Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

George F. Kennan’s strategy of Containment: an assessment of Kennan’s coherence and consistency

By Leanne M J Bacon


This thesis examines George F. Kennan’s coherence and consistency when he formulated the strategy of containment. Kennan’s work went through different stages which depended on the political context it was set in as circumstances evolved and the position he held. The aim is not to criticise Kennan but understand whether he remained consistent and coherent and why changes occurred. When Kennan sent the Long Telegram and delivered lectures at the National War College, the strategy had not been structured. In 1946 and early 1947, containment was not a strategy, it was still an idea. The Long Telegram provided him with the opportunity to move to the National War College to develop and structure a strategy. The invitation in 1947 to enter the official bureaucracy as the Director of the Policy Planning Staff did not demand that Kennan create a strategy but he was able to use it as an opportunity to build the strategy he had been advocating which was to contain Soviet expansion through the economic rehabilitation of Western Europe, Germany and Japan. Kennan remained consistent with his recommendations for a political-economic containment, specifically avoiding any military intervention. Kennan became trapped by the X article, as it distorted his views, making it appear that he was contradicting his original approach to containment. Kennan attempted to fight back against the misunderstanding of this article by focusing on political-economic policies, but it became clear that he was losing his influence and struggling to implement a coherent strategy. The extension of the containment strategy beyond strategic areas, the rejection of Program A, along with the continued division of Europe and the more militarized tone of the containment strategy stopped Kennan from implementing a coherent containment strategy. By 1953, Kennan and his containment strategy had been defeated

Topics: F001 United States local history, E11 America (General)
Year: 2010
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1972). Foreign Relations of the United States Foreign Relations of the United States, General: The United Nations, United States Government Printing Office, doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.