The American road to Afghanistan, Syria and Venezuela started in 1587 when the first English settlers landed on Roanoke Island, musket in hand, determined to impose their values on everyone they encountered.
The new Americans conquered their way across a continent to the Pacific and beyond so that by the end of the Spanish-American War they controlled an empire stretching from Cuba to Hawaii and the Philippines. Simultaneously the first Russians crossed the Urals and conquered their way to the Pacific’s other coast. The two empires that would dominate the twentieth century and beyond were born, each seizing territory and launching wars against the nations around them.
They both developed an imperial “ideology” that was central to the way they perceived themselves. Then in the period between the American Civil War and the Spanish-American War the American ideology changed. The lust for new territory to conquer largely disappeared. American Big Business set out to conquer the world in a different way. Soon afterwards the Bolshevik Revolution changed the ideology of the Russian Empire and it too set out to conquer the world in a different and novel way.
The key argument of Empires Apart is that these changes did not alter the core imperial values of either nation. Both Americans and Russians continued to believe that their manifest destiny was to impose their will on others. Corporatist and Communist Imperialism changed only the mechanics of Empire. Both nations have shown that they are still willing to use military force and clandestine intrigue to enforce imperial control. The foreign adventures of Vladimir Putin are just the most current example.
Empires Apart uncovers the real story behind the growth of the American Empire from the first 9/11 style terrorist attacks launched against the natives by the early Puritans to the disastrous Polar Bear Expedition against the Bolsheviks and the “regime changes” of the twentieth century. Uniquely it shows how the broad sweep of American history follows a consistent path from the first settlers to the present day and by comparing this with Russia’s path – frankly labelled “imperial” by the Russian Tsars – demonstrates the underlying nature of America’s global ambitions. In doing so it uncovers the nation’s hidden history – slave raids targeting Spanish missionaries, the first US attack on Libya in 1815, the workers soviet that briefly claimed to control the city of Seattle in 1919, the destruction of Iranian democracy in 1953, the choreographed murder of Che Guevara.
In the twentieth century Russia saw massive changes – ruled by tsars and then commissars, bureaucrats and then kleptocrats, with the malign figure of Joseph Stalin casting his terrible shadow. In all its forms Russian society remained the polar opposite of American and yet Empires Apart demonstrates the remarkable parallels in the way the two nations have treated the rest of the world; parallels which continue into the 21st century.