The most pressing issue facing the Soviet military in 1985 was that of the intervention in Afghanistan, launched in 1979. It soon became clear that the duration and scale of this intervention would be much greater than anticipated. The war in Afghanistan was not only a drain on manpower and finances, it was turning into a national humiliation comparable with the earlier US involvement in Vietnam. Those young soldiers who survived were often returning to the Soviet Union in a state of severe trauma and addicted to the drugs that were readily available in the conflict zones. The deeper glasnost progressed, the harder it was to cover up or ignore the impact of the war. Gorbachev’s initial response was to escalate the military offensive, although this may have been a temporary measure aimed at better positioning of the Soviet Union in any future negotiations over withdrawal [36: 727]. The announcement of Soviet withdrawal in January 1988 was ratified at a summit with the USA in Geneva in April. The removal of at least regular forces was completed in 1989, thus drawing the curtain over one of the more shameful episodes in the history of the Soviet military, but not without leaving a bitter legacy behind.
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