George F. Kennan and the Origins of Containment, 1944-1946: The Kennan-Lukacs Correspondence

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Overview

In 1945 the United States saw the Soviet Union as its principal ally. By 1947, it saw the Soviet Union as its principal opponent. How did this happen? Historian John Lukacs has provided an answer to this question through an exchange of letters with George F. Kennan. Their correspondence deals with the antecedents of containment between 1944 and 1946, during most of which time Kennan was at the American embassy in Moscow.

Kennan had strong opinions about America's appropriate ...

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Overview

In 1945 the United States saw the Soviet Union as its principal ally. By 1947, it saw the Soviet Union as its principal opponent. How did this happen? Historian John Lukacs has provided an answer to this question through an exchange of letters with George F. Kennan. Their correspondence deals with the antecedents of containment between 1944 and 1946, during most of which time Kennan was at the American embassy in Moscow.

Kennan had strong opinions about America's appropriate role during and after World War II and is perhaps best known as the architect of America's containment policy. Much has been written about Kennan and containment, but relatively little is known about the events that made him compose and send the Long Telegram in 1946 that ultimately became the draft for foreign policy dealing with the Soviets in the following forty years.

These letters show Kennan's fear of the extent to which the United States misunderstood the Soviet regime. Especially in 1944, at the time of the Russians' betrayal of the Warsaw Uprising, it became evident that the Soviets were interested in establishing their rigid domination of Eastern and Central Europe and dividing the continent.

Kennan's letters to Lukacs are thorough and detailed, suggesting that the Truman administration was not in the least premature in opposing the Soviet Union. Indeed, both correspondents suggest that these decisions should have been made earlier. This series of letters will add greatly to our understanding of what preceded containment and the Cold War in 1947.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this slim but hard-hitting volume, diplomat Kennan (At a Century's Ending, LJ 10/15/95) and historian Lukacs (Destinations Past, LJ 6/15/94) rebut the revisionist argument that the United States, by overhasty action during the waning days of World War II, provoked the subsequent Cold War. Drawn from their exchange of correspondence in 1994-95, it offers insight into the process of transition from wartime cooperation to bitter competition between former allies. The book centers on the evolution of Kennan's thinking from 1944 to 1946, the period preceding the famous Long Telegram and the "X" article in Foreign Affairs outlining his vision of "containment" policy. Kennan argues that, far from acting rashly, Roosevelt and his advisers sacrificed the postwar European order for the sake of wartime alliance cohesion. He also reiterates his long-standing view that containment should not have been carried out primarily through the military. This work illuminates the subtle thinking of one of this century's most influential statesmen. Strongly recommended for academic libraries.James Holmes, Tufts-Harvard Univs., Medford, Mass.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826211088
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1996
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 5.23 (w) x 7.88 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Meet the Author

George F. Kennan (1904–2005) was an ambassador to the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and professor in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

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