American Aid to Russia (19th and 20th Centuries)

Figure 1.--Here are Russian children awaiting the daily American food distribution some place in Russia. American food relief reached Russia later than in other European countries, but only because the Volsheviks refused to allow the Americans intothe country to oversea the distribution. They wanted to control the distribution so it could be used as a weapon. Many Russians died, especially the children, before the Bolsheviks finally relented and accepted the American food. Source: ARA.

We find in surprising given the number of times that America has aided Russia in times of need, nefore, during, and after the Soviet era, that so msny Russians have such negstive attitudes toward the United States. On numerous occassions the United States has aided Russia and the Russian people. Millions of Russians were saved from starbation as aresult of American food shioments to Russia. And much of this was done whiole the Soviet Union was involved in major espionage efforts to uyndermine the United States. The most important reliuef effiorts were after World War I and during World War II, but there are many other instances in which the United States has been of great assistance to Russia and the Russian people. In all of Russian history no other country has ever aided Russia in any substantive way, let alone the emormous assistance America has provided Russia. Our experience is that some Russuans are aware of some American of the American aid, but most either are not ware of the full extent of the aid or do not want to admit for what ever reason the full extent of Anerican aid. Russia in its long history has never before received massive foof shipments anf humanitarian aid from another country, let alone a great power rival. Very few Russians are alive today that dobnot have family or friends descended from people who were saved by American food. In sharp contrast, the Soviet Government has on two occassions used food as a erapon to kill millions of its own citizens.

Immigrants (1870s-1920s)

America provided refuge to millions of people from the Tsarist empire. Most but not all were Jews. These people were suffering from terrible pogroms and other abuses. There was also substantial numbers of Poles and Balts. The number of ethnic Russians was limited, but the numbers of people aided from the Russian Empire was substantial. This was not because of American imposed limits. It was primarily the non-Russian nsrionalities under Tsarist contol who wanted to escape Tsarist oppression. America provided refuge for some 3.3 million peopkle from the Russian Empire

Annulment of the Brest Litovsk Treaty (1918)

World War I. Russia lost World War I to the Germans and forced to sign the Treaty of Brest Litovsk which transferred large areas to German puppet states and meant that Russia would be largely under German control This did not happen because the American Expeditionary Force broke the Western Front wide open and forced the Germans to annul the treaty and withdraw from Russian territory.

Food Relief to Starving Russians (1921-22)

After World War I the United States provided relief supplies to Europe to prevent starvation. America attempted to suppy food aid after the end of World War I. The Bolsheviks stopped American aid from reaching starving Russians for 2 years. The food did not immediately reach Russia because of the Civil War and the effort by the Bolsheviks to control distribution and use food as a weapon. Once the Bolsheviks relented, vast quantities of American food flowed into Russia ending the terrible famine and saving millions of Russian lives, even though the Bolshevik Government as a matter of policy was committed to destroying the United States and other stern Government. No other country in history by this single action has saved so many Russian lives--lives the Bolsheviks were prepared to throw away.

Ukranian Famine (1932-33)

The United States would have saved even more Soviet citizens, but Stalin kept the terrible famines he engineered a secret from the outside world. This of course was centered in the Ukraine, but areas of Russia and other parts of the Soviet Union was also affected. Thus unlike the post-World War I relieft effort. Stalin precvented any international relief effort. You have the situation with the Soviet Government strarving many of its own cuitizens while the UNited States in severl occassions were saving the Soviet people from starvation. There is nothong like this in all of history.

Lend Lease Aid (1941-45)

During World War II huge quantities of American military equipment and supplies flowed into theSoviet Union to assist the embattled country. In addition to the military shipmebts there were also largequasntities of food and food stuffs supplied under Lend Lease. Food was vital to the Soviet war effort. The NAZIs occupied much of the best agricultural land in the Soviet Union. This was not only a vital part of the Soviet War effort, but helped prevent widespread starvation in the Soviet Union. (The Germans had occupied much of the most productive agricultural lands including the entire Ukraine, sharply reducing Soviet food production.) Here let me add that America and the world also owes the Soviet people a deep debt of gratitude for smashing the Wehrmacht.)

Aid to Soviets Imprisoned by the NAZIS (1945-46)

At the time of the NAZI surrender (May 1945) there were millions of Soviet citizens being held against their will in Germany. German victories beginning with Operation Barbarossa (1941) took vast numbers of Soviet POWs. Various sources suggest 3-6 million Soviet POWs. Many died during the firstr winter through deliberate starvation and exposure. When a labor shortage development, the Germans somewhat improved conditioned (1942) so about half of the Soviets POWs survived and were being held in Reich camps. In addition, as the labor shortage developoed, millions of Soviet workers were rounded up and shipped to the Reich as slave labor. Most were teenagers and young women. This was more than an additional 2 million people. They were not treated as harshly as the POWs, but the arrest and transport was brutal and many arrived in poor health. And they were not well cared for in the Reich. American aid groups like the Red Cross attempted to assist both groups with food and clothing. Many were in desperate condition when Allied authorities got to them.

Post-World War II Food Aid (1945-50)

Lend Lease ended with the official Japanese surrender (September 2, 1945). America no longer sw a needto supply militaryequiment, especially to the Sovier Union given its behavior in Germany as part of the four-power ocupation. Lend Lease was, however, not just about military euipment and supplies. America had shipped vast quantities of food to the Soviet Union as part of Lend Lease. And even with the end of the War, the need for food aid did not suddenly change. The Germans had been driven from the Soviet Union, but the damage they did was incredible: people killed, villags burned and farm inrastructure destroyed. The Soviet Union had enormous agricultural potential, but the damages combined with the inefficient collectives meant that it wold be some time before the Soviets could meet domestic demand, let alone fully utilize the potential of some of the richest farm land in the world. And America food shipments did not stop. A third American effort to save millions of Russians had come into existence. President Roosevelt had begun using the term 'United Nations' before the United Nations organization even existed. At the time, the erm meant countries fighting the Axis tryranies. One U.N. agency was created before the United Nations itself--the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). The situation for civilians in the captive nations was intolerable. Some managed to escape and as the Allies began to liberate them, UNRRA was tasked with providing relief. And this included the Soviet Union and the captive nations in Eastern Europe. While UNRRA was a U.N. agency almost all the financing as well as the food and other relief supplies came from the United States.

Medical Technology

The Soviet Union had a huge health care system, but generated very little important advances in new drugs or methods. It was advances in the West that saved millions of Russian lives by new technologies and medicines. Here just one example is the polio vaccines, but there are may more. Just think of the number of Soviet children spared from the scourge of polilio because of American medical researcghers.

Russian Wheat Deal (July-August 1972)

One of the first steps in Détente was the massive Russian Wheat Deal (1972). This was testimony to the failure of Soviet agriculture. The Tsarist Empire before the Revolution had been bread basket of Europe. The highly productive black soil areas, especially the Ukraine produced boutiful harvests that not only fully supplied domestic demand, but was exported to Europe. The Revolution and even more so Stalin's collectivization and enginered Ukranian famine destroyed all this. Soviet agriculture became the Achilles heal of the Soviet economy and the impact was still being felt in the 1970s. The Soviets needed to import grain. Nixon suggested to the Soviets that they purchase American grain. It was in part a deal designed to build political support in farm belt for the 1972 election. The Soviets responded favorably. A purchase of 400 million bushels of wheat, was arranged at a price of $0.7 billion. This was a substantial portion of the American grain reserve. Favorable credit terms were arranged. The price was below market values. The purchase was so large it affected American food prices.

Post Soviet Aid (1990s and 2000s)

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union (1991), Over the past two decades, USAID has assisted Russia with its post Soviet transformation. According to USAID, the United States has, "... provided assistance that has helped the Russian people improve public health and combat infectious diseases, protect the environment, develop a stronger civil society, and modernize their economy. As Russia has grown into a middle income country, the nature of USAID’s work has evolved beyond primarily providing technical assistance with a large focus on collaboration. By 2012, the majority of USAID’s engagement revolved around the promotion of an open and innovative society in Russia and a strengthened partnership between the U.S. and Russia. The work led to many breakthroughs and transformations." USAID ended its programs in Russia, primarily because the Russian Goverment obstructed operatins (2012).

Russian Actions Against American Farmers

The Russian Government has in recent years directed actions against American fsrmers and food producers. These od course are the very same peopkle which have on several occassions intervened to prevent millions of Russians from starving. One press report tells us, "Russia has aimed its latest cross-Atlantic swing at the American food industry. On Thursday, the country announced the suspension of billions of dollars in food imports from a number of countries — including Norway, Canada, Australia, the United States and the 28-nation European Union — in retaliation for sanctions imposed on it by those nations over the past few weeks. The measure, which targets meat, fish, fruit, vegetable and milk products, and will last a year, is expected to hit food supplies and drive up Russian food prices. Russia spent nearly $10 billion on food from those countries that will now be banned. Going by the Russian agriculture minister's projections, the ban is expect to affect about 10 percent of the country's supply of pork, fish and fruit. But it's also slated to negatively affect a number of U.S. food industries. Overall, the U.S. exported well over $1 billion of food to Russia last year. Poultry exports, the largest in the food category, amounted to more than $300,000 million in 2013; nut exports to Russia topped $173 million; and soy bean exports were over $156 million." [Ferdman]


Ferdman, Robert A. "Russia's ban on American food imports is going to hit the U.S. poultry, pork, anf nut industries the hardest," Washington Post (August 7, 2014).

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Created: 12:22 PM 4/23/2018
Last updated: 5:22 PM 4/23/2018