"Russia still has great demand for people who are able to overcome difficulties and meet the toughest challenges," Mr. Putin said at a meeting with veterans on Thursday.
Previously, speaking at a formal meeting in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Putin stressed that the war in Afghanistan incorporated all of the contradictions and complexity of that period and became "the pinnacle of the prolonged Cold War."
"However, upon authorizing the sending of troops, nobody thought about the ways to solve the economic problems of one of the poorest countries in the world," Mr. Putin said. "The Soviet leadership ignored the fact that inter-ethnic and inter-tribal contradictions in Afghanistan were so badly aggravated that the country was on the verge of a civil war. It is true that Soviet leaders did not make an immediate decision concerning sending troops and the situation was regularly discussed at Politburo sessions and in the General Staff. At the same time, there were constant requests from the Afghan government for military assistance. All of these resulted in the attack, which occurred in December 1979. Certainly the Soviet leadership was also looking forward to securing our southern boarders. Afghanistan was an unstable and unpredictable neighbor, and today we can see what is happening there.
"I must say that Soviet military leadership - and I would like to emphasize this fact - was against that operation citing the difficulties of conducting warfare in the mountains. This fact can be confirmed by different documents and statements made by a number of veterans involved in the planning process at that time. However, superpowers and their allies had been in global confrontation for decades, which is why they acted in accordance with this global confrontation logic. They acted in accordance with their understanding of political interests which prevailed at that time. In due course, before invading Vietnam the United States shared the same principles. And Soviet leaders relied on existing political ideology. No matter how hard the decision making process was, the result is obvious: the Soviet Union found itself involved into a dead end war which lasted almost nine years. Today we must analyze and take into consideration the lessons of the war in Afghanistan. We must face reality. That war confirmed once again that nobody has the right to interfere with other countries' activities. You cannot force people to accept communism, democracy or open market if they do not really want them. And you cannot persuade them to do this with the help of tanks.
"It is a very good lesson not only for superpowers, but for the whole international community. We must admit that the war in Afghanistan facilitated the strengthening of international terrorism. The international community still has to discuss and coordinate its positions and to restore order in this long-suffering country. It also has to do everything possible to provide the necessary environment for a peaceful and successful economic development.
"There were not many people who cared about the broken lives of our veterans, about their physical and moral suffering. Often they found themselves alone. Politicians were busy doing their own business. But today I would like to thank you for not only preserving your military brotherhood, but also for strengthening it in civil life, for overcoming physical and moral anguish relying generally upon your unity and mutual support. You also managed to keep in touch with your comrades in other countries of the CIS. By the way, people there also commemorate this date today. Finally, you proved that you are together because you can work hard and you can help each other". - 0- (man/gun)