The idea of containment came to the fore with the publication of George Kennan’s “Long Telegram” in the July 1947 issue of Foreign Affairs.
Kennan, writing as Mr. X, was Washington’s most respected expert on Soviet affairs. Throughout the early 1940s, he’d warned against any hope of close postwar cooperation with Stalin.
Kennan suggested that “the traditional and instinctive Russian sense of insecurity” was at the bottom of the Kremlin’s neurotic view of world affairs.
The Truman administration, on the other hand, thought that Stalin’s policy was shaped by a combination of Marxist and Leninist ideology. The administration was convinced that Stalin believed that revolution was necessary to defeat capitalist forces in the outside world.
Truman’s advisers felt that the dictator would consolidate his own political power by using ‘capitalist encirclement’ as a rationale to regiment the Soviet masses.
Kennan believed that any softening of the Russian line would just be a diversionary tactic, and that Soviet aggression could be contained only when met with force.
Mr. X went on to say that the United States would have to contain the Soviets alone and unilaterally. But if the US could do so without weakening its prosperity and political stability, the Soviet party structure would undergo a period of immense strain climaxing in either the break-up or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power.
Soon the idea of containment became a driving force in US foreign policy.