organization. Behind October’s putsch – organized around the capture of Petrograd’s government offices, military garrisons, railroad stations, the telegraph agency, and post office – was Lenin’s years of study of the tactics of warfare and coercive seizures of power and the experience of the Bolsheviks’ failed April, June, and July 1917 failed street revolts/coups.[14] Lenin’s coup d’etat took advantage of the street chaos that his ardor, oratory, and agitprop were able to whip up drawing on the German funds that continued to flow. An October letter from Ganetskii to Anton Antonov-Ovseenko, a key coup operation planner and commander, notes that “Trotsky’s request has been fulfilled” and 400,000 crowns would soon be delivered to Antonov.[15]

While the Germans facilitated the rise of the Bolsheviks and the collapse of republican rule in Russia actively by way of war and direct intervention intervention into Russia’s pre-revolutionary politics, the Entente, in particular the United States, did so by way of an action not taken. Lenin’s anti-war policy and the West’s insistence on roundly defeating Germany, refusing to negotiate a peace, and that Russia remain in the war combined to facilitate the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power, undermining the Kerenskii government and lending the Bolsheviks’ some minimal level of popularity to counter that of the SRs. After the failure of Kerenskii’s offensive on the German front, Wilson’s advisor Colonel Edward House warned Wilson that unless peace talks were Germany were begun very soon and a peace concluded, Russia’s involvement in the war would lead to the failure of Russia’s embryonic republican revolution. Wilson’s ambitions to exact revenge on and crush Germany led him to reject such a strategy, driving a nail into the coffin of the Provisional Government’s fate.

The October ‘revolution’ was not complete with the putschists’ seizure of power in Petrograd. Using the model of the Paris Commune,[16] Lenin moved to destroy the old regime’s institutions—the Duma and the government and military ministries and hierarchies – and the new regime’s Provisonal Government and Constituent Assembly promised for November 1918. The SRs had defeated the Bolsheviks in the election of assembly delegates by a factor of more than two to one. The Bolsheviks shut it down by force. The highwater mark of Russian democracy lasted but a few hours on the orders of the Germans’ Lenin.

The Bolsheviks still needed to consolidate power countrywide in the face of fierce tsarist and other resistance in a brutal civil war. German funds continued arriving during the war’s first months. In June 1918, the German embassy in Petrograd dispatched a telegram to Berlin in which it was estimated that it would require 3 million marks per month to sustain the Bolsheviks in power. These funds were used to buy the support of the Latvian riflemen and neutral forces.[17] Dominic Lieven concludes: “The war, the Germans’ support, and the subsequent fall of Germany secured the Bolsheviks freedom of action in that all-decisive year when they formed their regime and consolidated their power over Russia’s geopolitical core, where the bulk of the population, defense resources, and centers of transport and communications were concentrated. This probably is the main factor that one can point out among the other causes of Bolsheviks’ victory in the civil war.”[18] In short, German backing helped the Bolsheviks seize power in October and consolidate it through the civil war.

Per his agreement with Berlin, Lenin satisfied his German patrons’ desparate need to escape its two-front bind by concluding a peace treaty at Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. The long fight to gain approval for his peace policy and the threat of a German march on Petersburg probably forced the new Russian leader to give up more than he preferred. He handed over a large swathe of western Russia to Austro-Hungary and Germany either as their territories or as independent states under protectorate status: Poland, Ukraine, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Transcaucasus. These territories encompassed a quarter to a third of Russia’s land, resource base, and population. Withdrawal from the war sparked an Entente military intervention in a desparate attempt somehow to machinate reopening of the German-Russian war.

The Devils in Power, Blowback for the West

The Soviet era only deepened Russia’s security vigilance in relations in the West. What had been an waxing and waning of what was usually realistic trepidation about Western invasion and collusion became quite something else: an ever intensifying maelstrom of internal terror to prevent the rise of ‘counter-revolutionary’ Lenins and Parvuses along with a frantic effort to build up the state’s industrial power initially in order to first project revolutionary power and then under Stalin to protect ‘socialism in one country.’ The details of Soviet and Cold War history are well-known and need not be detailed here. Suffice it to say that the search for internal enemies that began with Lenin-era show trials of SRs and progressed to Stalin’s trials of industrial ‘wreckers’ and the whirlwind of the Great Terror always featured in the indictment charges of being part of counter-revolutionary group working at the behest of capitalist bourgeois – that is, Western – governments and spies. Security vigilance devolved in the first three Soviet decades into a crazed, seemingly paranoid hyper-vigilantism. This necessitated the USSR’s near complete isolation from the Western thought, culture, institutions, and ways of life. Dissent and collusion became impossible under the constant police terror and the hyper-centralized power of the mono-organizational Party-state and its deep penetration, control, manipulation, and mobilization of the entire society and its institutions. The Great Patriotic War brought little to no relief from the press of the Stalinist regime, and the post-war years quickly began to descend into another bacchanalia of bloody vigilantism signaled by the Leningrad Affair and Doctors’ Plot.

The Khrushchevan thaw was the first break in the long span of the Party-state’s totalitarian press on society, but restoration of influence from the West was minimal. The Brezhnev stagnation represented a limited return to hyper-vigilance against dissent and collusion, and it brought a breakdown in society’s ability for creativity and thus the economy’s capacity to compete with the ongoing scientific-technological revolution in the West. Radio technologies and exchange programs allowed some very limited Westernism into the Soviet information space. Results included the ‘stilagi’, a large underground rock movement, and greater embourgoisment of Soviet life, reflected increasingly in Soviet film.

In foreign relations, Soviet power quickly lost the elan of revolutionary expansionism after its bloody nose at Warsaw and the failure of the Berlin uprising. Collectivization and famine and the need for rapid industrialization required a narrow domestic focus, forcing Stalin to revert to a policy of ‘socialism in one country.’ With the rise of fascism, the USSR was caught between the imagined hypothetical threat from capitialism writ large that its sacred texts had conjured up and the real threat of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany. No great distinction was made between the republican and fascist West, and so Stalin bet wrong and chose a pact with the devil. The price was another great invasion from the West and devastation on a scale of the Smuta, Napoleon’s invasion, and the wars and revolution of 1914-1921. This experience only compounded the security vigilance norm, especially as Stalin and the regime made little to no extinction between the democratic and fascist West and therefore tended to fully exaggerate the potential threat posed by the former. The destruction of the Great Patriotic War had a residual effect in the postwar era, prolonging the sense of military threat from the capitalist West and helping to give birth to the Cold War. This new war posed an unprecedented existential, nuclear threat to the peoples of the USSR as it did to those of the West, and this could only support the security vigilance norm, despite shifts to peaceful coexistence, détente, and arms treaties.

The Russian dilemma resumed with the security vigilance norm against the Western military threat coexisting with a constant Soviet obsession with matching the West accomplishment for accomplishment, whether in space, on the farm, in the kitchen, on the ice rink or in ballet. Soviet economic, scientific, and technological progress were measured only against that of the West. Recall the ‘kitchen debate’, ‘we will bury you’, and Sputnik. Although Khrushchev’s peaceful coexistence and Brezhnev détente’ and arms treaties masked an hot, second track Cold War across the ‘Third World,’ neither side lost sight of the main contest: the capitalist West versus the Soviet bloc—Washington’s triangulation with Beijing notwithstanding. Losing ground in the peaceful competition of the Cold War, Mikhail Gorbachev sought a breathing spell, then full termination of the Cold War.

From Other’s Shores

It was Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost’ then political perestroika that made the breakthrough, the return of Russia’s historical integration with the West, instituting a nearly complete rollback of the domestic security vigilance norm in the course of five rapid-fire years of deepening reform and liberalization. For perestroika reformers and the new opposition’s ‘radical democrats’ alike, Western ways moved from being forbidden to mention to being required to imbibe and adopt. The soviets became quasi-parliaments, presidents replaced first secretaries, 500 Days transitions to the market supplanted developed socialism, constitutions were taken seriously, hagiographies of Lenin were replaced by exposes` of the Stalin and the Great Terror, banned literature banished to the West – from Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago to Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago – returned home and were published in the most prestigious Soviet journals. The Western values of freedom of speech, the press, and association were imported from Western capitalist bourgeois ‘formal democracy.’ The amended Soviet perestroika constitution and a draft new Union treaty incorporated Western models of republicanism and federalism.

The new openness and then freedom prompted a backlash from the ‘swords and shields’, the organs of coercion – the KGB, military, and MVD – which in August 1991 overturned the chessboard of an intensifying contest for power between Party-state hardliners, Gorbachev’s reformers, and democratic revolutionaries. The denoument scheduled for October 1991 was supposed to see the implementation of democratic transition pact on the basis of the new Union Treaty set to be signed by Gorbachev, Yeltsin’s Russia and several other Soviet republics’ leaders the day for the failed 19 August coup. Russia’s 20th century came full circle. The August coup put the final nail in the coffin of the October coup. The Union Treaty was scuttled, and the Soviet Union collapsed.

Late Soviet change in foreign policy under Gorbachev’s ‘new political thinking’ was even more striking, putting an end to the Cold War and pursuing a ‘common European home’ built on universal, if distinctly Western values of the kind Russia had always pursued but never quite attained. Gorbachev and the veteran cold warrior, US President Ronald Reagan, developed great rapport and even friendship. More importantly, they laid the groundwork and mutual trust that engendered a series of arms comtrol treaties under Reagan and his successor, George H. W. Bush. The collapse of the Berlin Wall and Soviet Bloc in Eastern Europe and Soviet support for the U.S. war in Kuwait and Iraq marked the end of the Cold War, which was semi-officially declared over at the Madrid Bush-Gorbachev Madrid summit in 1991. Russia rejoined the Western world, if still on its periphery and scheduled for some serious catching up. Neverthless, the Cold War’s end included a new vision of a united Western, actually northern hemispheric community ‘from Vancouver to Vladivostok.’ The post-Cold War 1990s saw hopes for the realization of that idea quickly dissipate.

The 1990s saw the continued the demise of the security vigilance norm against Western military threats, Western-influenced dissent and collusion between the two until the West began seriously considering by the mid-1990s and then pursuing NATO expansion in the late 1990s. Until then, all Russia seemed to be ‘colluding’ with the West in one way or another in an effort not to weaken and undermine Russia but to bring her into the West and the 21st century. In terms of institutional change, however, Russia’s revived emulation of its constitutive Other was limited to less something less than robust democratic, republican, and constitutional ways. The consolidation of republicanism and free market economics would have taken decades with the requisite Western assistance. Without it, it faltered and struggled, bu it was NATO expansion that forced Russia’s frail infant of democracy to die a slow death in the 21st century. At every step of the way NATO and its expansion, with an assist from EU expansion, confounded Russia’s further integration with the West, and led to a quick revival of what had become a recessive rather than dominant security vigilance strain in Russia’s political and strategic cultures.

Gorbachev had received a series of assurances that NATO expansion would not extend beyond a reunited Germany. Moreover, the logic of the new relationship – the end of the Cild War, the collapse of the USSR, cooperation in international affairs, a common European home from Vancouver to Vladivostok, Western promises of economic development and other forms of assistance to Russia – made cognitive dissonance and renewed distrust of the West with even talk of NATO expansion inevitable. The recently released transcripts and other archival documents from the Yeltsin-Clinton talks proved just how deep ran Russia’s fears of major military presences on or near its borders. Yeltsin literally begged Clinton to at least issue a new promise that NATO would not expand to any of the former Soviet republics, warning his authority would be emaciated by NATO expansion. This was Russia’s residual security vigilance value, relegated at the Cold War’s end to recessive status, dominant only among the siloviki and the bowels of the soon to be deceased CPSU apparatus. The regeneration of the security-bearing institutions – the siloviki, with the CPSU dead after 1991 – was a direct consequence of the charisma they possessed as purveyors of the security vigilance norm and the actual event of NATO expansion in 1997. With the latter, the fortunes of the siloviki were revived rapidly. Even before ailing Yeltsin’s team settled on Vladimir Putin as his designated successor, it had decided that any candidate would come with epaulettes comtemporaneously or in his biography. Thus, Sergei Stepashin preceded Putin as prime minister in 1999. The latter had given an interview when still a lowly deputy mayor in St. Petersburg, warning that any expansion of NATO, particularly to Ukraine would be unacceptable for the majority of Russians.

In 1994, Russians supported Moscow’s decision to join NATO’s ‘Partnership for Peace’ Program (PPP) by a factor of three to one.[19] However, once the West turned to NATO expansion without Russia, public opinion in Russia turned sharply against NATO and the West. Thus, well before Vladimir Putin’s succession of Yeltsin and abandonment of more liberal positions, Russians already were reactivating their ancient vigilance in relation to the potential Western military threat, represented now by the expansion of world history’s most powerful military alliance to its borders. From April 1996 to March 1997 Russian respondents’ opposition to NATO expansion grew from 47 to 58 percent.[20] A June 1997 VTsIOM survey showed 67 percent considered there was reason for Russia to fear Western countries that joined NATO, 22 percent disagreed and 11 percent could not give a definitive answer.[21] Within a year before Putin’s appointment as acting president, Russians remained concerned regarding the Western military threat represented by an expanding NATO bombing Yugoslavia. In March 1999, 69 percent of Russians, according to a VTsIOM opinion survey, felt to one degree or another that Russia had something to fear in countries joining NATO, only 31 percent did not think so.[22] Just as the Russian public’s opposition to NATO grew in response to the first round of expansion, a majority opposed NATO membership for the Baltic states, Ukraine and “other” former Soviet republics.[23] By June 1999, two months after the Visegrad countries official entry into NATO, the announcement of further expansion to the formerly Soviet Baltics, and with NATO bombs falling on Yugoslavia, VTsIOM found that 73 percent of Russian citizens had a negative view of NATO, 27 percent – a positive view.[24] Russians also soured on relations with the West in general through the 1990s.[25] It is important to emphasize that this turn against the West – a clear sign of the reconstitution of the traditional Russian security culture and vigilance norm from recessive to dominant position – occurred before the state attained hegemony in the Russia’s media sustem and information space under Putin.

Yeltsin condemned NATO expansion in precisely the same terminology Putin would. If the 1990s did not produce today’s Putin and the reconstitution of Russia’s security culture and vigilance norm, then the 2000s surely did. The early Putin still held to the Vancouver to Vladivostok dream; one now deferred for decades under the strong revival of Russia’s security culture and vigilance norm. In the month of his first inauguration on 7 May 2000, the nine countries that had been issued MAPs at the 1999 NATO summit along with Croatia founded the ‘Vilnius Group’ to coordinate their accession to NATO in an expansion that would bring NATO to Russia’s borders—a long way from East Germany. In just the first five months of his first presidential term Putin suggested to the West twice that Russia was open to NATO membership, warned Washington of an impending major terror attack, and promised (and later lent) support in 9/11’s aftermath. Simultaneously, he saw the West back a coup in Russia-friendly Serbia. Russia perhaps was already lost before the subsequent rounds of NATO expansion, Kosovo, color revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, Saakashvili’s August 2008 South Ossetiyan war, the 2014 Maidan takeover by way of a snipers’ attack carried out by the neofascist wing of the ‘revolution of dignity’—Ukraine’s second Western-backed color revolution in a decade.

In response to the West’s betrayal Putin and – with the state-run media’s assistance, albeit – everyday Russians have been reactivating their national security vigilance norm and purveying iconic symbols to nurture and honor it. On example already mentioned is Putin’s establishment of National Unity Day in 2006. In addition, the post-Soviet era, especially under Putin, saw a strong revival of the sacralization-martyrization of the Great Patriotic War and the sacrament of Victory Day both from above by the state and from below in society. In contrast to National Unity Day’s inauguration ‘from above,’ a new reincarnation of ‘Victory Day’ celebrations under Putin with new forms of ‘worship’ actually originated ‘from below.’ Soviet-era worship featured parades across the country capped off by the massive show of security vigilance in the form of the traditional May 9th military parade in Moscow on Red Square passing by the monument to Minin and Pozharskii, the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Church. These sacraments of worship continued in Russia on each Victory Day through the Soviet collapse, the 1990s depression, the Chechen wars, and the rise of jihadi terrorism in Moscow itself in the 2000s. A new sacrament, one that has become increasingly popular, first emerged in 2012 in Tomsk, Russia and Sumy, Ukraine as grassroots initiatives.[26] Christened “the immortal regiment” (bessmertnyi polk) the idea of ordinary Russians walking in silence with photographs or portraits of their forebears killed during the Great Patriotic War, caught on immediately. In 2013 some 200 Russian cities saw immortal regiments march,[27] and the new tradition continues to flourish, touching all political, ethnic, and religious persuasions. The state, in the form of local governments, increasingly cooperated with local immortal regiments helping to plan their marches and coordinate their schedule and routes with the official parades. Nevertheless, the regiments continue to function as a “Non-Commercial, Non-Political, Non-State Civic Initiative,” in the words of the overall Immortal Regiment’s Statutes, and continues to draw millions of average citizens as well as officials.[28] Since 2015, President Putin himself has walked in the annual Moscow march along with hundreds of thousands of Muscovites holding a picture of his father, who died in the war. In 2018, Putin sent a brief greeting to participants in the Immortal Regiment Congress, blessing the movement as a “needed” initiative that will “unite” represenatives of “all generations” and “assist in the upbringing of young people on a foundation of the values of patriotism, public spirit, and a respectful attitude towards the wonderful military and labor pages of our national history.”[29] In addition to May 9th numerous other anniversaries connected with the Great Patriotic War, such as the lifting of the 900-day blockade of Leningrad, are also commemorated annually, diffusing the ritual worship even deeper into the national memory and culture.


Russia’s security vigilance norm against Western wars and invasion is a direct result of a long history of such wars and invasions beginning most notably in the early 17th century with the Vatican-Polish political and military intervention in Russia’s domestic politics in an effort to expand Catholicism to Moscow. The cultural effect of the Smuta was reinforced by Napoleon’s invasion, the Crimean War, World War I and the civil war intervention, the Great Patriotic, and most recently a potential prelude to war and invasion—NATO expansion. Now Russia’s security vigilance norm against Western wars and invasion is again the foundation of its strategic culture and discourse. Similarly, the same norm’s focus on the risk of societal schism as a result of Western influence and on the danger of direct Western meddling in Russian politics with Russian colluders developed as a result of repeated waves of passive and active Wstern cultural influence punctuated by Western recruiting of Westernized colluders to meddle in Russia’s internal politics: medieval ‘heresies’; passive Westernization influencing Muscovite tsars before and after the Smuta; Peter the Great’s dislocating enlightenment; Western meddling in palace politics and coups throughout the post-Petrine enlightenment century; the rise of Westernized dissidents from Golitsyn and Radischev to the Decembrists, republican and socialist revolutionaries; Western support for such dissidents; and direct Western influence on, protection and material support of 19th century Russia’s socialist terrorists and revolutionaries leading to the Imperial regime’s collapse; ‘bourgeois capitalist’ Western support for Soviet dissidents, and Western support for post-Soviet era opposition forces in Russia and allied and neighboring countries. Now, Russia’s security vigilance norm against Western driven dissent and meddling with alleged colluders is again a central aspect of Russian political culture and discourse.

Over the centuries, Russian elites have frequently asserted a dangerous connection or outright collusion has existed and brought Russia political instability and state collapse. They have been right, despite frequent resort to exaggeration and manipulation for foreign and domestic political purposes. There is no doubt that official and unofficial Westerners have deployed a range of instruments to facilitate change in Russia—from private religious, economic, and political proselytization to government propaganda or “strategic communications” in support of heretics and dissidents to subversive operations and even military action against Russia or her allies. Thus, Russian perceptions of past, present, and potential future Western interference, intervention, and subversion have become crucial in Russian leaders’ responses to opposition and dissent. Past interventions yield suspicion of foreign partnerships and foreign presence in Russia, fueling fears of subversion, destabilization, intervention, civil war and invasion. Indeed, Russian opposition elements often have sought and received the assistance of foreign enemies and visa versa. As a result, Russian regimes and elites began to perceive, expect, search for, imagine, and even conjure opposition collusion with its Western foes. Sometimes real collusion was accurately perceived and measured; sometimes it was missed or underestimated; other times it was exaggerated; more rarely it was imagined or faked. Russia’s security value has been nurtured, reinforced and firmly embedded in her cultural sediment by the way interpretations of historical events and portrayals of key personages in the Russian social sciences, especially historiography, the arts, state education and propaganda. A series of events and personages as symbols have been passed down, utilized, imagined and reimagined by the state and elites to reinforce or weaken the national security strain in Russian political and strategic culture.

Particularly under more traditionalist authoritarian leaders, the state has found the security value useful and supported the value’s dominant position or reactivation. Over time, regime and public fears, perceptions and exaggerations of real or imagined foreign-domestic collusion evolved into an important strain deeply embedded in Russia’s political and strategic culture. Many Russians came to and continue to view the West as not just an alien “Other” but as a real and present danger to Russian state sovereignty, culture, and identity persistently seeking to undermine her political stability and/or national security. Under liberalizing, Westernizing leaders the Russian state has tended to weaken that support while pro–Western opposition movements and opinion shapers have reimagined historical events and figures to undermine the security value’s central ideas, attitudes and beliefs. Pro-Western elements have sought to undermine the strain’s usually dominant position in the culture. However, the more domestic dissent has been tied to Western ideas, actors, and institutions, the greater has been the degree of resistance to change, of repression of dissidents, of retrenchment of traditionalism, and of antagonism toward the West and those of its values that differ from Russia’s traditionalist legacy.

The periods of rejection of the West are frequently driven by real, perceived, imagined, and conjured or “constructed” Western external and internally associated threats, creating waves of “occidentophilia” and “occidentophobia.” The fits of borrowing and rejection affect some parts of the population more than others, driving wedges for the making of internal conflict between different groups and institutions in Russian state and society. Transitions from Westernism to anti–Westernism or visa versa have not meant that every individual or group culture transforms in accordance with new hegemonic orientation. Rather, some move to a neo- or quasi-traditionalist dissent, holding to previously dominant, now recessive strains in the culture. To the extent that any approaching new order and security culture may require a change of leaders and elites, it provokes elite repression against the dissidents. In some cases, Russian rulers or ruling groups “dissented” in the form of reform or revolution from above pushing society to follow suit from below.    

Russia has come full circle after the failed Soviet experiment. Its security vigilance norm has been revived on its original realist principles, shorn of its ideologically driven Soviet domestic vigilantism and hyper-militarism against often exaggerated and misguided national security threat perceptions. In addition to the Smuta, Kurbskii, Mazepa, and tsarevich Alexei, the Decembrists and Lenin are becoming symbols of Western meddling and treason. Lenin is repeatedly condemned by Putin himself for his collusion with Western foes from Vienna to Berlin and fomenting revolution in wartime and ceding Russian Imperial territory to the West—the same territory being contested by NATO’s and Russia’s spheres of influence. A full and less one-sided appreciaton of the history of Russian-Western relations perhaps would have suggested to more policymakers in Washington and Brussels the reckless risk that NATO expansion to the east would spark a revival of foreign and domestic vigilance that in turn would fundamentally damage Russian-Western relations and undermine the tentative consensus regarding the need for pluralism, liberty, and political, civil and human rights that existed in Russia after the Soviet collapse.   

The grave threat that hangs over Russian and the West now as a result of NATO expansion and Western brinksmanship in places like Ukraine to achieve it has created a confounding security dilemma. On the Western side, Russian resistance to NATO and Western encroachment in what it regards as its historical and rightful sphere of influence is viewed or is portrayed for mobilizational purposes as Putin’s desire to ‘restore the Soviet Union.’ Less absurd is Moscow’s misperception that NATO expansion is an attempt to destroy Russia’s national sovereignty, if not Russia itself. In fact, since its inception, post-Cold War NATO expansion has been less about Russia and more about creating a reason for NATO’s continuing existence, bureaucratic inertia, feeding domestic constituencies such as the defense industry and anti-Russian Eastern European diasporas, and in the case of Bill Clinton compenasating for his lack of national security credentials having been a draft dodger. Once NATO expansion began, it could never stop unless it met a countervailing force that compelled it to halt. With each round, a new ‘exposed flank’ was created in the east that had to be secured. The only exposed flank that needs no security in the Western mind’s less than generous consideration of Russian interests is Russia’s own western flank.

Russia’s principal foreign policy motivation is not territorial expansion but “maximizing security” against the external, outside-in threat vector. In this view, Russia is a “prospect theory player on the international scene,” that seeks “to prevent foreign policy defeats that could translate into a loss of power in the region, a loss of great power status, or, in some cases, translate into political defeats at home.” Russia’s insistence on great power status and a sphere of influence in its immediate neighborhood is a function of Russia’s vulnerable geographic position, a history of foreign (most often Western) invasion, and its security-maximizing goal. Therefore, “Russia’s aggression in its near abroad and its military modernization at home are driven by a concern with security and a heightened perception of threat, which stem from an asymmetry of power relative to the United States.” That asymmetry is demonstrated by Russia’s inability to politically halt NATO expansion and Western deployments of missile-defense and other weapons systems along Russia’s periphery. If the threat of losing regional power status gets too high, then and only then will Russia act militarily as it did in South Ossetiya, Abkhaziya, Crimea and Donbass in 2008 and 2014.[30]

In order to understand Russia’s security-maximizing as well as its perplexity and consternation over NATO expansion and Western actions in Ukraine, one must understand the history of relations with the West that made Russia’s security culture and vigilance norm. Once one understands this, one will also understand just how dangerously the West is playing with fire on Russia’s western border, especially in Ukraine.


[1] Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution, pp. 379-80.

[2] Pipes, The Russian Revolution, p. 380.

[3] This Austrian was not the only high-ranking Bolshevik-foreigner. Paul Axelrod had Swiss citizenship (as did their socialist predecessor Herzen). Entry to the train could only be granted by Fritz Platten, one of the Swiss socialists who negotiated on the German government’s behalf. Parvus, V bor’be za pravdu, p. 8.

[4] Shambarov and Chavchavadze, Kto zaplatil Leninu?: Revolyutsiya zapadnya dlya Rossii, pp. 146-8 and Pipes, The Russian Revolution, p. 392.

[5] Stolypin, “Rech o Finlandii, proiznesennaya v vechernem zasedanii Gosudarstvennoi Dumy 5 maya 1908 goda,” pp. 114-15. Stolypin’s concern that the Finns were using autonomy to give refuge to revolutionaries prompted him to roll back some of its autonomy while giving them a more democratic constitution to replace the diluted version Alexander III had installed in place of Alexander II’s more liberal constitution.

[6] Shambarov and Chavchavadze, Kto zaplatil Leninu?: Revolyutsiya zapadnya dlya Rossii, p. 151 and Pipes, The Russian Revolution, p. 392.

[7] Shambarov and Chavchavadze, Kto zaplatil Leninu?: Revolyutsiya zapadnya dlya Rossii, pp. 150-1.

[8] Shambarov and Chavchavadze, Kto zaplatil Leninu?: Revolyutsiya zapadnya dlya Rossii, p. 151 and Pipes, The Russian Revolution, p. 394.

[9] The figures were provided by German social-democrat Eduard Bernstein and, on the basis of German archival documents discovered later, Richard Pipes. Pipes, The Russian Revolution, pp. 400, 411 and 411fn.

[10] Lenin kept these often, unscrupulous financial arrangements secret from the Bolshevik leadership, except for his two comrades in the so-called party ‘Center’ which, as noted in Chapter 9, also ran the Bolsheviks’ terrorist operations. The Bolsheviks also received substantial funds from wealthy Russians, including Savva Morozov and N. P. Schmit. Pipes, The Russian Revolution, pp. 369-72.

[11] Shambarov and Chavchavadze, Kto zaplatil Leninu?: Revolyutsiya zapadnya dlya Rossii, pp. 348-50.

[12] Pipes, The Russian Revolution, pp. 411-12 and Shambarov and Chavchavadze, Kto zaplatil Leninu?: Revolyutsiya zapadnya dlya Rossii, pp. 350-5. A recently published Russian book shows German archival documents indicating the following transfers of German funds to Lenin, Trotsky and perhaps other Russian revolutionary parties: 315,000 German marks in June 1917, 180,000 marks in July 1917, 150,000 (likely Swedish, perhaps Danish) crowns in August 1917, 207,000 German marks in September 1917, 400,000 crowns in October 2017, and 2,000 franks in June 2017. Shambarov and Chavchavadze, Kto zaplatil Leninu?: Revolyutsiya zapadnya dlya Rossii, pp. 352-4. It also reproduces American archival documents from the State Department indicating that by February 1918 Ambassador to Russia David Francis was convinced of, and conveyed to the State Department the fact that the Germans were funding the Bolsheviks. Shambarov and Chavchavadze, Kto zaplatil Leninu?: Revolyutsiya zapadnya dlya Rossii, pp. 348-50.

[13] For a precise picture of the Bolshevik campaign, see Alan K. Wildman, The End of the Russian Imperial Army (Princeton: Pribceton University Press, 1980), pp. 363-73 and Pipes, The Russian Revolution, p. 410.

[14] The best perspective on these events can be found in Pipes, The Russian Revolution, pp. 397-410, 414-17, and 419-36.

[15] Shambarov and Chavchavadze, Kto zaplatil Leninu?: Revolyutsiya zapadnya dlya Rossii, pp. 352-4.

[16] Pipes, The Russian Revolution, p. 396.

[17] Pipes, The Three “Whys” of the Russian Revolution, pp. 46-7. It is likely that much of the previously arrived funding was still available at least in the early part of the civil war to help Trotsky build the victorious Red Army and the Bolsheviks to overcome their enemies.

[18] Dominik Liven, “Vozmozhnost’ interventsii i eyo dolgosrochnyie posledstviya,” in Brenton, ed. Istoricheskaya Neizbezhnost’: Klyuchevyie sobytiye russkoi revolyutsii, pp. 33-54, at p. 51.

[19] In a survey conducted by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) in April 1994, 49 percent of respondents supported the idea of Russian participation in PPP, 15 percent opposed, and 36 percent were undecided. “Vy odobraete ili net prisoedinenie Rossii k programme ‘Partnerstvo vo imya mira’,” VTsIOM, 15 April 1994,, last accessed on 30 September 2019. In a September 1994 VTsIOM survey asking whether PPP participation would bring Russia closer to the Western democracies or harm her national interests, 76 percent agreed with the former proposition, only 24 percent agreed with the latter. “Rossiya prisoedinilas’ k programme ‘Partnerstvo vo imya mira’, kotoraya predlozhena stranamai NATO. Kak vy pologaete, ete poleznyi shag na puti sblizheniya Rossii c demokraticheskimi stranami zapada ili eto vredit natsional’nym i voennym interesam Rossii,” VTsIOM, 6 September 1994,, last accessed on 30 September 2019.

[20] An April 1996 VTsIOM survey showed 47 percent opposed entry of the Visegrad three — Poland, Hungary, and the Czeck Republic – into NATO, compared to 19 percent favoring and 34 percent indifferent. “41. Kak by vy otneslis’ k vstupleniyu v NATO byvshikh stran Varshavskogo Dogovora – Pol’shi, Chekhi, Vengri i drugikh?,” VTsIOM, 15 April 1996,, last accessed 2 October 2015. In February 1997, VTsIOM found 57 percent opposed, 19 percent favoring, and 24 percent indifferent. “22. Kak by vy otneslis’ k vstupleniyu v NATO byvshikh stran Varshavskogo Dogovora – Pol’shi, Chekhi, Vengri i drugikh?,” VTSIOM, 10 February 1997,, last accessed 2 October 2015. In March 1997, 58 percent were opposed, 19 percent favored, and 23 percent indifferent. “19. Kak by vy otneslis’ k vstupleniyu v NATO byvshikh stran Varshavskogo Dogovora – Pol’shi, Chekhi, Vengri i drugikh?,” VTsIOM, 20 March 1997,, last accessed 2 October 2015.

[21] “34. Kak vy schitaete, est’ li osnovaniya u Rossii opasat’sya stran zapada, vkhodyashchikh v blok NATO?,” VTsIOM, 10 June 1997,, last accessed 2 October 2015.

[22] “43. Est’ li osnovaniya u Rossii opasat’sya stran Zapada, vkhodyashchikh v blok NATO?,” VTsIOM, 30 March 1999,, last accessed 2 October 2015. At the same time, the country was evenly split on the possibility of a Russian-NATO war, with 9 percent completely excluding, 9 percent considering it very likely, 34 percent thinking it possible, and 47 percent considering it unlikely. “64. Kak vy dumaete, naskol’ko veroyatno, chto vooruzhennyie sily NATO i Rossii budut vovlecheny v budushem v voennyi konflikt drug protiv druga: ocehn’ veroyatno, dovol’no veroyatno, maloveroyatno ili sovershenno isklyucheno?,” VTsIOM, 15 March 1999,, last accessed 2 October 2015.

[23] In April 1996, a VTsIOM poll found that 55 percent of survey respondents opposed NATO membership for the Baltic states, Ukraine and “other” former Soviet republics now independent states, while 19 percent approved, and 26 percent were indifferent. “42. Kak by vy otneslis’ k vstupleniyu v NATO byvshikh respublik SSSR – stran Baltii, Ukrainy i drugikh?,” VTsIOM, 15 April 1996,, last accessed 2 October 2015. By February 1997, VTsIOM found 61 percent were opposed, 17 percent were for, and 21 percent indifferent. “23. Kak by vy otneslis’ k vstupleniyu v NATO byvshikh respublik SSSR – stran Baltii, Ukrainy i drugikh?,” VTsIOM, 10 February 1997,, last accessed 2 October 2015. A month later, 64 percent were now opposed, 19 percent were for, and 17 percent were indifferent. “20. Kak by vy otneslis’ k vstupleniyu v NATO byvshikh respublik SSSR – stran Baltii, Ukrainy i drugikh?,” VTsIOM, 20 March 1997,, last accessed 2 October 2015. In February 1999, with the NATO-Russian Founding Act already in place, VTsIOM found that a majority, 52 percent, continued to oppose the entry of former Soviet republics into NATO with 28 percent favoring, and 30 percent indifferent. “48. Kak vy otnosites’ k ozhidaemomu vstupleniyu v NATO byvshikh respublik SSSR – stran Baltii, Ukrainy i drugikh?,”,” VTsIOM, 15 February 1999,, last accessed 2 October 2015.

[24] “82_B. Kakoe znachenie immet dlya vas slovo: NATO?,” VTsIOM, 15 June 1999,, last accessed on 2 October 2015.

[25] In September 1993, asking whether they would be more likely to vote for candidates in the December 1993 State Duma elections under the new, post-Soviet constitution if “they came out for close relations with the Western countries,” VTsIOM found that 53 percent answered they would, 13 percent said they would not, 15 percent said this factor would “not influence” them, and 20 percent found it too difficult to say. “Nalichie y kandidata dannogo kachestva budet sposobstvovat’vashemu resheniyu golosovat’ za nego ili protiv nego, ili eto ne budey vliyat’ na vashe reshenie: vystupaet za tesnykh otnoshenii s zapadom,” VTsIOM, 15 September 1993,, last accessed 2 October 2019. Less than three years later, only 44 percent said such a position taken by a candidate would attract their vote. “26. Odobrenie tesnogo sotrudnichestva s zapadom takoe vozzrenie usilit ili oslabit vashe zhelanie golosovat’ za kandidata?,” VTsIOM, 30 May 1996,, last accessed 2 October 2019.

[26] Boris Lys, “Vechnyi polk Dnya Pobedy,” Propaganda, 13 May 2013,, last access on 6 February 2019.

[27] Lys, “Vechnyi polk Dnya Pobedy.”

[28] The movement has its own official website, which includes a database of deceased veterans and their family sponsors, where people can register to become members and pledge to march in the next Victory Day march. See “Ustavy,” Moi polk,, last accessed on 12 October 2019.

[29] “Uchastnikam s”ezda Obshcherossiiiskogo obshchestvenno, grazhdansko-patrioticheskogo dvizheniya ‘Bessmertnogo Polka Rossii’,”, 1 June 2018,, last accessed 11 October 2019.

[30] Dmitry Gorenburg, “Russian Strategic Culture in a Baltic Crisis,” Security Insights, George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, No. 25, March 2019,, last accessed 7 October 2019.

*All of the above is covered in greater detail and fully documented in Gordon M. Hahn, The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (Jefferson: McFarland Publishers, 2021).



About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, and a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, Dr. Hahn is the author of The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, 2021), Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018), The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.

Dr. Hahn also has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and has been a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, and the Hoover Institution.

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