November 06, 2023

America’s Withdrawal From Afghanistan Did Not Spur Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

In August 2023, the United States marked the two-year anniversary of its chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. After nearly 20 years of fighting in the country, Washington bumbled its way through a disorderly exit. U.S. officials were caught off guard by the rapid collapse of the Afghan security forces and seemed unprepared to evacuate American citizens or Afghan partners. U.S. President Joe Biden’s handling of the pullout gave his administration a black eye that never fully healed. When the scale of the calamity became apparent at the end of August 2021, Biden’s approval ratings fell from 54 to 46 percent, and they still have not recovered.

The United States’ apparent abandonment of an ally when it withdrew from Afghanistan almost certainly had nothing to do with Putin’s war.

Over the last year and a half, some of Biden’s critics have even argued that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan helped inspire Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch his 2022 full-scale attack on Ukraine. Putin clearly felt that he had unfinished business with Ukraine well before Biden took office: Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 had not prevented Ukraine from pursuing deeper ties with the West, even while President Donald Trump, an admirer of Putin’s, occupied the White House. But in March 2022, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed that the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan was the precipitating event that emboldened Putin to invade Ukraine, arguing that Russia would not have attacked its neighbor if Biden had not “cut and run.”

Read the full article from Foreign Affairs.

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