Brezhnev Orders Stand Down in
by Jeff Provine
says: what if Brezhnev had ordered a Christmas stand down in
Afghanistan? muses Jeff Provine's on his excellent blog
This Day in
Alternate History. Please note that the opinions expressed in this post
do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).
On December 24th 1979,
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icon to follow us on Facebook.on this day USSR Premier Leonid
Brezhnev ordered a stand down of Soviet Forces operating in Afghanistan.
After enjoying a dominant position in international diplomacy over the
United States, the latter 1970s carried a decline for the Soviet Union.
Nixon had opened US relations with Communist China and ended American
involvement in the Vietnam War that had nearly torn the country apart. In
1979, Egypt and Israel had reached a peace agreement hosted by the US.
Iraq, too, had fallen away from Soviet dependence when it began purchasing
Italian and French weapons. Farther east, however, things were looking up
for the Soviet Union: Iran had overthrown its US-backed Shah and
American-Afghani relations had all but ended after their ambassador was
killed during an assault against the militants who had kidnapped him.
""Convince Carter"? Was he reelected in this
timeline? Was there, perhaps, no hostage crisis? And if so, how was that
related to the Soviets' decision not to move their army into Afghanistan?
" - reader's commentsWith waning influence in the western Middle
East, the Soviets looked to a goal dating back over a century in the Great
Game, political one-uppings with the British Empire in an attempt to hold
all of Central Asia under a sphere of influence. Always looking for
warm-water ports, the Russians had long desired to add Iran to their
empire. Even if possible, it would be a long-term goal, and more immediate
were the goings-on in Afghanistan.
In 1973, former Prime Minister Mohammad Daoud Khan overthrew the king in
the coup known as the Saur Revolution and would be overthrown himself five
years later by the army and the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan.
Forced modernization and violent purges of factionalism caused a great
deal of turmoil, but the government was Soviet-supported, even signing a
treaty that outlined rights for calling upon the Soviet Union for military
support. As the unrest broke into full-fledged civil war and half of
Afghanistan's army deserted or joined the opposing Mujahideen, President
Amin and the PDPA asked for Soviet help, first with helicopter support in
June, then rifle divisions in July, and increasingly through December when
Brezhnev gave orders prepping for deployment of Russian troops.
"Summer of '80. Election isn't until November, and
they would probably try to use that as points for votes, but the
Republicans could too easily turn it around to show yet another
international weakness of the Dems." - authors' responseHis plans
changed immediately, however, after a leaked, and possibly false, note
from US President Carter's national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski
read, "We now have the opportunity of giving to the Soviet Union its
Vietnam War". Brezhnev did not make the note public, but it did alter his
opinion on Afghanistan's significance. President Amin had already been
straying from Soviet loyalty, and his purges had killed numerous
supporters of Russia. Brezhnev decided that the Afghanis would lie in the
graves they dug for themselves rather than support them.
The diplomatic shift was handled carefully. The PDPA cried out as
abandoned, but Brezhnev remained firm and offered advisers and the use of
training facilities. Amin and his government attempted to appeal to China
and Pakistan, that latter of which did send troops to defend Pakistani
nationals, but it was too little and too late. His government collapsed in
1980, the same year as the successful Olympics in Moscow. Sending food and
medical supplies to the new nation, Brezhnev managed to gain a foothold in
diplomacy there, opening up relations that would later lead to heavy
Russian economic influence.
"So this Brezhnev wasn't worried about losing
Afghanistan?" - reader's commentsWith the 1980s, international
significance returned to the USSR. Using Afghanistan as leverage, the
Russians were able to convince Carter and the US Senate to ratify the SALT
II nuclear weapons manufacture treaty. The Iran-Iraq War saw another leap
forward as the American-supported Saddam Hussein began a long stalemate as
the two nations brutalized one another beginning in 1980. The USSR
secretly afforded the Iranians weapons, keeping the war going and
ultimately drawing in beleaguered American action to contain the
By the time the war ended, the Americans were war-weary in the Middle
East. Saddam's invasion of Kuwait prompted action from the UN Security
Council, and the USSR led action by securing northern Iraq. Citing defense
of the Kurdish people, the Soviets refused to pull out much as they had
done in Eastern Europe after World War II, and the US saw a new wave of
the Cold War begin in the Middle East. Using Afghanistan as a model, the
USSR would also later see Iran become an economic satellite, cutting the
Middle East in half.
CIA actions in Pakistan and beyond the Sandy Curtain encouraged
insurgence, finding a new balance between the world's two superpowers.
USSR influence continues to push eastward with increased Socialist
activity in India, where many political commentators speculate we may see
another Korea in coming decades of the Cold War.
says in reality Brezhnev ordered the USSR's 40th Army into Afghanistan.
Over the next decade, the Soviets would fight a never-ending war against
guerilla soldiers who disappeared among the mountains and caves after
devastating attacks. The war would drain the Soviet Union of military might
and public support, ultimately contributing to its fall and the end of the
Cold War in 1991. To view guest historian's comments on this post please
Today in Alternate History web site.
Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of
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