22 February 1946
George Kennan Sends "Long Telegram"
The failure of the Soviet regime to uphold the promises made at Yalta and Potsdam was highly disturbing to the Truman administration. The president and his advisers sought some sort of explanation for Stalin’s behavior, and they found it in the words of George F. Kennan. Kennan had since May 1944 been deputy head of the U.S. mission to the Soviet Union, and in February 1946 he sent an 8,000-word telegram to Secretary of State James Byrnes.

In what was quickly dubbed the “Long Telegram,” Kennan claimed that the Soviet Union’s “neurotic” foreign policy was the product of a combination of a “traditional and instinctive Russian sense of insecurity,” combined with a Marxist-Leninist ideology that stressed the fundamental incompatibility of communism and capitalism. The best way of dealing with the Soviets, he argued, was to resist their efforts at aggression while strengthening Western institutions to the point that they could stand up to the Soviet challenge.

The Long Telegram would have a significant influence on Truman’s approach to world affairs, ultimately providing the inspiration for such initiatives as the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.

- George Kennan, Excerpts from Telegraphic Message from Moscow, February 22, 1946