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by John Helmer, Moscow 

In the last war which the Americans, British, and French fought against the Russians, they were all defeated and forced to run away. Now it’s happening again.

But if Anna Reid, author of a new history of the Allied powers’ invasion of Russia and war against the Bolsheviks,  titles her book “A Nasty Little War” (lead image, left), what title does  Reid give to the present war which the Doughboy alliance is losing for the second time? A Nasty Big War doesn’t quite do their plan for destroying Russia enough justice, does it? A Nasty Little Defeat followed by a Nasty Big Defeat comes closer to the truth, but Reid has written her book in the conviction that it will not and must not come to that again.  

One hundred and six years since the Russia Intervention of 1918-20 is long enough for Reid to conclude with one of her contemporary British officer sources: “‘Of course it could not possibly be otherwise. But it is unfortunate that events worked out as they did.’ It could have been the epitaph for the whole Intervention,” Reid adds from the British point of view, then but not now.

“So ends a not very creditable enterprise”, she quotes from a report on the desk of British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon in April 1920. Curzon then crossed out “not very” and wrote in “highly dis”.

Reid is so certain this is not the lesson of today’s allied war against Russia she declares her conclusion at the very beginning of her book. “There is no simple read-across from the Intervention. Today’s war is not a civil one, and the impressive and staunchly democratic Ukrainians are not the inept, revanchist Whites. The lazy lesson from 1918-20 – that Western meddling in the region failed then, and will again now – is completely mistaken. If the Intervention does have something to teach, it is that Putin will fail for the same reason the Whites did: because he underestimates the desire for freedom of the non-Russian nations…”

This declaration is at page 10. Reid’s history runs on for another 350 pages of the same.

Reid cannot bring herself to introduce or mention the Russian president by his full name. He first appears, first name-less, on page 9 “as Putin’s Russia attempts to reconquer its thirty-years independent Ukraine.”  Felix Dzerzhinsky, Bolshevik head of intelligence, is more fortunate with Reid. He gets his full name, but Reid adds: “the weasel-faced psychopath in charge of the Cheka”. Dangerous adjectives, weasel-faced psychopaths in glass houses with hands full of them.  

Left, Anna Reid, illustrated by https://www.historynet.com/ Right: Felix Dzerzhinsky.

Reid has similar tongue trouble with how to identify the Russians in the war by name. She  repeatedly refers to them as “the enemy”, because the war diaries and operation reports of the British commanders she was reporting described them so at the time. Their soldiers called them “Bolos” or “Russkis” if they were men; if they were women, they used fonder terms. These men did not want to fight – there were mutinies by the Quebec infantry in the Canadian force, as well as in US, French, and British units. More committed to killing Russians were the Japanese and Greek forces.  

At every turn of events, Reid continues to wage her war against the Russian history of what  happened:

  • “The Americans arrived [in Vladivostok] just in time for a coup. Soviet historians accused the Interventionists of waging a colonial war. This was anachronistic – the hey-day of imperialism was over and untrue insofar as the Allies had no ambition permanently to annex Russian territory.”
  • “Vilified by Cold War-era historians on the left as absurd and hysterical, most of the material [in the British Foreign Office’s Blue Book of Bolshevik war crimes] is in fact perfectly credible”.
  • “Foreshadowing, ironically, a late-Soviet propaganda trope, he [Winston Churchill, then British war minister] blamed what pogroms there were on Ukrainian ‘hordes’.”
  • “There is some truth…in that the Intervention played into a long-standing Russian narrative of encirclement by hostile powers. But it is hard to see, had the Allies stood back, that relations would have been much better. A one-party state explicitly dedicated to worldwide revolution, the Soviet Union was never going to be a normal diplomatic partner”.

This is history topsy-turvied to fit a political message. “Excellent background to today’s events” – this is the endorsement of Reid’s book by Anne Applebaum, wife of the Polish foreign minister, Radoslav Sikorski, whose Siklebaum profiteering from Russia war-making can be followed here.  In London,  Reid shares direction of the Ukrainian Institute with Applebaum —   Applebaum is a patron, Reid a  trustee of the “independent charity that champions Ukrainian culture”  which, the institute financial reports reveal, is paid for by George Soros.   

Also endorsing Reid’s nasty little war book is Head Boy of the Russophobe school in the London press, Luke Harding:    “Putin is the real inheritor of the White Russian legacy,” Harding opines. “He shares the same vaulting imperial mindset and addiction to violence. Like the Whites, he is contemptuous of Ukrainians and other non-Russian peoples.”  

 “Cartoonishly propagandistic but essentially fact-based” – what this contradiction of Reid’s means is that she hates the truth of the Bolshevik or Communist or Red case – that’s to say, she hates Russia’s Russians for thinking and acting the way they have done and continue to do.  This produces a book which is cartoonishly propagandistic but essentially lie-based.

Reid reveals how it is possible for her, her Hachette-owned publisher, and her publishing agent Natasha Fairweather* to produce such a one-eyed history. The answer is in the one eye of the beholder:  Reid lists eight library or government archive sources, seven of them British, one American, none Russian;  four eyewitness army and navy diaries, all British, none of the Red Army; and 158 books, of which 7 were in Russian (4%).

“With the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Reid claims on her second but last page, “the motheaten trope of heroic Red Army versus villainous White Guard and Entente unravelled.” The evidence, she explains, is because “archives opened, scholarship flourished, and cartoonish [again] memorials such as Mudyug [British liquidation camp] were left to crumble.” Reid leaves no quote, no footnote to show that she has read any of this at all. That, Reid explains, is because “the wheel started turning again from the early 2000s, with the rise of Putin. Censorship returned, media and academic were muzzled, and a new story enforced, of unbroken Russian greatness under strong leaders… With Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, history is in some ways repeating itself”.

In her acknowledgements section, Reid mentions four hospitable Russian academics she met on her research trips to Moscow, Arkhangelsk, and Murmansk, she omits to reveal who paid for her travel. Then Reid makes an admission. “I made these trips in 2019, before Russia’s new [sic] invasion of Ukraine. Today I would not go.”




Racism against Jews, aka anti-semitism, earns a full chapter of the history, including Reid’s condemnation of Winston Churchill, then Secretary of State for War,  for thinking, saying and exploiting it politically.  Racism against Russians is pervasive throughout the book; it’s what Reid shares with Churchill and all the others. “Generally speaking,” Reid quotes from an American army manual, “the Russian is exactly like a child – inquisitive, easily gulled, easily offended…”  According to General Alfred Knox, the commander of the British military mission to Siberia, the Whites were “brave men fighting for civilisation” while the Reds were “blood-stained Jew-led Bolsheviks”. Most Russians, wrote a British naval captain, were turncoats who would change sides if not “tied hand and foot by Soviets composed of madmen, Jews, murderers and dreamers”. On going ashore at Alushta in Crimea, another British officer wrote that it was “a pleasure to meet the honest Russians and Tatars, but I confess my gorge rose at the Jews. A Russian Jew is quite the most loathsome type of humanity as a rule, and they are the curse of Russia at this moment.”

Reid is keen on Churchill’s derring-do in military operations. One of them was a fast, surface-skimming torpedo-firing naval boat that is the century-old predecessor of the Black Sea drone boats used by the Ukrainians in the Black Sea at present.  

Churchill was also gung-ho in the first-ever employment of chemical weapons on Russian territory, devised and used by the British in 1919. According to Reid, the “M Device” was an arsenic derivative, diphenylaminechlorarsine, developed at Porton Down, the British military laboratory for chemical and biological weapons, and the recent source of the Novichok reported in the Skripal case.    

Reid says Churchill ordered the chemical bombing to begin on August 27, 1919. It continued until September 22. By then 2,718 gas bombs had been dropped in and around Arkhangelsk and Lake Onega – that was a rate of 105 bombs, 50 sorties, each day.  When the British forces left, they dumped more than 47,000 unused bombs in the White Sea. According to Reid, “what the long-term health damage was to Russian civilians, we do not know.” Reid doesn’t know because she made no attempt to find out.


Ordered in 1919 by Winston Churchill, then Secretary of State for War,  to be used against the Russians, the “very secret” M Device was to be used “if specially necessary”. Left to right,  British infantryman assembling the bomb before a bombing run; the air-dropped M Device containing diphenylaminechlorarsine (DM or Adamsite), and two thermogenerators;    British pilot preparing to load the bombs for a bombing run in the Arkhangelsk region. Click for detail.  From the Russian try-out of chemical warfare, Churchill went on to order gas bombing of Indian and Iraqi rebels against British rule in 1919 and 1920. The British manual of military law of the time declared the rules of war against chemical weapons applied to conflict "between civilized nations" but did “not apply in wars with uncivilized States and tribes"; click for detail.  

When Reid is compelled by the truth of the Bolshevik or local Russian source of evidence, she insists on adding qualifiers: “Soviet propaganda around the Intervention was crude, hypocritical and exaggerated”, Reid claims on page 86, before adding: “but did not always have to be untrue”.

In the operations in the Caucasus around Baku, the British role in the murder of the Bolshevik-appointed leadership, the twenty-six Baku commissars, is now clear, Reid writes: “Scoffed at by Western historians for decades, the Soviet version gained credibility [sic] with the publication of Teague-Jones’s diaries, after his death in 1988”. Reginald Teague-Jones was the British intelligence officer who was official liaison with the British-backed leadership in Baku called the Trans-Caspian Committee, and relayed to them the execution order, so they did the killing and the British wrote the subsequent history denying their part.

Describing a British camp for liquidating Russian prisoners at Mudyug, on the White Sea north of Arkhangelsk, Reid says “the Soviets turned it into a cartoonishly propagandistic but essentially fact-based museum”. “Cartoonish” is a term Reid uses more than once when the truth of the history forces its way into her narrative. For an eyewitness account of what the British and French arranged to be done to Russians imprisoned at Mudyug, Reid accepts “a Soviet-inflected but plausible survivor memoir” which documented a policy of starvation of the inmates to death, and the understanding that “many inmates should not have been there at all…the English had confused the word for Bolshevik with bolshak, local dialect for the eldest son in a fatherless family.” Больша́к isn’t either “Soviet-inflected” or “local dialect” – Reid is excusing local genocide by a linguistic mistake. In truth, uninflected, this was a policy of the senior British commanders, some of whom, Reid concedes, were running on the side coal and timber-stealing for export in the north, oil in the south.  

British history-telling like this turns out to be not history at all, but “cartoonish propaganda” of the same credibility now being paid for and published by foundations like Reid’s Ukrainian Institute. This turns Reid’s book into a museum for the British culture of learning and expression which is now so ailing and so poor it is obliged to take its direction,  money,  and script from Kiev and Washington.

[*] Fairweather is the widow of Richard Beeston, Russophobe of the London Times, who was assigned to report from Moscow during the Yeltsin presidency, 1994-98;  his idea of sourcing for  his despatches was to harangue foreign correspondents better informed than he was, at dinners he obliged them to pay for, on how mistaken they were about Yeltsin’s failures. As a London literary agent, Fairweather sells books to publishers and film producers on their anti-Russian value for clients who, in addition to Reid, include Boris Johnson,  Owen Matthews, and Timothy Garton Ash.

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