Yup, I’m talking about the Coca Cola contender/pretender Pepsi – they became the sixth largest military in the world… just for a little while anyway.
Now, you gotta be asking yourself: how on Earth could a soft drinks company martial enough military might to wage war on any second or third world country and win?
Well, this crazy chain of events, like many of those which have occurred in recent history, was a product of the Cold War.
The American National Exhibition.
In 1959, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower was pretty dang pleased with how things were floating along in the States.
Thus, he decided to give a slice of the American dream to his communist counterparts and show them how awesome capitalism really was.
So, Eisenhower’s administration set up the American National Exhibition in Moscow and sent none other than then-Vice President Richard Nixon over there to attend the opening and wax lyrical about the American way of life.
Whilst Nixon was there, showing off electric potato peelers and the other wonders of Western capitalism and consumerism, he got into a discussion with then-Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
The discussion turned into a debate… which got heated… and blew up into a full-blown argument.
Nixon and Khrushchev were both trying to convince each other that their way of life was the best.
It was a straight-up capitalism vs communism argument between two of the biggest players for each side.
Nixon’s head was bobbing out in that angry chicken way that it does, he was poking Khrushchev with his bony finger, and Khrushchev was wound tighter than a nursery rhyme’s bobbin.
And then – just as it seemed like they were about to rip off their tops and settle the Cold War Mortal Kombat style – the VP of Pepsi, who was at the Exhibition stepped in.
To try and calm down the Soviet Premier he said something along the lines of “Yo! Khrushchev baby, chill and have a guzzle on this” then held out a cup of Pepsi.
Khrushchev, much to the surprise of everyone, accepted the cup and drank it.
And to the even bigger surprise of everyone, he absolutely loved it!
Guess there was logic to Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi advertizement after all…
The blue drink and the red nation.
Fast forward a couple years and Khrushchev was craving him that delicious fizzy feelgood, so he decided to take Pepsi off the Soviet cultural blacklist and import it en masse into the USSR.
Now, the tricky part of this deal was the actual transaction to buy the stuff.
The Soviet Ruble wasn’t a currency that was accepted worldwide, and as such he had to strike a different type of deal with the fizzy drinks magnate.
To do this, Khrushchev turned to one of the resources most abundant in Russia and used this as a barter proxy for currency.
And what was that abundant Russian resource, you ask?
The USSR struck a deal with Pepsi where they would trade vodka in lieu of currency, and that continued all the way up until the late 1980s.
Rule Pepsi, Pepsi rules the waves.
After the USSR’s initial agreement with Pepsi had expired, Pepsi was no longer in the market for upselling premium Russian vodka.
And seeing as the Soviet Ruble still wasn’t a currency accepted worldwide, they needed to strike a new deal.
So the USSR decided to trade Pepsi something else they had lying around in abundance.
A whole freaking fleet of war machines worth $3 billion USD!
The new agreement saw Pepsi come into possession of a whole naval fleet consisting of no less than 17 attack submarines, a destroyer, a frigate and a gigantic cruiser!
Once the deal was done, the papers signed, and the keys exchanged, Pepsi were now the sixth largest military power in the world!
So what did they do with all that power? Did they go full East India Company and command all commerce on the waves as you’d hope they did?
They just sold it all off at face value to a Swedish scrap metal company. How disappointing.
And that, right there, is how Pepsi went from fizzy drinks company to the sixth largest military in the world, and all the way back to a fizzy drinks company again.