Friday, November 16, 2018

Moscow Wants to Rehabilitate Another Soviet Crime – the Invasion of Afghanistan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 16 – The ruling United Russia Party wants to revise the negative views many Russians have about the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and show them that it was a positive move, something important, Duma deputy Dmitry Sablin says, “not only for veterans of the Afghan war but for all of us, for our common memory.”

            Such a revision, Moscow commentator Yevgeny Trifonov says, would be entirely consistent with Vladimir Putin’s efforts to promote Russian history as a string of unalloyed successes, but it would be both absurd and downright dangerous for the government to decide to do so (

            Such a step would be absurd because, in his words, “the Afghan war of 1979-1989 was unique in that the introduction of Soviet forces was absolutely senseless, absolutely unjustified from any point of view, and absolutely inexplicable” even for those who have studied it in any detail.

            And it would be dangerous, Trifonov suggests, because it could easily become a precedent for recognizing as “just” de-kulakization during collectivization, the terror famine and the terror of 1937 because some would argue “this is important for the veterans of the NKVD” and its officers. 

            The seizure of Afghanistan did not have any military importance, the commentator continues. Nor did it have any political significance. And attempts to justify it ideologically at the time as assistance to “a fraternal Marxist-Leninist regime” only called attention to how absurd and internally consistent that idea was in this case.

            That regime asked Moscow to intervene and for months Moscow refused; but finally, it gave in, invaded and killed the Afghan leader who asked for assistance, Trifonov says. “Such crimes in the 20th century were committed only by putschists in underdeveloped countries, but they killed their own presidents and not foreign ones.”

            According to the Moscow commentator, “it is impossible to understand why the Soviet leadership threw forces into Afghanistan to support an absolutely unpopular regime,” especially since the Soviet Union “did not have the resources to secure the construction int his backward country of anything like a contemporary economy and social milieu.”

            After ten years, the loss of more than 15,000 of its own troops, and the deaths and forced migration of hundreds of thousands of Afghans, the Soviet forces left “without having achieved anything.”  Now, however, the Putin regime wants all this to be recognized as “a just war” and something Russians should be proud of, a position as absurd and dangerous as the original idea.

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