What were the consequences of the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan?

The invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union brought detente to a crashing end. What other consequences did the invasion have on superpower relations and the Cold War?

The worksheet is available to download here. If you do not have access to Word, please complete the tasks as outlined in the yellow boxes on this page.

Persian Gulf = Part of the Mediterranean Sea that surrounds Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran and other ‘gulf states’. An area that was very important to the USA due to its oil reserves in the area.
Economic sanctions = Economic penalties imposed on a country by another country.
Embargo = Stopping trade with another country.
Boycott = withdrawing trade or relations with another country.

Watch the video below and answer the following questions:

1) How have the USA responded to the War in Afghanistan?
2) This was a symbolic move by the USA, but would this have had a big impact on the Cold War overall?
3) Did any other countries support this move as well? What kinds of countries were they?

Read the following information on the consequences of the Cold War. Make notes under the following headings:

1) Consequences for the Soviet Union
2) Consequences for the USA
3) Consequences for Afghanistan
4) Consequences for superpower relations

The consequences of the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

The Soviet Union had shown its muscle outside of its borders before. Both Hungary and Czechoslovakia had felt the brunt of the Red Army in 1956 and 1968 respectively, and had been very effective in delivering what it set out to do. It’s involvement in a country outside of the Eastern Bloc, however, was something that the USA found alarming: a spread of communism here could make communism even harder to contain.

President Carter had an election to fight at the end of 1980 – he needed to look tough and deal with the Soviet Union effectively to gain the trust of the US public. He gave interviews stating that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was the biggest threat to world peace since the Second World War.

He announced his own Doctrine in January 1980 live to his American people, known as the Carter Doctrine – a move that was meant to echo the Truman Doctrine that looked to stop the spread of communism. The Carter Doctrine explained that the USA would use force in the Persian Gulf, if necessary, against any threats to American interests. The Soviets were not affecting US oil supplies by being in Afghanistan, but the Carter Doctrine clearly stated that high tensions between the superpowers were back.

In addition to this, he withdrew support from SALT II. ICBM deployment restrictions and limits on missile launchers and strategic bombers were never signed. The hard work from the previous years had been compromised.

Carter also imposed economic sanctions on the Soviet Union. Carter outlined a grain embargo on the Soviet Union that came into effect. It stopped US farmers from being able to export their crops to the Soviet Union. Although it was meant to damage the Soviet Union, it actually crippled the incomes of US farmers and was probably one of the main reasons why Carter was voted out in 1980.

The final decision made by Carter as a consequence of the Soviet Invasion was to arm the Mujahideen with weapons and financial support. These Islamic guerrilla fighters suddenly had a fighting chance at defending themselves against the Soviet Union. Of particular importance was the anti-aircraft weaponry. These crippled the chances the Soviet Union had in the air with helicopters, and contributed to a long, 10-year war between the two sides that severely hindered the Soviet Union. It found itself in a war that eventually cost the country $8 billion a year to maintain. It also resulted in 1.5 million Afghan civilian deaths.

The Mujahideen posing with a Soviet Helicopter that they successfully shot down.

Carter’s response to the invasion was played on by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential race. He said that Carter was dangerous for allowing the world to fall into Soviet control, and was a weak president for doing so. Reagan told the American people that America was a ‘force of good’ against an ‘evil’ ideology in the Soviet Union that must be fought against. He won a landslide victory in November 1980.

The Olympic Boycotts of 1980
A US magazine from January 1980, just a month after the invasion of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In protest, Carter ordered a US boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games that were being held in Moscow. 60 other national teams followed the US’s lead and also boycotted the Olympics. Countries that also boycotted the games involved Japan, Canada, West Germany and even China. Countries such as Britain and France supported the boycott but did not force their athletes to not participate, meaning that they had a much smaller team represent them. This was in stark contrast to the USA: they stated that if any of their athletes compete in the games, even as an independent, they would have their passports ripped up and were not allowed to return to the USA. Needless to say, no US athletes participated in any capacity in the 1980 Summer Olympics.

This infuriated Brezhnev: the Olympics in Moscow were supposed to be a platform for the Soviet Union to show off its communism and help draw attention to itself in a positive way. Instead, the sport in the games looked second-rate as many of the world’s best sportsmen and women were not present. Some of the sport looked unconvincing.

The 1984 Olympics were held in Los Angeles. Relations had not improved by this point, and was highlighted by the fact that the Soviet Union took their turn to boycott the Olympics. 15 other communist countries joined them in this boycott. Both boycotts not only displayed the return of the Cold War, but also showed just how much influence each country had in influencing other countries to follow it in its decisions. The world was still split in to two very distinct camps of communism and capitalism.

A US magazine from May 1984 following the news that the Soviet Union were boycotting the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Answer the following 8-mark exam-style consequence question to round up the lesson:

Explain two consequences of the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan [8 marks].

Remember to use the structure as set out below!

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