Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Karen Miller

Subject Categories

American Politics | Asian Studies | International and Area Studies | International Relations | Near and Middle Eastern Studies | Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies


Afghanistan, The Soviet Union, The United States of America, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan


Traditional scholarship depicts the Cold War, which began immediately after World War Two and ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, as a battle of freedom and democracy over communism and authoritarian control. Cold War propaganda cartoons often show an Uncle Sam figure facing off against the Soviet Union, or a Soviet Bear reaching out to grab and control Western Europe. While this may have been popular Cold War discourse, a close look at internal documents from the United States Government at the time reveals that the United States was more interested in protecting resources and their role as a global super-power than with protecting the freedom of the people around the world. This paper uses the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 as a case study of how the American Government hid behind ideology while pursuing their self-interests in select countries across the globe. More specifically, this paper focuses on the Carter and Reagan Administrations, and I argue that President Carter and his National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski sought to induce a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as a means to trap the Soviets in a stalemate, ultimately draining them of their resources. While the Reagan Administration is typically credited with draining the Soviet Union of their power, internal memos from National Security Advisor Brzezinski prove that it was actually the Carter Administration that developed the strategic policy of luring the Soviet Union into Afghanistan while aiding anti-communist rebels to fight against the Soviets. The latter half of the paper will focus on how the Reagan Administration worked to prolong the Soviet’s presence in Afghanistan for as long as possible, despite public speeches and meetings where the Reagan Administration blamed the destruction in Afghanistan on the Soviets refusal to withdrawal. To help prove how the United States worked to create the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and use it as a tool to win the Cold War, I will rely on archival research from both the Carter and Reagan Administrations, as well as archival research from the Gorbachev Administration in the Soviet Union. Ultimately, this paper aims to show how the United States intentionally created turmoil in Afghanistan designed to drain the Soviet Union of their power, all the while claiming they were aiding the anti-communist rebels as a means to protect the Afghani people from the Soviets. By illustrating the United States deceptive foreign policy in Afghanistan during the Cold War, I hope readers will be weary of foreign wars where the United States claims it is involved because of ideological beliefs.