Tuesday, March 17, 2015

CROSS-POSTED REVIEW: H-Diplo Roundtable, Vol. XIII, No. 19 (2012)- Artemy M. Kalinovsky. A Long Goodbye: The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan

H-Diplo Roundtable Review
Volume XIII, No. 19 (2012)
14 March 2012

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Roundtable Editors: Thomas Maddux and Diane Labrosse
Roundtable Web/Production Editor: George Fujii

Introduction by Sergey Radchenko

Artemy M. Kalinovsky. A Long Goodbye: The Soviet Withdrawal from
Afghanistan. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011. 320 pp. ISBN:
9780674058668 (hardcover, $27.95, £20.95, €25.20).

Stable URL:
Contents [Page numbers refer to the PDF edition]

Introduction by Sergey Radchenko, University of Nottingham Ningbo China 2
Review by Rodric Braithwaite, former British Ambassador to Moscow 6
Review by Mark Galeotti, New York University 10
Review by Lester W. Grau, Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort
Leavenworth, Kansas 12
Review by Alex Marshall, University of Glasgow 15
Review by James Graham Wilson, Office of the Historian, U.S. Department
of State 18
Author's Response by Artemy M. Kalinovsky, University of Amsterdam 22

Introduction by Sergey Radchenko, University of Nottingham Ningbo China

This roundtable brings together five distinguished experts of Soviet
history and foreign policy to debate the merits of Artemy Kalinovsky's
new book, The Long Goodbye, a history of the Soviet withdrawal from
Afghanistan, 1979-89. The book, published in 2011 by Harvard University
Press, is a highly anticipated product of Kalinovsky's painstaking
research effort. I witnessed some of this work from the sidelines, as a
colleague, never failing to be amazed by Kalinovsky's resourcefulness as
he extracted scraps of evidence from unlikely sources in the face of
adversities that stand in the way of even the most ingenious historians
of Soviet foreign policy when they encounter the bureaucratic morass of
the Russian archives. Kalinovsky, whose cultural background defies
categorization, showed himself to be equally at ease with retired
diplomats and Mujahedeen, with former soldiers and intelligence
officers, with politicians and academics, and, last but not least, with
the Russian archivists who would not even entertain the thought of
giving documents to you and me but who succumbed to Kalinovsky's charm
and determination. Seeing that he also writes exceedingly well and that
his argumentation boasts clarity and conviction, it is not surprising
that Kalinovsky won appreciation and praise from many a reviewer,
including the all-star cast of this roundtable.

"It is unlikely that his elegant narrative will soon be bettered,"
writes Rodric Braithwaite of Kalinovsky's book, an assessment echoed in
Les Grau's conclusion that this "rock-solid piece... should stand the
test of time." Terms like "invaluable" and "brilliant" punctuate Alex
Marshall's review. Mark Galeotti and James Graham Wilson agree that the
book is "well-written," "lucid," "compelling," and "impressive." Beyond
these general observations the reviewers are naturally not always in
agreement as to the most important points of Kalinovsky's book. However,
one can identify some common themes and concerns.

Galeotti, Braithwaite and Marshall highlight what I also thought was an
important, though perhaps not surprising, finding of the book: that the
Soviet policy-making elites were divided on the issue of Afghanistan,
with the military and the KGB backing rival factions in Kabul, and
offering contradictory advice to Mikhail Gorbachev. Kalinovsky's
in-depth analysis of these contradictions takes our knowledge of the
dynamics of Soviet policy making to a new level of sophistication and
spoils the oft-repeated and hopelessly naïve arguments as to the
particular shape of the liberal/conservative fault line in the Soviet
leadership. Contrary to what one would be inclined to think, the Soviet
military emerges from Kalinovsky's account as the pragmatic proponent of
withdrawal rather than the evil force of aggression (even the
"hardliner" Defense Minister Dmitrii Ustinov briefly poses as a
harbinger of peace). Soviet General Secretaries, to the extent permitted
by their declining mental and physical faculties, understood the mistake
of the invasion and sought an early exit. The otherwise allegedly
"liberal" Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze joined forces with an
unlikely ally - the hardliner head of the KGB Vladimir Kryuchkov - to
delay the withdrawal. There is none of the neatness here that underpins
earlier accounts of the Soviet Union's last decade, and the reason for
such messiness is all too easy to understand: close encounter with
archival evidence impedes over-simplification.

Another common theme is the reviewers' attention to Kalinovsky's
controversial claim that the war in Afghanistan, problematic as it was
for the Soviet Union, was not fatal.To a far greater extent than, for
instance, the Vietnam War, it was limited in scope. It was expensive but
sustainable for a superpower, and one of the reasons for the Soviet
Union's delayed withdrawal from Afghanistan was that the top leadership
was not under great pressure to get out. For this reason, the war
probably did not play that much of a role in precipitating the Soviet
collapse. Among the present reviewers, Wilson goes to the greatest
length to question Kalinovsky's assertion, seeing tension between his
claim that the war was sustainable and the evidence that the Soviets
wanted an early exit. In his response, Kalinovsky argues that while the
war was sustainable, it was not necessarily desirable for the Soviet
leadership. Wilson and Kalinovsky further disagree about the role of
U.S. pressure on the Soviet Union, Wilson appearing more in favor of the
idea that U.S. post-invasion sanctions and support for the Mujahedeen
prompted the Soviet search for a way out of Afghanistan. Kalinovsky
partially agrees with this assessment, although he underscores that the
Soviet leaders were prepared to weather the fallout in relations with
the U.S. even as they considered military intervention.

A further important issue that Marshall explores at some length in his
review concerns the assessment of Gorbachev's legacy as seen through the
lens of the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan. Marshall argues that
Gorbachev comes across as "an indecisive and sometimes dilatory manager
of events, whose post-1987 actions in most fields led in practice to
disaster." By the same token, the U.S. appears to have been "a far from
honest partner" in the peace negotiations in the lead-up to the Soviet
withdrawal. Marshall notes that while Kalinovsky does not "explicitly
advocate such a view," his book can be seen as "a subtle condemnation of
the central incoherence of 'New Thinking' in Soviet foreign policy."
Like Marshall, I noticed that towards the middle of the book Kalinovsky
shows with remarkable clarity how Gorbachev disastrously mishandled the
negotiations with the Americans, giving away one position after another
for no better reason than to impress Washington. As a consequence, he
ended up being pulled by the nose - in Afghanistan and, one might add,
in other matters, not least German reunification and troop reductions in
Europe and in Asia. Thus, Marshall concludes, Gorbachev did not
necessarily have a good grasp of the Soviet Union's "true national

Kalinovsky, however, does not return to the subject in the conclusion,
and for understandable reasons. If we say that Gorbachev was a poor
negotiator, it logically follows that he should have been tougher with
the U.S. and should perhaps have abstained from a rash withdrawal from
Afghanistan - a controversial point to argue. Indeed, as Braithwaite
points out, Kalinovsky rather tends towards the opposite view: that
Gorbachev "could and should have got out earlier." I think one way to
balance these two arguments is to say that while Gorbachev committed
innumerable mistakes in negotiating the withdrawal, these mistakes were
inevitable if he wanted to complete this withdrawal sooner rather than
later. On the other hand, one cannot help but be struck by the lack of
imagination of the Reagan Administration, singularly determined as it
was to bring about Gorbachev's defeat in Afghanistan without taking into
account the long-term interests of Soviet-U.S. relations, or of
Afghanistan itself. This is, however, my own take, not Kalinovsky's.

Kalinovsky wisely refrains from offering precise advice as to what
Gorbachev should have done in Afghanistan (he says more about what he
should not have done). In the concluding section he discusses the
parallels between the Soviet failures in Afghanistan (in particular, the
ill-fated modernization program) and the current U.S. effort. Most of
the reviewers appreciate the connections Kalinovsky makes between
Gorbachev and Barack Obama (with the exception of Grau who urges caution
in drawing parallels). Still, Kalinovsky takes care to point out
mistakes without necessarily offering any solutions. The moral of the
story is that perhaps there is no solution to the conflict in
Afghanistan. Not all readers will walk away with as fatalistic an
impression. But there is no doubt that the book will make an impression
on a generation of readers, and leave a vivid mark in the historiography
of the Cold War.


Artemy M. Kalinovsky is Assistant Professor of East European Studies at
the University of Amsterdam and a Research Associate at the Centre for
Diplomacy and Strategy at the London School of Economics. He is the
co-editor, with Sergey Radchenko, of The End of the Cold War and the
Third World (Routledge, 2011). He earned his Ph.D. from the London
School of Economics. His current research focuses on the development of
Soviet Tajikistan.

Sergey Radchenko is Lecturer at the University of Nottingham Ningbo
China. He is the author of the forthcoming Half a Leap across an Abyss:
How Russia Lost Asia and the Cold War (Oxford UP, 2013) and of Two Suns
in the Heavens: the Sino-Soviet Struggle for Supremacy (Woodrow Wilson
Center Press & Stanford UP, 2009). He co-authored (with Campbell Craig)
The Atomic Bomb and the Origins of the Cold War (Yale UP, 2008).
Radchenko and Artemy Kalinovsky also co-edited The End of the Cold War
in the Third World: New Perspectives on Regional Conflict (Taylor and
Francis, 2011).

Rodric Braithwaite studied Russian and French at Cambridge and graduated
in 1955. He was a visiting fellow at All Souls College Oxford in 1972-3,
and at the Woodrow Wilson Center Washington in Spring 2005. From
1955-1992 he served as a British diplomat in Jakarta, Warsaw, Moscow,
Rome, Brussels (European Union) and Washington. He was ambassador in
Moscow from 1988 to 1992. In 1992-3 he was foreign policy adviser to the
Prime Minister and chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Since
then he has worked in a number of business and not-for-profit
capacities, and writes regularly on current affairs and Russia in the
press and academic journals. He is the author of Across the Moscow
River: The World Turned Upside Down (London and New Haven 2002); Moscow
1941: A City and its People at War (London 2006), which was translated
into 18 languages; and Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan 1979-89
(London and New York 2011). He is currently working on a project about
Poland in 1960.

Mark Galeotti is Academic Chair of New York University's Center for
Global Affairs, and Clinical Professor of Global Affairs. He read
history at Robinson College, Cambridge University and then took his
doctorate in the government department at the London School of
Economics, exploring the impact of the Afghan war on the USSR. That
became the basis of the first of his twelve authored and edited books,
Afghanistan: the Soviet Union's last war (Routledge: 1995). He works on
security issues ranging from transnational crime to warfare in both an
historical and contemporary context and is currently writing a book on
the history of organized crime.

Les Grau is a Senior Analyst for the Foreign Military Studies Office at
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is a retired US Army infantry lieutenant
colonel and Foreign Area Officer (Russian). He served a combat tour in
Vietnam, four European tours, a Korean tour and a posting in Moscow. His
doctorate is in Military History. He has published over 125 articles and
studies. His books on Afghanistan include The Bear Went Over the
Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan; The Other Side of the
Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War; The Soviet-Afghan
War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost; Passing It On: Fighting the
Pushtun on Afghanistan's Frontier; Mountain Warfare And Other Lofty
Problems: Foreign Ideas On High-Altitude Combat and Operation Anaconda:
America's First Major Battle In Afghanistan.

Alex Marshall is a lecturer at the Scottish Centre for War Studies at
Glasgow University, and was formerly a lecturer at the Defence Studies
Department of King's College London. His publications include the
monograph The Russian General Staff and Asia, 1800-1917 and a variety of
articles on subjects ranging from Russian military intelligence in the
First World War to the Soviet withdrawal strategy from Afghanistan in
1987-89. His latest publications are The Caucasus Under Soviet Rule
(RoutledgeCurzon: 2010) and a co-authored monograph with Dr Tim Bird for
Yale University Press, Afghanistan. How the West Lost Its Way (Yale:
2011). He is currently working on a history of Soviet relations with the
Third World and on a political economy of illicit drugs.

James Graham Wilson (Ph.D., University of Virginia 2011) is a historian
at the U.S. Department of State. He has published articles in Diplomacy
and Statecraft, The Journal of American Studies, and Presidential
Studies Quarterly, and is currently writing a book about U.S.-Soviet
relations during the final decade of the Cold War.

Review by Rodric Braithwaite, former British Ambassador to Moscow

The Soviet war in Afghanistan from 1979-1989 has been well covered in
the West in popular and historical writing. The Russian side of the
story was addressed surprisingly quickly by some Western historians, for
example Mark Galeotti1 and Mark Urban,2 and by Lester Grau with his
admirably balanced accounts of the fighting3. But until comparatively
recently most Western accounts have seen the war through the prism of
Cold War prejudice. The belief that the Russians had gone down to
humiliating and thoroughly deserved defeat was reinforced in the public
and even the official mind by popular works such as the inaccurate but
lucrative film of Charlie Wilson's War.4

These attitudes have begun to change, not least as we realise that the
U.S. and its allies are bogged down in a quagmire not so different from
the one the Russians found themselves in three decades ago. The story is
imperfectly documented. But significant documents, giving at least a
partial picture of the way the Soviet leadership got themselves into the
war, began emerging in the early 1990s, partly a consequence of the
chaos which then reigned in the Soviet archives. The scrupulous as well
as the unscrupulous were then able to buy, borrow or steal documents
almost at will. Many of the generals who fought in Afghanistan wrote
their memoirs to justify their own actions, and they appended the
documents to prove their point. Most of these documents have been
systematically published over the last twenty years thanks to the
efforts of the scholars at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington5 and

Documents continue to seep out by one means or another, though the KGB
files for the period - essential for a full understanding of the Soviet
decision-making process - remain as firmly closed as the files of
Britain's Secret Intelligence Service. There is still a great deal of
further research to be done - on the fate of the veterans after they
returned to the Soviet Union, on the collapse of the Soviet military
medical services in Afghanistan, and on the role and effectiveness of
the numerous advisers that the Russians sent there.

The Russians themselves have produced a very substantial body of work,
and it is still growing: straight history, monographs, memoirs,
eyewitness accounts, interviews, many to be found on veteran websites.
This material is of varying quality, needless to say: some of it is
merely sensational. And the war is still too difficult for Russians to
write about easily: too close, too painful, and too associated with the
chaotic collapse of their country. Even the best, such as the massive
military history by Aleksandr Lyakhovski6 and the fascinating account7
of the run up to the war by a respected journalist and a former KGB
officer who served in Kabul, suffer from a lack of proper sourcing and
scholarly apparatus.

Artemy Kalinovsky is among the Western scholars who have stepped into
the gap. A Long Goodbye is his first book, and he has brought to it a
perfect knowledge of Russian and English and the skill to charm his way
into the archives and persuade eyewitnesses into unexpected confidences.
He is scrupulous with his sources. And he writes a flexible, and
accurate English, which is a pleasure to read. Nothing is ever
definitive in historical writing. Kalinovsky's account will doubtless be
challenged as new documents and new interpretations appear. But it is
unlikely that his elegant narrative will soon be bettered.

Kalinovsky concentrates in absorbing detail on the diplomacy, the
politics and the decision-making in Moscow surrounding the Soviet
withdrawal. But he also provides a necessary and lucid account of the
preliminaries. From the nineteenth century onwards, Afghanistan was a
neighbour of considerable strategic importance to the Soviet Union. By
1979, the Russians had enjoyed sixty years of - on the whole - mutually
productive relations with the Afghans, to whom they had given
considerable economic aid and advice. They had built roads, factories,
irrigation projects, schools. They placed advisers everywhere in the
military and the civilian administration. They had trained Afghan
military officers, engineers, specialists of all kinds. Their methods
had given the Soviet Asian republics clean water, health care, education
for girls, a developing agriculture and industry, and the Soviet version
of law and order. There seemed no reason why they should not do the same
in Afghanistan. Some of the most useful and interesting passages in
Kalinovsky's book concern this attempt at nationbuilding, an important
subject hitherto ignored or derided in the West which he is now
investigating more fully. The attempt failed, defeated by ignorance of
local custom, a determination to apply in Afghanistan Soviet methods of
administration which were already failing back home, and a general
unwillingness of many Afghans to accept foreign nostrums which they felt
were alien to their own way of life.

The Russians did not care much about the political complexion of the
government in Kabul, provided it remained friendly. They worked well
enough with King Zahir and then, when Zahir was ousted, with his cousin
President Mohammed Daoud. The Americans were also active in Afghanistan.
But in the 1970s they were a waning force. On the whole the Russians
held the field.

Then in April 1978 the tiny, inexperienced, and brutally divided Afghan
Communist party took power in a bloody coup. The Russians claim, perhaps
with reason, not to have encouraged them. But they could hardly avoid
recognising them, and that is where their troubles began. The
countryside rose up against the godless Communists. Mutinies spread
throughout the army. In March 1979 the Western city of Herat and much of
the surrounding countryside fell into the hands of the rebels. The
Communists appealed to the Russians to send troops. They refused. But as
the months passed the country fell into growing chaos. Prime Minister
Amin murdered the President, Nur Taraki. The Russians believed that the
Americans might move in. Soviet generals advised against war. The
politicians ignored them. In late December they sent in the specially
constituted 40th Army of some 100,000 ground troops - fewer than the
West has in Afghanistan today. Soviet special forces stormed the
Presidential palace in Kabul, killed Amin, and replaced him with a
Soviet puppet.

That was supposed to be the end of the story: the Soviet leaders
believed there would be little further fighting and that the troops
could soon be withdrawn. Instead the Russians found themselves caught in
the crossfire, as the Afghan civil war became a three-way fight of
ambushes, roadside bombs, villages obliterated by bombardment,
atrocities on all sides. It was a war, as its Russian critics said, of
tactics without strategy. It took them nine years to extricate themselves.

Among his other scholarly merits, Kalinovsky has an unusually good sense
of the practicalities of policy making and execution. This shines
through his interpretations, and gives the book much of its strength. I
nevertheless part company when he seems to imply that Gorbachev could
and should have got out earlier. This underestimates the dilemma that
faces even the most determined leader when he tries to end an
unsatisfactory war. Past errors and commitments, present circumstance,
and contradictory pressures from both friends and enemies, all combine
against him. Gorbachev summed it up in the Politburo: "We could leave
quickly, without worrying about the consequences, and blame everything
on our predecessors. But that we cannot do. We have not given an account
of ourselves to the people. A million of our soldiers have passed
through Afghanistan. And it looks as if they did so in vain. So why did
those people die?"8 His words are entirely applicable to the situation
of the West in Afghanistan today. But they might have been used by
Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War or even Lloyd George as he tried
to end the bloody stalemate on the Western Front at the height of the
First World War.

Gorbachev was supported by his colleagues and by his generals, who had
long concluded that the war was unwinnable in any real sense. It took
him three years to negotiate an agreement after coming to power: not
particularly long by historical standards. The result was surprisingly
favourable. The Geneva Accords of April 1988 enabled the Soviet soldiers
to depart in good order. The Soviet government's own man, the
politically astute Mohammed Najibullah, was left behind with an army
capable of combating the mujahideen. None of this was what the Russians'
enemies in Pakistan and the United States had intended. There was almost
a last minute hitch: Kalinovsky describes how Eduard Shevardnadze, the
liberal foreign minister, joined Vladimir Kryuchkov, the conservative
head of the KGB, in an improbable alliance to persuade the Politburo to
leave a Soviet military force behind to support Najibullah. The idea was
vetoed by Gorbachev.

Then it all went wrong. Najibullah's government disintegrated and the
country degenerated into growing chaos. The Russians, themselves
bankrupt, cut off his essential supplies. Najibullah fell in 1992. The
civil war intensified, and was ended only by the victory of the Taliban.

There are obvious parallels between the Soviet war and our war today,
and Kalinovsky draws some of them at the end of his book. NATO will not
be defeated on the battlefield, any more than the 40th Army was. On the
other hand, we are no more likely than the Russians to achieve anything
which can sensibly be described as victory. We too have had to abandon
the hope of re-engineering Afghan politics and society to match our own
ideals. We too will doubtless leave behind a "friendly" government
capable - up to a point - of defending itself. Unlike the Russians we
are also - rightly or wrongly - contemplating leaving behind a
considerable number of troops to bolster it. Unlike them, too, we are
rich enough to continue giving the Afghans the economic and financial
support they will undoubtedly need - if we can sustain the political
will. We still have to work out what to do about Pakistan, a problem the
Russians were able to ignore.

History does not offer reliable lessons, and governments rarely take any
notice of those it does offer. But many officers now fighting in
Afghanistan can no longer see the point of a war which - like the Soviet
war before it - has lost its purpose. Things may yet turn out as the
optimists hope. But the historical record, as set out by Kalinovsky and
others, does not inspire all that much confidence.


1 Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union's Last War (London, 1995).
2 M. Urban, War in Afghanistan (London, 1990).
3 Lester Grau, The Bear Went over the Mountain (London, 1996) and
numerous articles.
4 Charles Crile, Charlie Wilson's War (New York, 2003). The film is from
5 See for example documents at
6 A. Lyakhovski, Tragedia i doblest Afgana (Moscow, 2009).
7 V. Snegirev & V. Samunin, A. Virus, Kak my zaboleli vtorzheniem v
Afganistan (Moscow 2011).
8 A. Chernyaev, V. Medvedev, and G. Shakhnazov, V Politburo TsK KPSS
(Moscow, 2006), page 149: entry for 23 February 1987.

Review by Mark Galeotti, New York University

In spring 1990, as the Soviet Union was grinding closer to its demise, I
was in the rundown working-class suburbs of Moscow, meeting some
afgantsy, veterans of that country's intervention into its troubled and
troublesome neighbor state. It was by now a depressingly familiar
experience as I worked on my doctorate, one which never failed to
produce further evidence of the decay of the Soviet state. There would
be the accounts of shortages of medical supplies both in the war and
afterwards, of honors denied and of truths withheld. But then there
would also be evidence of the essential humanity, camaraderie and even
continued patriotism of these men who fought in this futile campaign, as
they banded together to help the most needy of their number and provided
the support network that the state was initially unwilling but by then
unable to provide.

However, that particular encounter was especially memorable because of
the observation of one of the veterans. A tattooed body-builder in his
paratrooper's blue striped tee-shirt, the sort that I must confess under
other circumstances I'd probably cross the street to avoid, looked at me
at one point and asked a simple question to which I had no simple
answer: "Gorbachev, Rodionov [the commander of Soviet forces in
Afghanistan when he served], they all knew we shouldn't be there. Why
did it take so long to get us out?"

That is a crucial question, and it is not just contemporary developments
which attest to the sad fact that it is a great deal easier to start
most wars than to end them. There has been a recent crop of books about
the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, including Rodric Braithwaite's
elegant Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan, 1979-1989, Gregory
Feifer's workmanlike The Great Gamble and now Artemy Kalinovsky's A Long
Goodbye.1 The particular strength of this well-written study is that it
unpicks the decision-making process, above all about the withdrawal.
Kalinovsky may be being a little ungenerous to describe the
historiography of the ten-year war as "paltry." (2) Nonetheless no one
has yet collated the documents, memoirs and papers now available, as
well as the first-hand accounts by participants, to such good effect in
assessing how the Kremlin practically, diplomatically, and
intellectually prepared itself for withdrawal.

A powerful image emerges of a bureaucratic machine (or rather a series
of interlocking bureaucratic machines, from the military and K.G.B. to
the ministry of foreign affairs and Gorbachev's inner circle) grappling
with the basic intractability of the world. Just as the People's
Democratic Party of Afghanistan (P.D.P.A.) had proved to be willful and
demanding, even as it professed admiration for the Soviet model, so too
the Afghan people failed often to respond as they were expected to,
especially when showered with an extensive 'hearts and minds' aid and
construction program. To a generation of Party officials who had become
accustomed to only hearing what they wanted to hear, the world just
ought not be like that. Besides, this was a deeply conservative
structure, unwilling to take bold steps. In this respect, some figures
emerge from Kalinovsky's narrative if not exactly as unlikely heroes,
but certainly as more complex than they are usually portrayed. For
example, while General Boris Gromov got the kudos for actually leading
the Soviet 40th Army out of Afghanistan, it was General Valentin
Varennikov, the defense minister's personal representative in Kabul and
fixer-in-chief, who drove the process most effectively. He probably
would have arranged the withdrawal more quickly and with fewer Soviet
and Afghan casualties had he not been fighting the K.G.B. every step of
the way. Foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze, by contrast, emerges
slightly tarnished, not least because of his determined advocacy of the
Afghan communists. It is an interesting irony that arch-conservative
Varennikov - who was one of the conspirators behind the 1991 "August
coup" - was a champion of rapid withdrawal from this imperial war while
liberal darling Shevardnadze fought to keep troops in Afghanistan to
keep propping up the P.D.P.A.

The basic story Kalinovsky tells is a familiar one, from the extent to
which the Soviets invaded Afghanistan reluctantly, feeling they had no
alternative and anticipating a brief stay, through to Gorbachev's desire
to end the war in order to further his wider goals of a new détente and,
though that, the revitalization of his moribund state. However, this
book's great virtue is in the level of granular detail it provides, from
the internal rows to the might-have-beens (what if the Kremlin had
decided to back a coup by the forceful and effective defense minister
Shahnawaz Tanai in 1988?). As is inevitable in any such work, there are
some details and accounts I would challenge, from Kalinovsky's
willingness to accept foreign policy adviser Andrei
Aleksandrov-Agentov's claims to have been a committed opponent of
invasion (in his own memoirs, after all, he asserts that he heard about
it after the fact - which would seem to preclude his trying to forestall
it) to some of his characterizations about the K.G.B., which emerges as
rather more monolithic than it was and more so than pretty much every
other institution in this otherwise admirably nuanced study. Of course,
these are petty nitpicks (maybe I am inclined to be persnickety given
that my own book on the war appears attributed to former Russian prime
minister Yegor Gaidar in the bibliography) and in no way invalidate the
broad sweep of this work.

And maybe it gives an answer to that veteran mentioned above as to why
Gorbachev couldn't bring the boys home sooner. Rodionov was bound only
by his orders, but Gorbachev was tied up in his initial ideological
assumptions about the blow a hasty retreat would deliver to world
progressive forces, by the practical constraints of managing the
process, by the often inaccurate assessments he was fed by experts and
officials in Moscow and on the ground, and by political calculations,
given that he was trying to bring change to a deeply skeptical elite.
Kalinovsky's research rightly highlights not only how relatively
insignificant the war was in terms of its impact on the Soviet Union,
but also how - although he handled some aspects of his policies well and
many badly - a national leader like Gorbachev can often find himself far
less in control of events than he might expect and like to think.

1 Rodric Braithwaite, Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan, 1979-1989.
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); Gregory Feifer, The Great
Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan, (New York: HarperCollins, 2009).

Review by Lester W. Grau, Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort
Leavenworth, Kansas

Dr. Artemy M. Kalinovsky is a young analyst who has already established
a name for himself in the Soviet studies community. This is his second

Scholarship on the Soviet-Afghan War begins with the work of two Soviet
participants in that conflict. General Aleksandr Lyakhovskiy (who died
on the 2nd of February 2009) wrote the pivotal work on the conflict
(Tragediya i doblest Afgan) based on his service with the Ministry of
Defense operational group inside Afghanistan during the conflict.1
General Makhmut Gareev wrote the pivotal work on the Soviet withdrawal
and aftermath based on his assignment as the senior Soviet adviser after
the departure of the Soviet 40th Army (Moya poslednaya voyna).2
Kalinovsky has built on their work and interviewed General Lyakhovskiy
as part of his research. He has further interviewed many of the key
Soviet players in the war and done commendable primary research in the
Russian-language documents of the war.

A Long Goodbye is a solid piece of diplomatic and political history of
the Soviet-Afghan War. It is a study of Soviet decision making within
the Politburo and makes a welcome addition to Kamal Matinuddin's Power
Struggle in the Hindu Kush and Barnett Rubin's Fragmentation of
Afghanistan.3 In spite of its title, it is a political history of the
entire conflict and its aftermath whichrelies on previous scholarship as
well as interviews, archives and material that were not available a few
years ago. Kalinovsky has assembled these in a plausible account of the
underlying Soviet politics and decisions that shaped this war and its
termination. His work includes the input of the Soviet military and the
KGB to the government and the impact of this input on the process. It is
not a military history, but it does tie key military events in with the
decisions of the governments in Moscow and Kabul. Its strength is that
it employs a variety of Soviet and Russian sources that are not widely
read in the West. It also throws a bit more light on the still-murky
politics of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.

Despite its lead cover blurb, this is not a book on why the United
States is doomed to fail in Afghanistan. Rather, it is a book with a
tight focus on the Kremlin politics and foreign policy involved with the
Soviet-Afghan War. It is principally a book about Mikhail Gorbachev and
his attempts to rule his Politburo on this issue. In this, the author
does an excellent job and delights the old Soviet analysts among us who
miss the days deciphering the turgid speeches of Leonid Brezhnev and
pondering the Soviet bureaucratic maze. For we specialists, this is an
enjoyable and easy read. For the non-specialist, it is probably a
tougher read.

Kalinovsky has gathered a lot of material from personal interviews with
a variety of participants-both the great and the almost forgotten. Oral
histories are great tools for the historian of recent events, but they
have the problems of bias, accuracy of memory, perception changes over
time and producing an accurate picture from numerous, conflicting
accounts. The interviewer goes through a long, often-painful personal
learning process before becoming thoroughly comfortable with
interviewing equipment, scheduling, planning, time management and
cross-walking. Even using someone else's interview can be challenging.
Interviews, as well as much written material, need to be understood,
considering nuance, context and underlying societal background. Dr.
Kalinovsky is at ease when dealing with Russian individuals and society.
He knows the Russian language, Russian culture and proprieties, and
appears to have a good bit of "Soviet street-smarts." His interviews
were clearly effective.

Kalinovsky seems to get a bit off track when comparing the United
States' War in Vietnam with the Soviet-Afghan War. Although this is a
popular exercise among journalists, there are problems from a
historian's perspective. Although there were clear political and
ideological ties and consequences between the two wars and both involved
modern armies from nations with strategic nuclear weapons, they were two
different wars. One was fought in the jungles of Southeast Asia against
communist conventional forces of a neighboring state and some
centrally-controlled local guerrillas while the other was a mountain war
fought in Central Asia by communist forces against local and some
foreign guerrillas who lacked any form of central control but were
united by religion. Historians seldom compare the Russian Army and
Russian guerrillas of 1812 with the Spanish guerrillas and Wellington's
Army of the Peninsular Campaign even though they have much more in
common. History may not repeat itself, but it does provide some great
models. All models, of course, require modification to fit the nation,
history, geography, customs, economy and ideology of the model to the
current event.

Kalinovsky then takes his comparison one more step. He attempts to tie
Presidents Gorbachev and Barack Obama together as like-minded
campaigners for change who see Afghanistan as a stumbling block to
political gain, but fail to control the main actors of their own
Afghanistan policy and see themselves as hostage to the consequences of
failure should the incumbent Afghan government fail to survive. The
reviewer is skeptical of this approach, but leaves the final decision to
the reader. History is history, analysis is analysis, but is there
enough symmetry of variables and time? There probably is not.

Gorbachev was not in power when the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
collapsed in April of 1992. Following the Putsch in August 1991,
Gorbachev lost all leverage over Soviet policy in Afghanistan. It was
Boris Yeltsin, the President of the Russian Federation, who pushed the
end of military and other assistance to Kabul in September 1991. Why was
Yeltsin so opposed to Gorbachev's Afghanistan policy and what did he
think that he would gain by selling out Mohammed Najibullah? Frank
Snepp, CIA station chief, wrote that United States policy in Vietnam
became seeking "a decent interval" before the collapse of Saigon.4
Judged by that criterion, Gorbachev's policy delivered such an interval
in Kabul for the Soviet Union, one that the new government of Russia did
not consider of any merit.

Bottom line: this is a rock-solid piece of political and diplomatic
history of the Soviet side of the war. It should stand the test of time.

1 Lyakhovskiy, Aleksandr, Tragediya i doblest afgana [The tragedy and
honor of the Afghan veteran], Moscow: GPI "Iskona," 1995.
2 M. A. Gareev, Moya poslednaya voyna [My final war], Moscow: INSAN, 1996.
3 Kamal Matinuddin, Power Struggle in the Hindu Kush: Afghanistan
(1978-1991) Lahore: Wajidalis (PVT) Ltd., 1991 and Barnett R. Rubin, The
Fragmentation of Afghanistan: State Formation & Collapse in the
International System, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.
4 Frank Snepp, Decent Interval: An Insider's Account of Saigon's
Indecent End Told by the CIA's Chief Strategy Analyst in Vietnam, New
York: Random House, 1977.

Review by Alex Marshall, University of Glasgow

In December 1979 the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan with a
'limited contingent' of military forces that ultimately grew to a peak
of 108,800 personnel by 1986; between 1987 and 1989 however they then
pulled out, leaving behind a government in Kabul which survived a
further three years, before eventually collapsing in April 1992. As a
major episode in the culminating stage of the Cold War, these events
have aroused debate and periodic review ever since. The immediate effect
of the opening of the Soviet archives after 1991 was a better
understanding of why the Soviet Union first intervened in December 1979.
With the steady stream of memoirs and archival sources that have emerged
since, we now also have a better understanding of the course of and
motivations behind the eventual Soviet withdrawal. In this fine and well
researched work, Artemy Kalinovsky consolidates this broad array of
sources to present a skilful overview of this second phase, namely the
Soviet decision making process during the war's final years. The result
is a study which, if it contains few genuine revelations for those
already broadly familiar with the bulk of new material that has come out
since 1991, still carries both lessons for current Western intervention
in the same country, and a variety of useful corrections to many of the
still quite persistent layman's view of the conflict (for example, the
film Charlie Wilson's War). In this, Kalinovsky's book also forms an
invaluable companion piece to Rodric Braithewaite's recent and masterful
study, Afgantsy.1

Kalinovsky's work sits firmly within the 'new historiography' of the
Soviet-Afghan war. It was a war, it is now clear, fought without any
annexationist goals-a desire for 'warm water ports' played no role in
the Soviet decision making process in 1979. Nor was the war itself
necessarily excessively costly for Moscow, or for that matter a key
milestone in the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. Soviet military
casualties, at some 15,000 dead and 50,000 severely wounded, were
significant, particularly compared to current coalition casualties in
the same theatre (a reflection of improvements in body armour and
medical treatment since the 1980s), but they were also a fraction of
American casualties in Vietnam (over 58,000 dead). Economic burdens were
similarly significant, but far from unendurable for an undeniable
superpower at the time like the Soviet Union. Similarly, it is now clear
that the gifting by the Reagan administration of the Stinger missile, an
effective man-portable antiaircraft system, to the mujahidin in 1986
also played next to no role in accelerating the Soviet decision to
withdraw. Soviet exploratory talks regarding withdrawal had already
begun in 1982; recognition was already dawning in Moscow even then that
the war could not be won by military means. Broader political discontent
within the Soviet system over the actual results of attempting to
'export socialism' to the Third World also had their roots in the
experiences already acquired in the mid-to-late 1970s, as the memoirs of
both Karen Brutents and Markus Wolf have made clear.2 What in fact
prolonged the conflict, despite that early recognition, as Kalinovsky
brilliantly underlines in his analysis, was precisely the diplomatic
complications of disengagement, conjoined with the ongoing relative low
cost; if, in Mikhail Gorbachev's metaphor, the war by 1985 was a
'bleeding wound', then, as Kalinovsky brilliantly rephrases it, the
blood flowed "from a small vein of a large animal." (92)

As a study in diplomatic policy making within the context of human
conflict, rather than a study of conflict as such, Kalinovsky's book
makes a brilliant contribution to the 'new historiography' in other
areas as well. One overall trend from the greater availability of new
sources in general has been the slight tarnishing of Gorbachev's
previously saint-like image, together with a reassessment of the
supposedly entrenched conservatism of the Brezhnev-era Politburo. In
this account, both Andrei Gromyko, the long-serving Soviet Foreign
Minister prior to Eduard Shevardnadze, and Vladimir Kriuchkov, the last
chairman of the KGB, come across rather better than would have been
allowed for even five years ago. Both men arguably had a far firmer
grasp of the Soviet Union's true national interests than Gorbachev
himself, and this book makes an interesting comparison with Jonathan
Haslam's recent study of Russia's Cold War, which is far more
condemnatory of the Brezhnev-era regime.3 Kalinovsky also underlines the
point that the Brezhnev doctrine was being gradually abandoned by the
Brezhnev-era Politburo itself by 1980. If the conservatives now look
rather better in retrospect that one might once have imagined possible,
Gorbachev by contrast comes across here much as he has done in most of
the better-informed post-91 accounts; as an indecisive and sometimes
dilatory manager of events, whose post-1987 actions in most fields led
in practice to disaster.

Though Kalinovsky himself does not explicitly advocate such a view, the
book can certainly also be interpreted as a subtle condemnation of the
central incoherence of 'New Thinking' in Soviet foreign policy.
Gorbachev's persistent belief in resolving international tensions by
collaboration, openness, honest partnership, and working through the
U.N. looks deeply naïve in retrospect. The difficulty of decoupling an
ideological commitment to the Third World from making diplomatic
progress with the West was meanwhile a dilemma which was also never
successfully resolved until ideology itself came to be increasingly
abandoned altogether during 1990-91. The Reagan administration, though
certainly more open -- and, at least at first, even rather desperate --
for engagement with the Soviet Union in its second term, was also a far
from honest partner in the Geneva Accords process, and the U.N. itself
proved itself an utterly inadequate 'honest broker' when it came to
policing ongoing Pakistani support for the mujahidin, even as Soviet
forces withdrew in 1987-89. Lack of mutual trust, and the machinations
of the Kabul government itself -- anxious to avoid being completely
abandoned, but also quite resistant to pressure from Moscow to open
ranks and engage in more open talks with its enemies -- together led to
a long, drawn-out and difficult withdrawal process, brilliantly and
carefully documented here.

As the West more generally seeks to extract itself from Afghanistan
today, the ongoing crisis of government in Kabul forms the one ongoing
point of most obvious comparison with the Soviet experience. Yet in the
end, it is the difference between current events and the Soviet
experience that Kalinovsky identifies in his conclusion which,in the
end, is perhaps the most chilling point of all: that "the Afghanistan
problem is even more of a challenge for the United States today than it
was for Moscow in the 1980s' due to the subsequent proliferation of
multiple diverse policy stakeholders (from NATO partners to NGOs),
coupled with the need to essentially build a state from scratch, rather
than merely assist a weak and failing state." (225). Such lessons from
Afghanistan, when considered in conjunction with the ongoing deep, and
extremely serious, financial crisis on both sides of the Atlantic since
2007, make it clear that the West today could seriously use some
strategic 'New Thinking' of its own, particularly in the pursuit of
international structures that might actually work.


1 Rodric Braithwaite, Afgantsy. The Russians in Afghanistan 1979-89
(London: Profile Books, 2011).
2 Karent Brutents, Tridstat' let na Staroi Ploshchadi. (Moscow:
Mezhdunarodnoye Otnosheniia, 1998), Markus Wolff & Anne McElvoy
(trans.), Man without a Face. The Memoirs of a Spymaster. (New York:
Times Books, 1997)
3 Jonathan Haslam, Russia's Cold War: From the October Revolution to the
Fall of the War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011).

Review by James Graham Wilson, Office of the Historian, U.S. Department
of State

The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those
of the Department of State or the U.S. Government

Artemy Kalinovsky's A Long Goodbye: The Soviet Withdrawal from
Afghanistan is a richly-textured account of Moscow's decision-making
during the last decade of the USSR. The author argues that Soviet
leaders concluded early on that the invasion had been a mistake and
tried to extricate themselves from Afghanistan. "Why did it take the
Soviet Union so long to bring its troops home?" he asks. "[T]he single
most important reason that Soviet leaders delayed the decision to
withdraw for as long as they did is that they continued to believe the
USSR could help stabilize Afghanistan, build up the Afghan armed forces,
and make the Kabul government more acceptable to its people." (2)

Kalinovsky has navigated a labyrinth of Russian archives, mobilized a
wide selection of fresh evidence, and crafted a lucid and compelling
narrative. The first four chapters tell the story from the spring of
1979 to the summer of 1987. Particularly striking are chapters five and
six. The Mikhail Gorbachev who emerges in the crucial period from the
fall of 1987 to the spring of 1989 is an idealistic and impatient leader
attempting to reconcile his aversion to violence with a commitment to
preserving Mohammed Najibullah's regime after the Soviet withdrawal from
Afghanistan. The outcome was messy; the policy pleased few. Kalinovsky
conveys in vivid prose the obstacles Gorbachev overcame and the mixed
legacies that ensued. A Long Goodbye is an impressive work sure to
inspire scholars writing about the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold
War, and the turbulence of modern Afghanistan.

The book's strengths notwithstanding, I would offer three critical
responses. The first is that I see a tension between "a long goodbye" --
the notion that Soviet leaders wanted to withdraw much earlier than
outside observers generally assumed -- and a central theme of the book:
that the war was militarily limited and politically manageable. "The
USSR avoided becoming overcommitted by limiting its presence in
Afghanistan to roughly 120,000 troops," Kalinovsky writes, "and it never
expanded the war into neighboring Pakistan, thus avoiding some of the
pitfalls of US strategy in Vietnam. It faced domestic pressures and
international criticism, but not at a level that made an immediate
change of course obligatory." Furthermore, "[a]lthough the war was
costly in terms of lives and materiel, it was well within the limits of
what the Soviet Union could manage." (42-44) Leaders made choices. Even
during "the tumultuous period of 1989-91," he asserts, "one must
understand that both the social effects of the war and opposition to the
war among the Soviet population (to the extent that it existed) were
scarcely felt by the USSR's leaders, and thus played little if any role
in their decision making on the war." (45)

If Soviet leaders indeed believed the war was sustainable, then I
question Kalinovsky's depiction of their diplomatic strategy.
Stabilizing the Babrak Karmal regime and normalizing the situation in
Afghanistan, as Kalinovsky puts it at the end of Chapter One, probably
constituted two tracks of Soviet policy. Yet did participation in the
United Nations' effort to find a negotiated settlement, as he argues in
Chapter Two, really constitute a third? "The Soviet Union's turn toward
diplomacy was not just a result of the power transition after Brezhnev's
death," Kalinovsky contends, "rather, it came from an emerging consensus
that the war could not be won. . . . By 1982, Soviet leaders had come to
accept the need for UN diplomacy to help resolve the Afghan conflict,
and prodded their Afghan clients to do the same." (55) Even before that,
the author writes, the Soviets accepted the Cordovez mission in pursuit
of a U.N.-backed settlement. "Moscow saw the main purpose of the accords
as a way for the Kabul government to gain legitimacy and strengthen its
ability to fight the opposition. Nevertheless, the Soviet interest in
negotiating was genuine." (66)

What precisely did the Soviets hope to negotiate from 1982 onward?
Kalinovsky cites a Politburo meeting on 27 November 1982, where Andrei
Gromyko apparently asked for plans for the withdrawal of Soviet troops
from Afghanistan. "For Moscow, the goal of any settlement was the
preservation of the Karmal regime." (67) The goal of a negotiated
settlement, it would seem from the evidence, was barely
indistinguishable from victory. It was not, in other words, Moscow's
search for its own "decent interval" to salvage prestige through
diplomatic sleight-of-hand even as it accepted the inevitability of
defeat. Yuri Andropov may have told Diego Cordovez in March 1983 that
life would be easier if the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, but these
words do not necessarily reflect the Soviet leader's actual intentions,
will, and capability to translate musings into policies.

Did the Soviet leadership truly seek a diplomatic solution to the war in
Afghanistan? Or, did it seek diplomatic cover to continue to shore up a
friendly regime and crush the Mujahadeen? Kalinovsky intimates that
Moscow pursued both goals. It is entirely possible that Soviet leaders
sought different outcomes at different moments, and that their attitudes
toward negotiation were a mixture of both. I am not convinced, based on
the evidence Kalinovsky cites, that the Soviets genuinely wanted a
negotiated settlement in the early 1980s.

Kalinovsky nonetheless makes a compelling case that Moscow's failure to
stabilize Afghanistan and shore up a friendly regime -- not a decisive
military defeat -- convinced Gorbachev to bring the troops home. He
dismisses the popular view that the introduction of Stinger missiles
provided by the United States in 1986 'changed the course of the war.'
"Soviet military and pilots adjusted," he argues "fitting aircraft with
various devices to disorient the missiles, flying at night, or staying
so low to the ground as to make the missiles useless. Although this
adjustment allowed the Soviets to limit damage caused by the Stingers,
it meant sacrificing accuracy and precision, and relying on even more
damaging higher-altitude bombing." (43) This is a difficult assertion to
prove, and it may not be enough to dissuade those who believe otherwise.
It may also push the limits of what historians can reasonably conclude
about the operational realities, given the evidentiary disposition of
Soviet military records from the time. Independent of that debate, I
would broaden the discussion. I wonder if the author might speak a bit
more to the larger U.S.-Soviet relationship and Gorbachev's decision to

How does Kalinovsky regard the impact of U.S. financial and military
support for anti-Soviet resistance prior to the Stingers? Did the
sanctions and boycott of the Olympics have any impact on the how Soviet
leaders assessed the wider costs of the invasion? More broadly, if
Washington had not taken steps to delegitimize the Soviet invasion in
the months and years after December 1979, would it have altered the
outcome? Moreover, an outstanding question from this period -- to my
mind -- is how Ronald Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz could
gain the trust of Gorbachev and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard
Shevardnadze as their administration was aiding and abetting the killing
of Soviet soldiers. I wonder: how does Kalinovsky account for this
exception to the concept of 'trust but verify'? Did the Soviets agree to
quarantine Afghanistan from other bilateral issues? Or, perhaps, does
the fact that Afghanistan did not block the path toward improved
superpower relations from 1985-87 suggest that it was not so
consequential after all? As Kalinovsky stresses repeatedly (and which is
one of his most provocative arguments), the costs the Kremlin faced for
continued occupation were not prohibitive. "A 'bleeding wound' it may
have been," he writes at the close of chapter three, "but the flow came
from a small vein of a large animal." (92)

I also question whether Kalinovsky succeeds in developing each of the
themes he lays out. After reading pages 8-11 in the introduction, I
expected modernization to be major theme throughout the rest of the
book. He returns to modernization in the conclusion, linking together
the U.S. experience in Vietnam, the Soviet attempt at nation-building in
Afghanistan, and the more recent U.S. endeavor to do the same. These
passages in the introduction and conclusion, notwithstanding, I am not
entirely clear how modernization relates either to the Soviet decision
to intervene in Afghanistan or its decision to withdraw, let alone how
the state-building enterprise actually worked inside Afghanistan.

One theme Kalinovsky does sustain is that there was relative continuity
in the process of Soviet decision-making toward Afghanistan with
important implications for understanding the broader formulation of
Soviet foreign policy in the 1980s. He describes at the close of chapter
six how Gorbachev, Eduard Shevardnadze, and Vladimir Kriuchkov huddled
before formal meetings of the Politburo to decide policy. "Thus,"
Kalinovsky writes, "after a brief period in which Moscow tried a more
'democratic' approach to policy making on Afghanistan -- a period marked
by long, heated debates involving the full Politburo -- a familiar
pattern emerged. It resembled the approach taken in the early 1980s,
when Andropov, Ustinov, and Gromyko essentially set Afghan policy among
themselves." (177) Kalinovsky returns to this theme in the conclusion.
"The so-called Sinatra Doctrine, which allowed socialist regimes in
Eastern Europe to collapse in 1989, rightly belongs to the Gorbachev
era; but its roots lay in the early 1980s, when Soviet leaders began to
feel the full effect of the hangover that resulted from their
overindulgence during the previous decade," he states. (213) "If one
approaches the issue dispassionately . . . it becomes clear that
Gorbachev's overall approach to the Afghan problem flowed logically from
the prerogatives that were largely set by the situation he inherited in
1985" (223). At the end of this otherwise highly impressive book, I am
not entirely convinced by these assertions. Does self-awareness of a
hangover during the Brezhnev era truly equate to a set of prerogatives
during the Gorbachev era? It is also possible that I am misreading what
Kalinovsky intends to say here (or misrepresenting what he does say).

I hope these comments elicit discussion. Kalinovsky has written an
impressive work that transcends the challenges of conducting research in
regions where this period in history remains politically volatile. A
Long Goodbye forwards our understanding of Soviet decision-making,
Afghanistan, and the end of the Cold War. It speaks to the broader, and
timely, question of how we define victory and defeat in
counterinsurgency or guerrilla wars. Victory on the battlefield may have
been impossible; but it was not, as Kalinovsky points out, the Soviet
objective: to secure a stable regime by recalibrating the combination of
military might, diplomacy, nation-building, and political negotiation.

Author's Response by Artemy M. Kalinovsky, University of Amsterdam

I would like to thank Thomas Maddux and the roundtable participants for
their very generous reviews. It is a great honor to be reviewed by this
all-star cast, whose work was very important for my own understanding of
the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the last decade of the Cold War in
general. The reviewers also bring up some important points which I will
try to address below.

James Wilson is skeptical of the link between the "sustainability" of
the war effort and the Soviet leadership's desire to withdraw. I would
say that while the war may have been sustainable, that does not mean
that it was desirable. More importantly, though, I think the realization
that a withdrawal was necessary came from the realization that the war
was unwinnable, which I discuss at some length in the first two
chapters. Why sustain a war that you can't win? I would add here that
when it comes to the introduction of Stinger missiles in 1986, I would
note that while Wilson is right that our access to Soviet military
documentation is very limited, there is useful memoir literature as well
as analysis that supports the idea that the Soviets found ways to adjust
to the Stinger. More importantly for my own argument, Soviet officers
and leaders were making their decisions about the war independently of
the Stinger's introduction, or indeed any individual change on the
battlefield. Both Marshal Sergei Sokolov's statement that "the war could
not be won by military means" and Mikhail Gorbachev's decision to find a
way out preceded the introduction of the Stinger, while Eduard
Shevarnadze and Vladimir Kriuchkov's pleas to keep a number of troops in
Afghanistan after February 1989 came long after.

Wilson is also skeptical that Soviet leaders were genuine about their
desire for a negotiated withdrawal in 1982. It is not inconceivable to
suggest, as Wilson does, that the Soviets just wanted to have the U.S.
and Pakistan out of the way so they could isolate the mujahedeen. But
here it is important to pay attention to the internal Soviet discussion:
by 1982, the Soviet military command had already made it very clear that
"crushing" the mujahedeen was not going to be possible. What the Soviets
wanted was to leave the Karmal regime with a solid chance of holding out
against the opposition. At the same time, the Soviets were also
exploring ways of bringing opposition leaders over to the government
side. They believed that U.S. and Pakistani involvement had to end for
the opposition leaders to take them more seriously and for the Afghan
government to survive without Soviet troops, but that is not the same
thing as holding out for an outright military victory.

What about the issue of U.S. support for the mujahedeen and its
sanctions and boycotts more generally? I discuss this in the first
chapter, but let me underline some points here. Obviously the U.S.
campaign contributed to a Soviet sense of isolation after the
intervention, and the supply of arms (via Pakistan) gave the mujahedeen
much greater capability to harass the militaries of the Soviet Union and
the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. But looking at discussions
before and after the intervention, it seems that the Soviets expected
the sanctions and isolation and were prepared to weather the storm. The
sense that détente had collapsed made the costs seem much smaller, while
the importance of shoring up Afghanistan meant that a temporary period
of heightened tension with the U.S. was not necessarily an unfair price
to pay.

Wilson correctly notes that my discussion of "modernization" is (mostly)
limited to the introduction and conclusion. This was primarily a
stylistic choice, and I ended up removing my longer, more extensive
discussion about Soviet non-military advising and aid efforts, and
developing it further as a separate piece.1 It is possible to have a
very long discussion about what "modernization" means - it is a loaded
term. But it is sufficient here to point to the obsession of Afghan
communists with their own country's perceived "backwardness" and the
"modernity" they encountered elsewhere, especially in the USSR, which
they wanted to recreate within their own country. Their goals included
industrialization, secularization, the emancipation of women, the spread
of literacy, and the creation of a government with the reach and depth
to carry out those changes. These were the goals of previous Afghan
governments, too, but none wanted to go as far and as quickly, with as
little regard to reality, as the communists who came to power in 1978.

How does all of this connect to the question of withdrawal? The Soviet
leadership believed, logically, that for its allies in Afghanistan to
survive, those allies would need to achieve legitimacy, and to get
legitimacy they would need to show some material achievements. Hence the
major aid and advising effort undertaken within Afghanistan, and the
smaller attempts to demonstrate the benefits of Soviet rule, such as
bringing Afghan clergy to the USSR, for example, and showing them not
just functioning mosques but also factories in Soviet Central Asia. The
reason this had an effect on the length of the Soviet presence, I
believe, is that as the aid effort went on - and the specialists' and
advisers' glowing reports about their own progress reached Moscow - it
became yet another reason not to rush a withdrawal. The aid effort had
to be given time to work.

This brings us to the possibilities of comparison with Vietnam and the
current International Security Force Assistance effort in Afghanistan,
an issue raised by Professor Grau. I agree that these are very different
wars, and we mustn't get carried away when making comparisons. The more
striking similarities that I see are the ones that emerge not from a
study of the military aspects of the conflict (which I am in any case
ill equipped to analyze) but rather the way leaders slowly come to terms
with failure in a situation where they have superior power and resources
but nevertheless find themselves contemplating defeat. I mean only to
suggest some interesting parallels - like Professor Grau, I prefer to
leave it up to the reader to decide how deep that comparison can go.

Mark Galleotti rightly takes issue with my characterization of the
literature on Afghanistan as "paltry." I should have been clearer that
this was a point about quantity rather than quality.2 (This is another
interesting Vietnam comparison - the many hundreds of articles and books
on various aspects of that war, as compared to those on the Soviet war
in Afghanistan). The excellent work of the scholars who took part in
this roundtable was crucial to my own research.3 It is an honor to join
their ranks.

1 Artemy Kalinovsky, The Blind Leading the Blind: Soviet Advising and
State-Building in Afghanistan, (Cold War International History Project
Working Paper #60, Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington DC, 2010) and in a
forthcoming volume with Antonio Giustozzi, Missionaries of Modernity
(manuscript in progress.)
2 However, I feel I have to be nitpicky here as well: I definitely do
not say that Aleksandr-Agentov was a "committed opponent" of
intervention; on the contrary, I point out that while he played a role
in swinging the balance against intervention in March of 1979, but by
the fall of 1979 he was leaning towards a Soviet military involvement.
3 In fact, besides the truly excellent work of the participants of this
roundtable, on which I drew extensively, there is the work of Antonio
Giustozzi (whose work on the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan in
power is still the best study of Afghanistan under the communists), and
the recently published account by Peter Tomsen. Antonio Giustozzi, War,
Politics and Society in Afghanistan, 1978-1992 (London: Hurst, 2000),
and Peter Tomsen, The wars of Afghanistan: messianic terrorism, tribal
conflicts, and the failures of great powers (New York: Public Affairs, 2011)

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