I would like to know incident(s) where SU/Russia was accused to have done something by Western powers where Western historians also came at least now to the conclusion that the accusation was unwarranted.

I decided to exclude the 21th century precisely for the reason that I don't want any discussion about recent incidents which are politically charged. I want something which has now a broad consensus and can be safely observed from the distance of time.

Background of the question that I want to know how both SU/Russia and the Western powers acted and how the story developed. What was the cause for the accusation? The problem with the long-time Cold War period was that both sides inflated any accusation for propaganda and corrections rarely, if ever, happened.

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    When Gremlins (1984) was released there was a political cartoon titled "Kremlins" where President Reagan was depicted seeing communists and Soviet spies everywhere and blaming them for everything that went wrong. I suppose that a number of persons were paranoid about the USSR and blamed them for everything, even the things that the USSR couldn't have been responsible for. And maybe sometimes various Western governments accused the USSR of those things.
    – MAGolding
    Jun 17, 2018 at 15:54
  • Not an exact match but missile gap comes to mind.
    – AllInOne
    Jun 18, 2018 at 1:51
  • @AllInOne Superior military technology in general was often attributed to the Soviets. Several MiG and SAM generations were rumored to be immensely superior to Western equivalents. But these are more intelligence misconceptions that were to the benefit of the Soviets. The OP seems to refer to more negative issues. I would look into assassinations and coups.
    – Boaz
    Jun 19, 2018 at 7:09
  • FYI there is a wonderful answer to the question asked the other way around. Another crunchy anecdote is that, according to Castro, some of the Cuban missiles were already on the island when the 1962 crisis broke out. Jun 19, 2018 at 12:45

1 Answer 1


Are there notable incident(s) where Russia/SU was wrongfully accused by Western powers in the 20th century?

I can think of two. When Gary Power's U2 spy plane was shot down over Russia initially Eisenhower falsely claimed the plane was lost civilian plane and denied it was on a spy mission. Eisenhower had to backtrack when Power's turned upon on Soviet TV. Ultimately Eisenhower was forced to admit the US had been flying spy missions over Russia for years prior to Power's flight being shot down (May 1960) by the Soviets.

Confronted with the evidence of his nation’s espionage, President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) was forced to admit to the Soviets that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had been flying spy missions over the USSR for several years.

My second one deals with South Korean Flight 007 which the Soviet Union shot down killing 269 innocent passengers in 1983. What was not common knowledge at the time of this shoot down was that the United States used the same path for it's spy planes which intercepted Soviet electronic signals. When the Korean Jet drifted into soviet restricted airspace, something that was also not well understood in the west at the time, the Soviet's had reason to believe it was a spy plane. US spy planes had similar speed, radar signatures and flight paths. Also a US spy plane was operating in the vicinity at the same time the South Korean airliner was shot down.

Korean Air Lines Flight 007
The Boeing 747 airliner was en route from Anchorage to Seoul, but deviated from its original planned route and flew through Soviet prohibited airspace about the time of a U.S. aerial reconnaissance mission. The Soviet Air Forces treated the unidentified aircraft as an intruding U.S. spy plane, and proceeded to destroy it with air-to-air missiles, after firing warning shots which were likely not seen by the KAL pilots. The Korean airliner eventually crashed in the sea near Moneron Island west of Sakhalin in the Sea of Japan. All 269 passengers and crew aboard were killed, including Larry McDonald, a Representative from Georgia in the United States House of Representatives.

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    The second example is not a false accusation, it's just a basis for the Russian making a mistake.
    – user31561
    Jun 19, 2018 at 7:22
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    @Orangesandlemons The point is that Reagan openly accused the SU in committing a crime, while he already knew that it was an accident.
    – Matt
    Jun 19, 2018 at 14:27
  • @Matt how did he know it was an accident, based on the fact they made up facts? As an aside, it was careless in the extreme: note : General Kornukov (to Military District Headquarters-Gen. Kamensky): (5:47) "...simply destroy [it] even if it is over neutral waters? Are the orders to destroy it over neutral waters? Oh, well." Kamensky: "We must find out, maybe it is some civilian craft or God knows who." Kornukov: "What civilian? [It] has flown over Kamchatka! It [came] from the ocean without identification. I am giving the order to attack if it crosses the State border."
    – user31561
    Jun 19, 2018 at 14:34
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    @Orangesandlemons The USA air-force had provoked the SU air-defence several times before that by entering (poorly covered) Soviet airspace in that region and then leaving it. Just the way the Korean airplane did by an accident. So it wasn't a careless decision, but rather an angry reaction to pursue and to punish an intruder even in neutral airspace. And Americans knew pretty well what happened by that time.
    – Matt
    Jun 19, 2018 at 15:48
  • @Orangesandlemons, it was an accident that the South Korean airliner was shot down, but the Soviets weren't really being all that paranoid in thinking it was an American spy plane as they claimed, considering the actions of the US in the same restricted airspace at the same time of the downing. The US role in precipitating that crisis was not fully understood when the downing of 007 brought the incident to the front pages of newspapers globally and increased tensions between the two super powers. As I remember the incident did result in changes to how the US conducted those flights.
    – user27618
    Jun 19, 2018 at 15:48

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