Why Did Trump Lie about the Reason for the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan?

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ended in defeat

In long, rambling session with reporters before his cabinet meeting yesterday, Donald Trump made a bizarre ahistorical assertion that attempted to whitewash the reason the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979.

“The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia,” Trump said. “They were right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight.”

That may be the Kremlin’s view of what happened, but it runs counter to the assessment of the U.S. government under both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to the invasion.

So why is Trump, the putative president of the United States, toeing the Russian government’s line here?

Jonathon Chait:

The part about the fight being tough, and resulting in the collapse of the Soviet Union is true. The strange bits in Trump’s explanation are his claim that the Soviets were “right” to invade and that it’s a “problem” that the fight was tough. Americans don’t agree about the U.S. response to the invasion — a grain embargo by the Carter administration, and then arming anti-Soviet guerrillas, many of whom had radical Islamist views. But there has been little disagreement that the Soviets did something bad by invading. Until now.

Meanwhile, the Russian government is moving an official resolution defending the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. (The approval is scheduled to take place next month.) Russians have previously called the invasion a tragic error, but Vladimir Putin’s regime — which regards the collapse of the Soviet Union as a world-historical tragedy — is systematically rehabilitating various Soviet crimes.

Trump is almost certainly not carrying out some kind of favor for Putin by weirdly defending the invasion of Afghanistan and lamenting its harmful consequences for the Soviet empire. (Putin doesn’t gain much from Trump launching a weirdly Russophilic historical riff.) Still, it raises the question of just where Trump is hearing this stuff. He’s not getting pro-Soviet revisionist history from Fox & Friends. He’s also probably not reading alternative histories of central Asia. So who planted this idea in Trump’s head, anyway?

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