July 1947
Kennan Recommends "Containment"
George Kennan had returned to the United States from his assignment in Moscow in April 1946. Since then several members of the Truman administration, but in particular Navy Secretary James Forrestal, had been pressing Kennan to expand upon his views of Soviet foreign policy. He finally did so in an article entitled “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” which appeared in the July 1947 issue of Foreign Affairs under the pseudonym “X.” In this article he stressed the role of communist ideology, which Stalin used to justify his dictatorial rule. He predicted that the Soviets would continue to seek opportunities to expand their power abroad, by peaceful means or, if necessary, by force. U.S. policy, Kennan claimed, should focus on “long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.”

Kennan would argue later that he had never meant to imply that any Soviet move anywhere in the world had to be resisted with the armed might of the United States. Nevertheless, the Truman administration as well as those that followed tended to take such a view. Although different presidents would practice it in different ways, “containment” officially would remain the dominant U.S. strategy throughout the Cold War.

Links:
- “X” (George F. Kennan), Excerpts from “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” July 1947

- Walter Lippman, Excerpts from “The Cold War,” 1947