The Cold War

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How did George Kennan's "Long Telegram" (1946) and National Security Council 68 (1950) help shape US foreign policy from 1945 to 1960?

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Kennan's "Long Telegram" was the earlier of these two documents and proved deeply influential in shaping United States perceptions and strategy during the Cold War. It should be noted that Kennan's argument was based on his reading into Russian political psychology. According to Kennan, USSR political assumptions had been shaped by a long-standing Russian self-perception of political insecurity, prompting the Soviet Union to work toward expanding its own zone of influence in response. This led Kennan to advocate a policy of containment. His reading of the Cold War proved critical in shaping the alliance networks and political interventions of the post-war era. If you look at the Marshall Plan, or the alliance networks created to contain communist expansion, you would see his influence at work. (I've provided a link to the Long Telegram, courtesy of the Truman Library.)

NSC 68 took a more militaristic approach that Kennan himself criticized. NSC 68 regarded the USSR as "fanatical" and with "intentions to impose its absolute authority on the rest of the world" (quoted from the US State department—see link), calling for a dramatic expansion in US military capacity, so as to better defend itself and its allies. According to the US State Department, the Truman Administration would follow these suggestions: between 1950 and 1953, the military spending as measured by its percentage of the GDP would rise 300 percent in those years.

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