Soviet troops withdrawing from Afghanistan in 1988. (Mikhail Evstafiev/Wikipedia)
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Moscow is revving up its publicity machine to sell the Kremlin's dramatic entry into the Syrian war to wary Russians who still harbor painful memories of the Soviet Union's disastrous venture into Afghanistan. Russia Wednesday waded into the hugely convoluted multifront conflict in the Middle East, launching airstrikes against what Moscow says are ISIS militants in its Soviet-era ally Syria.President Vladimir Putin said Moscow needed to quash terrorists before they cross into Russia but ruled out sending ground troops into Syria.The airstrikes in Syria are Russia's first major military engagement outside the former Soviet Union since the occupation of Afghanistan in 1979 .That 10-year conflict, which claimed the lives of more than 14,000 Soviet troops, has come to be seen in the country as a huge foreign policy blunder. Kalachev added that his father, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, did not support greater involvement in Syria either.
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