George F. Kennan and the Origins of Containment, 1944-1946 Summary
by George F. Kennan, John Lukacs

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George F. Kennan and the Origins of Containment, 1944-1946

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

GEORGE F. KENNAN AND THE ORIGINS OF CONTAINMENT, 1944-1946: THE KENNAN-LUKACS CORRESPONDENCE consists of six letters, three by each of the authors, written during 1994-1995. Typically, the historian John Lukacs writes to pose questions to the retired diplomat who was the principal architect of United States policy concerning Russia at the beginning of the Cold War. In his responses, George F. Kennan, who first proposed a policy of containment, attempts to clarify and refine his positions. In addition to a helpful bibliography, the book includes a lengthy introduction by Lukacs establishing the historical background and outlining Kennan’s role as diplomat.

The fundamental problem explored in the work is the onset of the Cold War. Its central question may be expressed as follows: How was it that the Soviet Union, embraced by American military and civilian leaders and by public opinion as a staunch ally against Nazism in 1944, became viewed as the nation’s chief adversary in 1947?

Kennan addresses this question with subtle reasoning and analysis. He was among the first Americans to caution that, though an important military ally, Russia should not be viewed as a political ally, for its government had not altered its earlier dictatorial tyranny. Both authors agree that during World War II, Western leaders were slow to recognize the threat of Russian expansionism.

Yet once the Cold War developed, Kennan believes, both sides made misjudgments and miscalculations, resulting in an excessively long and expensive conflict. Because it offers a highly informed perspective on numerous Cold War issues, the book provides valuable insights to general readers and historians.