Donald Trump has made a controversial endorsement of the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, misstating some key facts about the historical event and contradicting his own State Department in the meantime.
Trump made the endorsement at what Business Insider described as a “freewheeling cabinet meeting” in which he seemed to lack an understanding of the 1979 invasion or the events that led up to it. During the meeting, Trump claimed that the Soviets invaded Afghanistan to fight terrorists, which was not true. Trump also wrongly claimed that the invasion left the Soviet Union bankrupt.
“Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan,” Trump claimed.
“The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there,” he went on. “The problem is it was a tough fight. And literally they went bankrupt. They went into being called Russia again as opposed to the Soviet Union. A lot of these places you’re reading about now are no longer part of Russia because of Afghanistan.”
Some believed that Donald Trump was confusing Afghanistan with Chechnya, the Muslim-majority region that was invaded by Russia in 1994 and 2009. Conservative writer Max Boot said Trump was confusing the two entirely different military operations, while also claiming that Pakistan was in Afghanistan and should be doing its part to fight terrorists and the Taliban.
As Boot pointed out, Pakistan is actually in support of the Taliban, fighting against the U.S. and its allies.
As The Week noted, Trump’s statement in support of the Soviet Union’s invasion was in direct contradiction to his own State Department. The department’s official stance was that the invasion was part of a “brutal, decade-long attempt by Moscow to subdue the Afghan civil war” in order to keep the Soviet-friendly socialist government at its border. The State Department also noted that the invasion was met with worldwide condemnation, and constituted the only time the Soviet Union attempted to invade another country outside of the Eastern Bloc.
Others accused Donald Trump of repeating Russia’s talking points regarding the invasion rather than the stance of his own administration. But Trump was defended by RT.com, the Russian state media outlet.
Where did Trump get the notion that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to quell terrorism?— David Atkins #11Justices (@DavidOAtkins) January 2, 2019
That's a talking point straight from Moscow. Almost no American would say that. No American media says that.
Draw your own conclusions.
Donald Trump’s statement also led to some immediate backlash within the Pentagon. As Defense One editor Kevin Baron reported on Twitter, Trump’s imaginative re-hash of history led to one unnamed official saying, “Sheeeeesh that’s not true at all.”