Found this long and very interesting article about the fall of the USSR based on diaries kept during the last few years. Mostly focuses on Gorbachev.
I also hadn’t know that Gorbachev was partially in favour of German re-unification, to the point that they suggested tearing down the Berlin Wall shortly before it actually happened. I’d never heard much history of the lead-up to the wall falling, so this was good to read here. There’s more info about it here: Berlin Wall.
As I was reading through the part about Afghanistan sounded very similar to Iraq in a lot of ways. There was a lot of internal struggle about whether to withdraw, similar to right now in the US.
Here are some excerpts that caught my eye:
But the Russians faced even more calamities. Afghanistan was one of them. On Oct. 17, 1985, the party leader recommended to the members of the Politburo that the Russians end the war and bring home their troops, who had marched into Afghanistan a little less than six years earlier. By then, the war had become a fact of life. Every day, an average of 10 young Soviet soldiers were dying in a battle against the mujahedeen some 3,400 kilometers (2,113 miles) away. Moscow, it seemed, had become accustomed to the carnage.
Gromyko had been the one to initiate the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, even managing to implement the plan against the resistance of the military leadership, who believed it was unfeasible and pointless.
In October 1985, Gorbachev met secretly with Babrak Karmal, the General Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan and the Russians’ governor in Kabul. Gorbachev told Karmal that, beginning in the summer of 1986, he would be on his own when it came to warding off the mujahedeen. Karmal was taken completely by surprise. Convinced that Afghanistan represented a vital buffer zone for the Soviets along their southern border, he had not expected such a radical about-face.
Perhaps not surprisingly, a majority within the party leadership — as revealed by the Politburo minutes — suddenly began claiming to have seen from the start that the Afghanistan invasion was a risky adventure. But Gorbachev soon realized that there was also serious opposition to his plan for immediate withdrawal — and that the Afghans themselves were unwilling to accept the departure of Soviet troops.
Afghanistan was now a permanent item on the agenda during meetings of the Kremlin’s inner circle. Gorbachev’s main concern was that the withdrawal be accomplished in an orderly fashion and that the United States and Pakistan not become involved. In other words, Gorbachev wanted to remain in control of the withdrawal. “The outcome must not look like a humiliating defeat. We have lost too many of our boys.”