When the Bolsheviks took over Russia, World War I was raging. The Bolshevik leader, Lenin made peace with the Germans, which dismayed the British and French, who were still fighting the Germans.
After the war was over, the allies had 180,000 troops on Russian territory – British, French, American, Japanese, Italian and Greek, as well as Serb and Czech contingents – plus 300,000 men of various anti-Bolshevik Russian forces. Nonetheless, Bolshevism won. The reasons given by Paul Johnson in his history “Modern Times” are that most of the allied statesmen did not grasp the significance of the new type of totalitarian dictatorship in Russia. Winston Churchill was the exception – he did realize, and he wanted to defeat the Bolsheviks.
On February 14, 1919, President Wilson (of the U.S.) said he was for withdrawal. He said that “Our troops were doing no sort of good in Russia. They did not know for whom or for what they were fighting.”
Prime Minister Lloyd George was worried about British public opinion and he said “To send our soldiers to shoot down the Bolsheviks would be to create Bolshevism here.[in Britain].”
The War Office warned of ‘revolutionary talk in the Brigade of Guards’ and General Ironside, in charge at Archangel, cabled home news of ‘very persistent and obstinate’ mutinies among his own troops.
Leninism had let go of the small nations on its fringes, and it claimed to be for self-determination. So most western opinion saw the Bolsheviks as non-expansionist. To these Westerners, it was the anti-Bolshevik commanders, Admiral Kolchak and General Denikin, who stood for Tsarist imperialism, the old fear images of ‘the Bear’, the ‘Russian Steamroller’ and so forth. This view was by no means unfounded. Kolchak persistently refused to give the Allies the assurances they wanted about confirming the independence of Finland and the Baltic states after he had overthrown Lenin. General Denikin was strongly anti-Polish. Moreover, Denikin identified Bolshevism with Jewry and his troops committed anti-Semitic atrocities. This damaged the image of the ‘White Russians’ (the anti-Bolsheviks) in the West. The allies just pulled out, leaving the White Russians to face the Bolsheviks. Many of the Whites deserted.
Today we know that the Bolsheviks ended up killing tens of millions of people, and the story may not be over yet. Stopping them initially would have made a lot of sense.