Editor’s note: I wrote this in 2018 when my boss at Russia Insider said he wanted to explore the question if influence of Jewish Americans was what made the US so anti-Russian (in the way that Canada’s Catholic Ukrainians are a factor in that country’s Russia policies). Having explored the question of where Western hostility and contempt for Russia (and surrounding countries) comes from years prior, my answer was an empathic no. It wasn’t at all the case that Jewish immigrants had changed the US, but much more that the US had assimilated them. Early next year I left RI to found Checkpoint Asia as I tired of seeing a site which on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis was overwhelmingly the product of my hands, as it had been for four years (two of those with a fellow deputy editor), sprinkled with increasingly ludicrous fare, up and to rehabilitating the Nazi invasion of Russia. I had the full freedom and the encouragement to write rebuttals of anything I didn’t agree with and run them on RI — this was an assurance the boss stayed one hundred percent true to the whole time. However I discovered that rolling out a regular edition, while also penning rebuttals of everything it was now sprinkled with on top, simply wasn’t going to work out as the time necessary would have required of me I do nothing else in my life.
In 1788 John Ledyard, an American explorer who had sailed with James Cook and kept up a correspondence with Thomas Jefferson, returned to Germany from an extensive voyage spanning Siberia, European Russia and Poland. On crossing the Polish-German border he wrote down:
I have within the Space of 3 English Miles leapt the great barrier of Asiatic &. European manners; from Servility, Indolence, Filth, Vanity, Dishonesty, Suspicion,. Jealousy, Cowardice, Knavery, Reserve, Ignorance, Basses d’Esprit & I know not what, to everything opposite to it, busy Industry, Frankness, Neatness, well loaded tables, plain good manners, an obliging attention, Firmness, Intelligence, &, thank God, Cheerfulness & above all Honesty, which I solemnly swear I have not looked in full in the Face since I first passed to the Eastward & Northward of the Baltics. Once more welcome Europe to my warmest embraces.
In the late 18th century, when the US and Russia were perfect strangers to each other with no interest to unite or divide them, an American could visit what was then only began to be imagined as “Eastern Europe” and decide its Russians, Poles, Jews and Tartars were filthy Asiatics inferior in every way to Western Europeans and Americans.
Yet today, when a massive American trillion-dollar military-industrial complex desperately seeks out enemies to justify its existence in a world where Russia is still the only other nuclear and military technology superpower, American contempt for Russia might supposedly be explained by the influence of Jews?The problem with that proposition is that American and Anglo-Saxon animosity against Russia—actually more accurately the desperate need to proclaim a civilization superiority over Russia—long precedes significant Jewish presence in the US and significant Jewish presence among American elites.
Are Anglo-American power elites today rabidly anti-Russian? Of course they are, as they have been for the past 200 years. Are the American elites in particular today disproportionately Jewish? Sure they are. Albeit derided by Ledyard as „ever the nuisance“ the Jews are studious, hard-working and courageous. Starting at the bottom of the ladder and, like other new immigrants, having to overcome strong prejudices against them, they gradually worked their way into the American power elite where they are today greatly over-represented even compared to the Anglo-Saxons.The one thing they did unfortunately not do in this process is fundamentally change the ideology the American power elite subscribes to. To the contrary, the entrance of Jews into positions of real influence was possible only once they had been tamed, Americanized and dumbified so that they were ideologically indistinguishable from the elite Anglo-Saxons they were replacing.
In the 1930 and 1940s Jews in the US were heavily to the left of the American mainstream. Their Socialism often went hand in hand with a sympathetic view of Communist Russia. Into the 1960s the Jewish American lobby, much like the Jewish Americans voters, tended dovish on everything, except Israel — which is exactly what prevented it from integrating fully with the corridors of power. It was not until the Jewish lobby in the late 1960s struck its deal with the devil to support the military-industrial-congressional complex in every way that in return the national security state added Israel to the very top of its priorities.The most immediate cause of US animosity towards Russia today is that the institutions the US built to pursue and fight the Cold War were not dismantled once Russians toppled Communism. Yet these institutions were built in the 1940s and 1950s completely without Jewish American input. In fact, had Jews been more influential at the time it is likely they would have never gotten off the ground.
As soon as WWII was over the US wasted no time in treating former allies, the Soviets, as an enemy, and Germany as a valuable instrument against the Russians. As a result NATO, which was always eventually meant to include Germany, was founded and de-Nazification was never seriously pursued. To the contrary, the renewed US-led anti-Russian effort found use for countless former German Nazi ideologues, officers, scientists, administrators and policemen. Meanwhile the anti-Communist hysteria whipped up at home took care of the often Jewish dissenters. It was easy for Anglo-Americans to forgive their Germanic cousins for racking up a tally of 20 million civilians and POWs murdered in Eastern Europe whose humanity and civilization was suspect anyways. It is likely the American Jews would not have been nearly as forgiving.
Without showing that historic entrance of Jews into corridors of power in the US corresponds with a hardening of US attitudes towards Russia, the observation that Jewish Americans are over-represented among the most vitriolic public Russia haters amounts to the trivial observation that Jewish Americans are over-represented in the American power elite. Sure they are, and what of it? They are, and for every professional Jewish Russia-basher there are a hundred slightly less hard-working Anglo-Saxons and others who would sell their mother to take his place and do the same.
In 1890 the ‘Society of Friends for Russian Freedom’ was founded in America. As you may have guessed the basic tenet this club subscribed to was the self-congratulating notion that unlike the US, Russia toiled under the weight of its own oppression, and that the common Russian was oppressed by his government far beyond the common American by his own. Until 1914 the Society published a monthly barbarism porn newsletter filled with lurid tales of oppression exported from Russia by political enemies of the tsar. It was prominent enough that it counted Mark Twain among its members. Its president, William Dudley Foulke, penned the pamphlet Slav or Saxon warning Americans to prepare for the future world showdown between the freedom-loving Saxon civilization and the onslaught of the semi-barbarous “Scythia” to the east.Thus long before the US had any strategic interest in challenging Russia or any ability to project power against it, Americans were already fantasizing about regime-changing Russia.
The need to lecture Russia, to transform it, to have it admit to its inferiority vis-a-vis the West, to check and humble it militarily (as well as to imagine it is poised to overrun the West any minute) — it is all already there at a time when Jewish Americans are still nothing more than ragged immigrants being processed at Ellis Island.Of course, by that time the more prominent of the two Anglo-Saxon powers, Great Britain, had already been engaged in a cold war against Russia for almost a century.
It continuously propped up the failing Ottoman Empire against Russia and to the detriment of its suffering Christian, largely Orthodox, subjects. In 1854-55 it invaded Russia and in 1878 it came close to doing so again. Partly the rivalry was underwritten by straightforward great power geopolitics: Britain feared expansion of Russian influence in Asia and the Near East for strategic reasons. Yet there was also a darker side to British animosity.As Larry Wolff explains in his hugely important work — Inventing Eastern Europe, the notion of Western Europe, the West and Western civilization as forged by Enlightenment-era thinkers (French, German and British alike) required an anti-thesis. The notion of a highly civilized, progressive, enlightened West worked much better with an obviously inferior Other to point at. Enter the invention of Eastern Europe
— an imagined place similar enough that it could be understood and judged, yet without all the accomplishments that made the West so great. A place which with its retrograde semi-barbarism and roguish anti-civilization allowed Westerners to pat themselves on the back for their supposed great refinement in comparison. (Ergo Ledyard’s racist diatribes — a widespread fad of the time as Wolff documents.)
This construct did not need to affect policies of Western states but of course it did. Being the bearer of a scary semi-civilization Russian power on the international stage was much more alarming than that of a ‘proper’ European power. Moreover, just the stubborn Russia’s refusal (aside from briefly in the 1990s) to prostrate itself before the West and to admit to its inferiority infuriates the West and insults its fragile identity. In other words, confronting Russia makes Westerners feel good about themselves in a way that confronting Western or properly oriental countries does not.Should it be any wonder then that the politically dominant Westerners, the Anglo-Saxons, have been engaged in a cold war against Russia for 200 years now?
Briefly, when the rise of Germany threatened their position, they swallowed their distaste for the eastern barbarians and allied Russian military power instead. But whenever they could afford it, the British and the Americans have preferred instead to reap the dubious honor and prestige of casting themselves as the preeminent Western shield against the Scythians to the east.
The great irony is that Jews who came to America were Eastern Europeans themselves, but rather than challenge the notion of Western superiority over barbarous east they embraced it. In truth the Askenazi newcomers were always an unlikely agent to attempt the former. Leaving Eastern Europe behind they were leaving behind authorities and systems which had treated them unjustly. Unlike say the Polish or the Czech immigrants they had always intended to leave for good, and had few fond memories of the place they were leaving.
And yet it can not be said that American Jews were ruled by their historic grudge against Eastern Europe and Russia. As said, for decades they were to the left of the Anglo-Saxon mainstream, initially pro-Soviet and relatively dovish on the Cold War into the 1960s. It wasn’t until they fully assimilated into the American mainstream that you see the preponderance of high-profile Jewish Americans who are rabidly anti-Russian.
Yet what do George Soros on the left and Paul Wolfowitz on the right have in common? Is it that they are Jewish? Well so are the millions of Askenazis who emigrated to Israel yet they have no interest in an anti-Russian moral crusade. The Israeli power elite likewise maintains a pragmatic relationship with Moscow, where their only concern are Russian policies in the Middle East which may affect Israel directly.
So maybe what Soros and Wolfowitz really have in common is that they are American? Yes, but not quite. More accurately – like John McCain and Hillary Clinton – Paul Wolfowitz and George Soros are Western supremacists. They are derided as “globalists” as if the ideas they are pushing had no connection to any particular place on the globe.Theirs is the very simple idea that west has attained a higher level of civilization than the rest of the world. That the barbaric Mirror Universe brother of the West, Eastern Europe/Russia, in particular is an affront to everything that is decent and good in the world
(whenever it is not under West’s tutelage). That western military dominion over the world is for the latter’s own good. That spreading western institutions and ideas by force if necessary is a net benefit.
And that the rest of the world, but particularly the so-similar redneck Eastern Europeans would do themselves a world of favor if they just stopped resisting, and allowed the Westerners to transform them in their own image. (Or in the Hitlerian tree-worshipping version that western races physically replacing the eastern ones was a favor to nature.)
This is not a Jewish idea. Jews were still in the shtetl when Enlightenment-era intellectuals were laying down its foundation. Even today the Israeli Jews whose identification with the West at large is mild have little time for this nonsense. They are happy to let Russia be Russia. Nor is it a Jewish American idea. As American Jews are over-represented among the anti-Russian power elite, so they are over-represented among the anti-imperialist (anti-Western supremacist) elites. (And in every intellectual field there is).
Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Stephen Cohen, Max Blumenthal, Philipp Weiss. For every Italian, Irish or Polish (to name the other similarly-sized ethnic backgrouns) high-profile critic of the American Empire, an honest and reasonably informed person can probably name five Jewish ones. The only reason why the list is not more extensive is because dissent is not a ticket to raising one’s profile, so high-profile critics of the American Empire are not very common with any ethnic background.
If there is a Jewish characteristic that makes Jews particularly anti-Russian it hasn’t been very effective. On Russia Insider’s own pages, between Golstein, Goncharoff, Doctorow and Shamir, Jews have been over-represented. And that is the glorious thing about this people. They’re bright enough that they’ll never agree on anything:
In the 20th century where Jews have gravitated far to the left of just about everyone, the three most effective and radical proponents of capitalism; Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard, were likewise Jews. How grand!
Perhaps it is tempting for those Americans who see Russia in a positive light to entertain the though that the rest of their countrymen would have basically agreed with them if not for the influence of a small group of ethnic interlopers, but that is not the history of the problem. The deep American elite contempt for Russia is something Americans (and the Enlightenment), not Jews, have to answer for.