With the so-called "Long Telegram" from Moscow-based diplomat George Kennan to American Secretary of State James Byrnes in early 1946 and Kennan's (using the pseudonym Mr. X) article "Sources of Soviet Conduct," published in Foreign Affairs a year and a half later, America's post-war policy strove to contain the spread...
With the so-called "Long Telegram" from Moscow-based diplomat George Kennan to American Secretary of State James Byrnes in early 1946 and Kennan's (using the pseudonym Mr. X) article "Sources of Soviet Conduct," published in Foreign Affairs a year and a half later, America's post-war policy strove to contain the spread of communism outside of the Soviet Union. Kennan argued that "strong resistance" was needed to counteract the Soviet threat. Kennan wrote in Foreign Affairs:
The main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.
He further suggested that the United States must show overwhelming force in the face of Soviet aggression. Taking his cue from Kennan, President Harry Truman met communism with action, first by warning Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to get out of Iran. Soviet troops had occupied parts of Iran at the end of the war and were supplying Azerbaijan and Kurdish separatists with arms in an attempt to break away from Tehran. In one of the first steps toward containment, Truman supported the Shah, who sent his army into the area to battle separatist fighters. The resulting engagement saw casualties on both sides. Through negotiations and American pressure on the Soviets, the Azerbaijan and Kurdish rebels disbanded, and the Soviet Union withdrew from the country.
Another consequence of Kennan's containment policy was the establishment of the North American Treaty Organization, a military alliance between America and most of Western Europe in 1949 (NATO grew to include several Eastern European countries after the fall of the Soviet Union). In turn, the Soviets formed NATO's opposite, the Warsaw Pact, an alliance of countries within the Soviet Union's sphere of influence. It was, however, simply another vehicle for Soviet expansionist aspirations.
Despite the policy of containment, the United States was unable to keep China from turning communist not long after the formation of NATO. It was in Asia that America's policy met its toughest tests and ultimately failed, both in the Korean War, which ground to a stalemate before a ceasefire was proclaimed in 1953, and in Vietnam, where U.S. troops withdrew under a communist onslaught in 1975, but not before more than 50,000 American troops had been killed. Actually, the war in Korea was never officially concluded, and South Korea currently lives under the threat of being attacked by the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, who continues to advance his country's nuclear arsenal. Fortunately, Vietnam remains a unified country and has even made an economic comeback in recent years.
Containment did ultimately have one major victory when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. A major arms buildup, instigated by President Ronald Reagan, and a destructive and inconclusive war in Afghanistan brought the Soviet Union to its knees. Russia's influence in the world would be greatly diminished in the following years, although its seems to be partially resurrected under President Vladimir Putin.
Ironically, George Kennan would later oppose the arms buildup which would bring down the Soviets, and he lamented the fact that his policy had been twisted, arguing that he had wanted diplomatic, not military, solutions to the world's problems