News Brief

Russian Media Gets A ‘Trump Bump’ From His Afghan Comments

President Trump’s apparent endorsement of the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan appears to outdo even Moscow’s recent attempts to rewrite the narrative surrounding this key moment in history.

Even before Trump claimed that the Soviet Union had taken over the Central Asian state in 1979 to fight terrorists — sparking widespread fury both in the US and Afghanistan —there have been signs that the Kremlin and its media machine were trying to propagate a similar line ahead of the 30th anniversary later this year of the end of the Soviet occupation.

President Vladimir Putin recently endorsed a review of the conflict, which is being interpreted as an attempt to revise the conclusions of the Communist Party in the dying days of the Soviet Union that the invasion was “a moral and political error of judgment.”

But no Kremlin official has gone as far as to claim — as the US president did — that the USSR was “right to be there.”

In fact, Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 to prop up the puppet communist government in Kabul against a growing Afghan insurgency, which was by then receiving American support.

Not surprisingly, the Russian media jumped on Trump’s outspoken remarks in much the same way as the American press. The “Trump bump” works for Russian online outlets too: he brings traffic.

But even as they enjoyed what appeared to be another Trump propaganda gift, many pro-government outlets took offense at his reading of history. The daily newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravdacommented sarcastically that “President Donald Trump has his own version of why the Soviet Union fell apart,” though the article did not actually contradict any of his comments.

Another paper, Isvestia, highlighted a comment from a political analyst who argued that the USSR “spent too much money, effort and time in Afghanistan, [but] it did not fall apart for this reason.”

Russian government-funded RT network highlighted how Trump’s critics had “exploded in outrage over the comments.”

RT then published its own history of US support of the Afghan “mujahideen”, drawing links between Reagan’s funding of the insurgency with modern-day terrorism.

It did not, however, contradict Trump’s assertion that the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was the cause of the USSR’s demise, adding opaquely that “in 1989 the last units of the Soviet armed forces left the country. The USSR ceased to exist in 1991.”

In the same report, RT also hinted that President Trump’s statements may be in line with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s own sentimentthat the fall of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”