This article examines the experience of the Soviet army’s occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. It draws heavily on the report of the Russian General Staff, which gives a unique insight into the Soviet–Afghan war by senior Russian officers, many of whom served in Afghanistan. The author then places this analysis in the broader geopolitical context of Soviet expansionism from the early 1970s to the mid 1980s. And the author proceeds to ask: Did Afghanistan account for the demise of the USSR? Finally, the issue of whether there are parallels with the failure of the Soviet Union’s invasion and the current problems facing the USA in Afghanistan is examined.