Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan 1979 Background



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Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan 1979

Background

The Cold War was a series of conflicts from the end of WWII in 1945 up through the fall of the USSR in 1991 that were largely a clash of ideologies, between Eastern Communism and Western Capitalism (1). This period of history is marked largely by the proxy wars which were fought during this time. A proxy war is defined as “a war instigated by a major power that does not itself participate” (2) and notable examples of proxy wars during this time period were Korea (1950-1953) and Vietnam (1962-1971). Unlike the other major conflicts of the Cold War however the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan was different because it was not a proxy war, but rather an invasion by a major power of a much smaller nation openly.

In order to fully understand the Soviets Invasion of Afghanistan it is important to understand fully the underpinnings of the Cold War and of the USSR and Afghanistan. First off it is very important to note that the actions of the major powers during the cold war were highly motivated by the experience of WWII. The USSR paid the highest human cost of any nation during the war with an estimated 20 million casualties throughout the war and suffered extensive damage to the nation’s infrastructure due to the German invasion (3). This made the USSR heavily war weary but also very much hesitant to trust other nations, due to the Germans breaking of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and a want to not get invaded again. Whereas the USA and its western allies learned the dangers of appeasement, due to Nazi Germanys expansion pre-war, and developed the idea of containment, stopping communist expansion and keeping it at its current levels. This policy was developed early in the Cold War with the Truman Doctrine, which stated that the US would give money to all nations fighting communism, which was successful in Greece and Turkey. Containment was used as justification for the proxy wars in Korea and later Vietnam and also played a major role in the actions of the US during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan.

By the 1970’s the USSR was largely over its war weariness and was truly ready to assert itself as one of the world’s two largest superpowers. In the early 1970’s the USSR was experiencing an economic boom in which the USSR’s GNP increased on average 3% from 1970-1974 (4). This was largely due to a boom from Brezhnev’s Eighth Five Year Plan 1965-1970 that aimed to increase production of raw materials and improve the standard of living. However in the latter half of the decade the USSR’s economy began to greatly stagnate, the economy was growing at a rate less than one percent. Combine this with the massive amount of spending that the USSR as a result of the arms race and the result is economic turmoil, which lead to desperation from the Soviets. Additionally many of the Satellite Nations of the Iron Curtain were experiencing unrest and distaste from the Soviet Union (5) which resulted in further instability in the Soviet Position (5). Combined with the fact that Brezhnev employed an aggressive foreign policy, the geopolitical instability, and economy served as key motivators to the Soviets Invasion in 1979.


The USSR and Afghanistan throughout much of the 20th century were rather uninvolved in each other’s politics. In 1953 Afghanistan became a constitutional monarchy ruled by Prince Mohammad Daoud who became the nation’s first prime minister. The Daoud family maintained rule until the 1965 elections when the Peopled Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) took control of parliament. But in 1973 Daoud staged a coup and took over the nation once again. He was once again ousted, this time by coup, in 1978 by the PDPA with the leader Nur Taraki in charge this time who ruled until 1979 when Hafizullah Amin took power following the assignation of Taraki (6). Amin was however very unpopular and several small revolutions began to appear throughout the country from Islamist groups, who were opposed to the socialist anti-theist policies of Amin. As the revolutions grew, Amin supposedly called for Soviet help in resolving the conflict. By December 31st, 1979 (date of committee), there were 100,000 Soviet Troops (7) in the nation fighting against the Islamist groups that were known as the Mujahedeen


(8). Even early in the war the USA and Western Powers began to provide aide in the form of arms and money in accordance with the Truman Doctrine in order to stop the spread of communism to Afghanistan.

UN Involvement

The UN was created after WWII as a strong central body built with the failure of the League of Nations in mind. One of the key goals of the UN was to help stop and resolve conflicts in order to prevent global war. The UN was first tested during the Suez Canal Crisis in which the UN held its first emergency meeting in 1956 (9). War occurred in this instance but it was resolved quickly through the UN as Egypt was appeased through the building of the Anwar Dam and the canal was returned to international control. This showed the UN’s ability to avert conflict and prevent all-out war, thus achieving its primary purpose. The UN was further tested in Korea, during this proxy war the UN waged an entire war, again serving as a proof of concept.



In this arising conflict in 1979 the UN needed to act as a unified force to avert all-out war something which due to the structure of the UN was very difficult. The Security Council was structured with 5 permanent members with Veto powers, China, USSR, UK, France and USA, who were split on this issue making it very hard for the UN to act. Furthermore in this crisis the UN must keep in mind the sovereignty of nations and the credibility of the USSR’s claim of being invited into Afghanistan.

Note: Since this is a historical Security Council committee it is important to look at previous UN action rather than that taken during the crisis after 1979 when the committee is set in order to predict action that would be taken in the time period as if it were now so all information included is pre-1979 on purpose. You are encouraged to know the actual course of history as references for committee though as it will be close to reality.

Questions:

  1. Does your nation align with Western Bloc Policy, Eastern Bloc Policy, Islamist Bloc Policy or is your nation natural on this issue?

  2. What is your nation’s stance on sending monetary aide and/or arms to the rebels?

  3. How valid does your nation take the USSR’s claim that they were invited into Afghanistan? (question of sovereignty)

  4. Would your nation be in favor of appeasing the USSR to call of its invasion?

  5. Are there any peaceful means to help diffuse this conflict that were or were not implemented in history?

Sources

  1. http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war (Cold War summary for general background)

  2. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/proxy+war (Proxy War)

  3. http://www.eisenhowerinstitute.org/about/living_history/wwii_soviet_experience.dot (Soviet underpinnings)

  4. http://find.galegroup.com/gic/infomark.do?&contentSet=EBKS&idigest=fb720fd31d9036c1ed2d1f3a0500fcc2&type=retrieve&tabID=T001&prodId=GIC&docId=CX3403300164&source=gale&userGroupName=itsbtrial&version=1.0

  5. http://acienciala.faculty.ku.edu/communistnationssince1917/ch8.html

  6. http://www.alternativeinsight.com/Afghan_War.html\

  7. http://www.afghandocproject.org/index.php/english/24-1978to1992

  8. http://terrorism.about.com/od/m/g/Mujahideen.htm

  9. http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/past/unef1backgr2.html



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