In its examination of American Medical Aid to Russia, this article shows how the best of intentions can have the potential to go horribly awry. It argues that the competing binary forces of international collaboration and goodwill versus political tensions and uncertainty combined to create an environment wherein actors and agents inhabited an ever changing and unpredictable international stage. Could American philanthropic organisations and individuals overcome political volatility, financial restrictions and ideological barriers? Just what would it take to establish an American hospital in Moscow, the Bolshevik seat of power? The attempt to establish the hospital proved to be an exercise in patience, persistence and prudence (although not always in equal measure). This article shows that international cooperation, while undoubtedly complicated, was certainly possible. The flow of information, materiel and personnel between the United States, Germany and Russia proved that good intentions, trust and a will to help others were valued. The history of American Medical Aid to Russia also demonstrates that the Quaker role of facilitator and interlocutor was vital in establishing a relationship of trust between Soviet Russia and the United States. This article discusses the difficulties that philanthropic organisations faced when navigating the choppy international waters of the early 1920s and highlights the rewards of successfully doing this. It argues that basic human relationships and trust were just as, if not sometimes more, important than ideology in determining the tenor of early US–Soviet relations.