Though Russia is winning international gratitude for pulling its troops out of Afghanistan, the withdrawal isn't enough.
Now the Soviet Union should also dig deep into its pockets and help come up with the huge sums of money it will take to restore the country wrecked by eight years of Russian occupation. By one estimate from the United Nations, it will take $1.1 billion just for the first phase of the effort to rehabilitate the five-million Afghan refugees dislocated by the war.Moreover, while they're withdrawing, the Soviets should ease the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland by removing the millions of landmines planted by Russian troops. The U.S. State Department estimates the number of mines at between 10 million and 30 million.
So far, the Soviets and their puppet regime in Kabul have refused even to locate the landmines, let alone remove them. This stance is unconscionable and inconsistent with Moscow's pledge to facilitate the return of the refugees.
As long as the landmines remain in place, the prospect of more Soviet atrocities in Afghanistan will persist. As an indication of the potential for such atrocities, take this recent report from Scripps Howard News Service:
"The farming village of Barikot was one of the first to be liberated by the Afghan freedom fighters after the communists' withdrawals began. Hundreds of its former residents, who had spent years as refugees in Pakistan, eagerly took the long walk back to their home town. When they arrived, they found storerooms full of flour and onion crops ready for harvest.
"The storerooms and onion fields turned out to be booby-trapped with Soviet mines. Some 50 women and children were killed in the explosions that followed. The freedom fighters found other explosive traps in Barikot's mosques, planted for the purpose of massacring worshippers."
Americans eagerly - perhaps too eagerly - want to believe that Russia is changing for the better, becoming more open and more humane. But it would be sheer folly to ignore evidence, like the landmines, that gives an altogether different picture of modern Russia.