This paper will investigate the US and UK response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, with a focus on the longer-term adjustment of policies triggered by this event. Numerous scholars have studied the immediate reaction to the invasion, for example focusing on the tough rhetorical criticism of Moscow, the economic sanctions, and the boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games. However, less attention has been devoted to studying the broader significance of the strategic choices made by Washington and London in the aftermath of the Soviet action. By early 1980, with the proclamation of the Carter doctrine, the American administration elevated the Soviet threat to levels reminiscent of the early Cold War period, forcefully placing the Persian Gulf at the centre of US national security concerns. This led to the implementation of directives for the creation of a rapid deployment force (RDF), the expansion of the aid programme channelled to the Afghan resistance, and increased reliance on Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to execute these policies. As the main European ally of the United States, London not only shared the fundamental perception of an increased Soviet threat, but backed Washington’s policies with vigour, both rhetorically and concretely. This paper will investigate the rationale behind the US and UK choices, their broader implications, and long-term consequences.
Dr. Barbara Zanchetta is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. She is the author of The Transformation of American International Power in the 1970s (Cambridge University Press, 2014), the co-author of Transatlantic Relations since 1945 (Routledge, 2012) and co-editor of New Perspectives on the End of the Cold War: Unexpected Transformations? (Routledge, 2018). Dr. Zanchetta has published articles or book reviews in International Politics, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Diplomatic History, Cold War History, Journal of Transatlantic Studies, International Affairs and for H-Diplo. She is currently working on a monograph tentatively titled The United States and the ‘Arc of Crisis:’ How the Cold War Dominated Strategic Choices in Southwest Asia.