In a press conference Wednesday, President Donald Trump disparaged American commitments abroad, including the US presence in Afghanistan. He denounced former Defense Secretary James Mattis for failing to deliver results in Afghanistan and suggested that Trump himself would be a superior general.
As part of his criticism of US policy in Afghanistan, the president cited Russia's experience in the region in the 1970s and 1980s, when the Soviet Union occupied the region. But as many critics pointed out following the conference, the president's understanding of that history is deeply flawed—and may be indicative of current pro-Russia biases.
Writing in the Atlantic Wednesday, conservative David Frum asks, "Why is Trump spouting Russian propaganda?"
"It was only one moment in a 90-minute stream of madness," Frum writes.
"The crazy part came during the president’s monologue defending his decision to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria and 7,000 from Afghanistan, about half the force in that country. 'Russia used to be the Soviet Union,' he said." Frum writes.
Frum analyzes Trump's rant:
Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan. Russia … The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight. And literally they went bankrupt; they went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union. You know, a lot of these places you’re reading about now are no longer part of Russia, because of Afghanistan.
The conservative pundit hones in on the significance of the president's seeming endorsement of Soviet actions. "It’s amazing enough that any U.S. president would retrospectively endorse the Soviet invasion," he writes.
"What’s even more amazing is that he would do so using the very same falsehoods originally invoked by the Soviets themselves: 'terrorists' and 'bandit elements.'"
Frum notes that the issue is not what happened in Afghanistan, but rather Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to whitewash Soviet era crimes and return Russia to its former imperialistic glory. What's disturbing is that President Donald Trump also appears interested in that goal.
"Putin-style glorification of the Soviet regime is entering the mind of the president, inspiring his words and—who knows—perhaps shaping his actions," Frum concludes."How that propaganda is reaching him—by which channels, via which persons—seems an important if not urgent question."