After World War II ended, the United States and the Soviet Union had major differences regarding the spread of communism. We didn’t want communism to spread while the Soviet Union wanted to spread it. This led to the Cold War, which is a period of confrontations and competitions between countries.
In response to the potential spread of communism, George Keenan, a Foreign Service officer, wrote a telegram that was about 8,000 words long regarding how we should deal with this threat. This was called the Long Telegram.
There were several major points of this telegram. Keenan said that communism was a flawed system and would eventually fail. It may take many years to fail, but it would eventually fail. Therefore, we didn’t need to go to war to defeat the Soviet Union. We needed to be patient. He also believed we would never reach a permanent settlement with the Soviet Union. He felt the Soviet Union would never trust any other countries. What we needed to do was to develop policies to keep communism where it was and to prevent it from spreading. He felt the Soviet Union would back down when faced with a strong response from the noncommunist world. This led to the development of the containment policy. Later, other policies were also developed to work to prevent the spread of communism.
The Long Telegram was an important influence on our foreign policy regarding dealing with the spread of communism after the end of World War II.
By the time that George Kennan wrote the “Long Telegram” the US-USSR alliance was pretty well dead already. Stalin had already given his “two camps” speech. The US public had already found out about Soviet spies stealing atomic bomb secrets. This was not a good relationship at that point.
Even so, Kennan’s telegram played a part in further destroying the alliance. Kennan argued in the telegram that the Soviets were expansionist and should not be trusted. He argued that the US should take the lead in trying to prevent the spread of communism. By writing the telegram, Kennan helped to influence American decision-makers to see the Soviets as an enemy that needed to be contained. This further damaged the already very weak alliance between the two countries.