The ‘Long Telegram’ was sent by George Kennan from the United States Embassy in Moscow to Washington, where it was received on February 22nd 1946. Kennan was an American diplomat on the Soviet front, beginning his career as an observer of the aftermath of the Russian Civil War. He witnessed collectivization and the terror from close range and sent his telegram after another two years’ service in Moscow from 1944 to 1946 as chief of mission and Ambassador Averell Harriman’s consultant. The telegram was prompted by US enquiries about Soviet behaviour, especially with regards to their refusal to join the newly created World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Historical Significance

  • This telegram clearly outlined the US policy on controlling the Soviet Union, it was through the policy of Containment.
  • Therefore, it outlined the United States’ foreign policy for the next 40 years to come.
  • Kennan posted concepts on the Soviet Union that aided the US government in forming their Foreign policy. The 1st and 2nd part of the telegram outlined these concepts, which were; The USSR perceived itself at perpetual war with capitalism. Socialism and social democracy are enemies, not allies. The USSR would use controllable Marxists in the capitalist world as allies therefore; they would create a sphere of influence by creating Buffer Zones. Soviet aggression was fundamentally not aligned with the views of the Russian people or with economic reality, but in historic Russian xenophobia and paranoia. The Soviet government’s structure prohibited objective or accurate pictures of internal and external reality.
  • The Long Telegram gave the US government a clear understanding of how the Soviet government saw itself in the international community.  According to Kennan, due to the vast ideological differences, the Soviet Union did not see the possibility for long-term peaceful coexistence with the capitalist world.
  • It was their ever-present aim to advance the socialist cause. Capitalism was a menace to the ideals of socialism, and capitalists could not be trusted or allowed to influence the Soviet people.

“It is clear that the main element of any United States policy towards the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies…. It must continue to regard the Soviet Union as a rival, not a partner, in the political arena.” G.K. long telegram.

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