Brezhnev responds to Carter on Afghanistan (1979)

In December 1979 US president Jimmy Carter wrote to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, protesting the Soviet Union’s military incursion into Afghanistan. This is Brezhnev’s response, which accuses Carter of misinterpreting the situation:

Dear Mister President,

“In answer to your message of December 29th, I consider it necessary to inform you of the following.

It is impossible to agree with your evaluation of what is occurring in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. We have sent through your Ambassador to Moscow in a confidential manner to the American side and to you personally a clarification based on facts of what is actually occurring there, as well as the reasons which caused us to respond favourably to the request of the Government of Afghanistan for the introduction of limited Soviet military contingents.

The attempt taken in your message to cast doubt on the very fact of the request itself of the Government of Afghanistan for sending our forces to that country seems strange. I am compelled to note that it is certainly not a question of anyone’s perception or lack of perception of this fact, or agreement or disagreement with it, which determines the actual state of affairs, which consists of the following.

The Government of Afghanistan during the course of nearly two years has numerous times turned to us with this request. In point of fact, one of these requests was sent to us on December 26th of this year. This is equally known by us and by the Afghanistan government, which sent us these requests.

I want to once more stress that the purpose of the limited Soviet contingent in Afghanistan has only one goal: to provide assistance in repulsing the acts of external aggression which have been taking place for a prolonged time, and have now taken on even greater scale.

It is absolutely impermissible, and not in conformance with actuality, the claim (accusation), which appears in your message that the Soviet Union allegedly did something to overthrow the Government of Afghanistan. I must with all certainty stress that the change in the Afghanistan government was the result of the Afghanis themselves and only by them. Ask the Afghanistan government itself…

I must further clearly state to you that the Soviet military contingents did not take any military action against Afghanistan and we clearly do not intend to do so.

You have reproached us in your message that we did not consult with the US government in reference to the Afghanistan matter before introducing our military contingents into Afghanistan. Permit us to ask you: did you consult with us prior to beginning the massive concentration of naval forces near Iran and in the region of the Persian Gulf, as well as in many other cases, about which it would have been necessary as a minimum to notify us? …

There is, of course, no basis for your assertion that our actions in Afghanistan allegedly threaten the peace.

In light of all of this, the immoderate tone of certain formulations in your message hit us squarely between the eyes. What is the purpose of it? Would it not be better to evaluate the situation more calmly, keeping in mind the supreme interests of the world rather than, ultimately, the mutual relations of our two powers.

Concerning your ‘advice,’ we already informed you, and here I repeat again, that as soon as the reasons which prompted the Afghanistan request to the Soviet Union disappear, we fully intend to withdraw the Soviet military contingents from Afghanistan territory…

I do not believe that the work to create more stable and productive relations between the USSR and US can be in vain. Unless, of course, the American side wants this to be. We do not. I think it would not be to the benefit of the United States of America itself, either. It is our conviction that the way relations develop between the USSR and the US is a joint matter. We believe that they must not be subject to vacillation under the influence of some kind of attendant factors or events.

Despite disagreements on a number of issues in world and European politics, which we understand quite clearly, the Soviet Union is an advocate of conducting affairs in the spirit of those understandings and documents which were adopted by our countries in the interests of peace, equal cooperation, and international security.”