A History of Our Time: Readings on Postwar America

By William H. Chafe; Harvard Sitkoff et al. | Go to book overview

The Necessity for
Containment (1946)

George F. Kennan

A diplomat in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and a leading expert on Soviet affairs, George F. Kennan sent a long, eight-thousand-word, secret telegram to the State Department early in 1946 sketching the roots of Soviet policy and warning of serious difficulties with the Soviet Union in the years ahead. Kennan then recommended a long-term, firm policy of resistance by the United States to Soviet expansionism. Known as the containment policy, it became the basis of President Truman’s new departure in foreign policy (see “The Truman Doctrine,” p. 20). In reading the excerpts from Kennan’s telegram that follow, students should note Kennan’s view of the methods the Soviet Union was likely to employ to expand its economic and political influence, the principles of Soviet foreign policy, the U.S. interests involved, what the United States has to fear from the Soviets, and the course of action the United States should take.


BASIC FEATURES OF POST WAR SOVIET OUTLOOK, AS
PUT FORWARD BY OFFICIAL PROPAGANDA MACHINE,
ARE AS FOLLOWS:

(a) USSR still lives in antagonistic “capitalist encirclement” with which in the long run there can be no permanent peaceful coexistence. As stated by Stalin in 1927 to a delegation of American workers:

In course of further development of international revolution there will
emerge two centers of world significance: a socialist center, drawing to
itself the countries which tend toward socialism, and a capitalist center,
drawing to itself the countries that incline toward capitalism. Battle
between these two centers for command of world economy will decide
fate of capitalism and of communism in entire world.

-13-

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