Elliot Fernandez

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George F. Kennan’s Long telegram

The George F. Kennan Long telegram represents the beginning of the theory of containment towards the Soviet Union in the Cold War period.
Elliot Fernández

Elliot Fernández

He has a degree in History from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (2009) and a Master's in World History from Pompeu Fabra University (2011).

17/07/2020 | Last update:

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The “long telegram” was a confidential document sent by the American diplomat George Frost Kennan in 1946. Kennan was working at that time at the American Embassy in the Soviet Union. The George F. Kennan Long telegram was a document explaining how his country should act towards the USSR.

In this document, Kennan developed the American policy of containment towards the Soviet Union. Therefore, Kennan’s document became a reference for President Truman’s foreign policy.

The American diplomat George F. Kennan

Kennan was one of the most prominent figures of the Cold War. In the “long telegram” of 1946 Kennan argued that the Soviet regime was inherently expansionist. According to the American diplomat, its influence was to be “contained”, especially in areas of strategic importance to the United States. In a second document, written in 1947, Kennan further developed his theory of containment.

These texts are considered the founding ideological documents of Cold War policy and express the anti-Soviet policy of the Truman administration. Kennan also participated in the formulation and founding of the programs and institutions born of the Cold War, such as the Marshall Plan.

George Kennan Long Telegram conclusions

  • The Soviet Union perceived itself as being in an eternal war against capitalism.
  • Moderate left (non-communist) groups were perceived by the Soviet regime as enemies, not as allies.
  • The Soviet Union would use as allies those Marxist elements located in the capitalist world that it could control.
  • Soviet aggression” was not fundamentally aligned with the views of the Russian people or economic reality, but rather with “Russia’s historical paranoia and xenophobia.
  • The structure of the Soviet government prohibited objective descriptions of both internal and external reality.

In conclusion, Kennan’s telegram had a great impact on the American administration. Certainly, it greatly influenced President Truman’s decisions. However, as the United States assumed a more aggressive military strategy, Kennan warned that his writings had been misinterpreted.

Kenan never agreed with the arms race associated with the Cold War, as he did not see the Soviet Union as a military rival or threat (as it was a very war-weary country) but as a strong ideological and political rival.

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