Why did the United States adopt a policy of containment?

Topics: Cold War, Soviet Union, Communism Pages: 6 (1803 words) Published: December 1, 2003
The term containment, introduced by the Truman Administration, describes the foreign policy pursued by the United States after the Second World War. The policy itself was an attempt to 'contain' the Soviet Union within its current borders and frustrate any attempts of expansion. George F. Kennan, a diplomat and US State department advisor on Soviet affairs, introduced the term in his famous Anonymous X - article. Keenan suggested a

' Long term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies'

This would lead to the inevitable break up of the Soviet Union. Since the defeat of the Nazi's the Soviets because of their communist ideology and history were considered to be the largest threat to the Western World. Arguably all of the United States foreign policies after the Second World War were in one way or another directed towards that of the Soviet Union and therefore examples of containment.

The Truman administration introduced the policy of containment, based on the work of George F, Keenan. Within his Anonymous - X article Kennan suggested three policies the U.S. should adopt in order to accomplish the 'containment' of the Soviet Union. Kennan recommended that the first goal should be the restoration of the balance of power within Europe. According to Kennan, the ultimate goal of U.S. foreign policy should not be the division of the World into Soviet and American Spheres of influence. Instead, U.S. foreign policy should aid the establishment of independent centres of power in Europe and Asia and also encourage self - confidence in nations threatened by soviet expansion through economic and military aid.

The second goal was the reduction of Soviet power projection by exploiting tensions in international communism. Since the Soviet Union projected power towards the outside, by relying on communist governments subservient to Moscow and communist parties elsewhere, Kennan suggested to exploit tensions between Moscow and the international communist movement. Therefore, it made sense to support conflicting communist states and sometimes even co - operate with their regimes. Since nationalism would prove more durable than communism, Keenan expected international communism to break up sooner or later.

The third goal was the most ambitious one, namely to lead the Soviet Union away from its universal notion of international affairs toward a particular understanding of reality. Kennan's theory of containment differed significantly from the containment U.S. foreign policy makers would later practise.

It is important to point out that the United States did not adopt its policy of containment primarily because of post World War Two events. Tensions between the United States and Russia had dated back to the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917. Firstly, the ideology of communism was deemed to be very unpopular within the Western World, especially within the U.S. They saw themselves as the leaders of Democracy and the 'Free World', they believed communism contradicted the American way of life and restricted people of their freedom. Secondly, tensions were increased during the civil war of Russia, as the U.S. backed the white army alongside other western countries . This was an early example of the United States attempting to contain the spread of communism years before the Cold War was a worldwide phenomenon. Finally, the refusal of the United States to recognise Russia as a legitimate state under the rule of the Bolsheviks and also stopping all trade with the nation further increased tensions on both sides.

The actual origins of the containment policy are to be found towards the end of the Second World War. Despite a wartime alliance between the two nations, inevitable disagreements arose due to the competing strategies put forward over the post - war future of Europe. The most significant of these was during meetings between the allied leaders at Yalta in February 1945 and Potsdam in July...
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