Trump: Afghan Invasion Bankrupted the Soviet Union

Comments lead to media questioning war's well-documented history

In comments Wednesday, President Trump caused a substantial stir in noting the Soviet Union’s collapse in the wake of their disastrous war in Afghanistan. This caused a flurry of backlash in the media questioning the historical accuracy of the statement.

Trump said that the Soviet Union was bankrupted by the Afghan War, leading an official at the American Enterprise Institute claiming the cost of the war was “an insignificant portion of the Soviet GDP.”

Of course, the Soviets didn’t literally declare bankruptcy at all, but their decisive defeat in Afghanistan was the beginning of the end of their attempts to heavily project power abroad. The not-inconsequential inherent problems in Communism were also a clear factor, but Afghanistan was an eye-opener, and sped up the inevitable collapse.

Reporters further faulted Trump for presenting the Soviet War in Afghanistan as being about terrorism. This is primarily a semantics argument, as the Soviets were presenting the war as supporting a neighboring Communist state, but involved fighting Islamist militant groups that aren’t only ideologically similar to what the US would call a “terrorist” group today, but in many cases in Afghanistan are literally the exact same “terrorists” that the US has been fighting in its own failed occupation of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has famously been called the ‘graveyard of empires,’ and President Trump’s comments tied this sentiment to the fall of the Soviet empire. And while a lot of the media were attacking him for “endorsing” the Soviet occupation, the alternative history they’re presenting is that an open-ended losing occupation is “insignificant” and sustainable. Naturally they’re presenting this to keep the American War in Afghanistan going, but it seems that narratively their real problem with the Soviet occupation was that it ended.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.