History professor Stephen Kotkin well stated George Kennan ’25’s conceptualizing a global strategy to contain the Soviet Union in his 1946 Long Telegram as the U.S. minister in Moscow from the State Department (feature, March 2). Kennan believed the USSR contained the seeds of its own destruction, so it would collapse over the long haul. Thus, he advocated “the adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points” to induce its “gradual mellowing.”
Professor Kotkin noted that Kennan later objected to the founding of NATO, arming West Germany, and building a U.S. nuclear arsenal on the grounds that he had not intended “any military dimension to containment.” Professor Kotkin should have added that Kennan opposed the Truman Doctrine of aiding resistance to the Communist subversion of friendly nations, the Korean and Vietnam wars, installing Pershing missiles in Europe, and building an antiballistic missile system. Kennan even advocated unilateral U.S. disarmament! Also, he was a self-described “moderate socialist.” I believe it was absolutely essential that the United States added a strong military dimension to its containment of the Soviet Union and China.