BLUF

While some were considering military action against an expansionist USSR, George Kennan convinced the Truman Administration there was a better strategy.

Summary

According to Associate Professor Stephen Hoadley, George Kennan stands second only to Henry Kissinger as one of the most influential and respected American geopolitical thinkers of the mid-20th century. George Kennan was a US ambassador to the USSR and was what Hoadley calls ‘one of America’s few true Soviet experts’ In 1946, Kennan drafted his ‘long telegram’ to Washington, where he wrote to the US Secretary of State with a lengthy analysis of Soviet policy. He argued that Soviet leaders would relentlessly pursue expansionist policies to retain power and fulfil their communist dogma, and they would use everything at their disposal to achieve this. Kennan wrote that US policy towards the Soviet Union:
    ‘must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies’. See Kennan and Containment, 1947
Kennan’s advice convinced the Truman administration that a US response to Russia’s outreach was urgently needed. Rather than flexing US military muscle, Kennan advocated economic and diplomatic responses. He believed the tensions within the Soviet system would cause its eventual collapse.