Out of Afghanistan: The Inside Story of the Soviet Withdrawal

Diego Cordovez, Author, Selig S. Harrison, With
Diego Cordovez, Author, Selig S. Harrison, With Oxford University Press, USA $65 (472p) ISBN 978-0-19-506294-6
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The UN, represented largely by coauthor Cordovez, played an unprecedented mediatory role in the conflict between the superpowers over the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, prodding both Moscow and Washington to make concessions and supervising the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet troops. The authors' informative account--a major addition to the literature of modern diplomacy--reveals that the U.S. tried to prevent the emergence of a UN role in the impasse: ``Blinded by its distrust of Moscow, Washington distrusted the UN as well.'' Could the withdrawal have occurred earlier than it did? It would seem so: Yuri Andropov's overtures toward negotiation during his 1982-84 tenure as Soviet leader were evidently serious; likewise, the Reagan administration was slow to recognize that military disengagement from Afghanistan was one of Mikhail Gorbachev's main objectives when he assumed power in 1985. The authors conclude this survey of the Soviet adventure and its resolution by explaining how the 1988 Geneva Accords, which ended the occupation, contributed to the great unraveling in 1991 by improving East-West relations. Cordovez, an Ecuadorian, served as undersecretary general for special political affairs at the UN; Harrison is a former foreign correspondent with the Washington Post. (June)
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