When you think of Pepsi, you probably think of a delicious drink for your commute to work. If you’re savvy, you probably use it to clean old coins or a dirty floor. Did you know this drink was once a powerful ally to the U.S. military?

The sip seen around the world

It all begins with the American National Exhibition at Moscow’s Sokol’niki Park in 1959. Sponsored by Eisenhower, the event showcased everything America to the Russian government. One thing that on display was Pepsi, and then Pepsi VP of marketing Donald M. Kendall was happy to showcase this drink.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

During the event, then Soviet leader Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev felt a bit parched underneath the heat. Kendall decided to give him a nice cup of Pepsi to help cool things down. The image of Kendall, Richard Nixon, and Khrushchev was seen around the world. This was the equivalent of having a viral Instagram photo without the snarky comments of “Coke is so much better.”

A wild replacement

Years later, Kendall became president of Pepsi, and he wanted to branch out to Russia. Fortunately, the deal with Pepsi and Russia was confirmed. One major problem for completely going through with it involved the lack of foreign currency. You couldn’t use ruble in the U.S. to order some McDonald’s.

Atlas Obscura

Instead of money, they decided to give the U.S. boatloads of Stolichnaya vodka. In 1972, the drink trade-off went through without a hitch.

Thanks for the Pepsi

For the next 17 years, Pepsi built numerous factories over in Russia. When their contract was almost over, Russia had the same payment problem from the last time. With a three billion dollar, no amount of vodka couldn’t make this fine.


Fortunately, Russia had 17 submarines simply lying around. They offered to give these ships to the U.S. as a replacement for money. Pepsi was so important, they chose to give up their military equipment. It’s safe to say Russia REALLY caught that Pepsi spirit.