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This Day In History | February 22, 2021

This Day In History


#OTD February 22, 1946  |  The Long Telegram

75 years ago, George Kennan, an American diplomat living in Moscow, sent an 8,000-word telegram to President Truman’s State Department. Today, “The Long Telegram” is regarded as a foundational U.S. document, right up there with the Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers and George Washington’s Farewell Address. As a sign of its enduring significance, the telegram’s 75th anniversary appears on top-ten lists of historic moments to note in 2021.

In his telegram to Washington, Kennan provided U.S. policy recommendations based on his analysis of the cultural and historical forces that shaped the motives of Soviet leaders and influenced Soviet conduct around the globe. Kennan asserted that the “problem of how to cope with [the Soviet] force in [is] undoubtedly greatest task our diplomacy has ever faced and probably greatest it will ever have to face. It should be point of departure from which our political general staff work at present juncture should proceed.” He was correct. Kennan’s Long Telegram spurred intellectual policy debate that formed the basis of American policy towards the Soviet Union for the next 25 years, including the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.

Kennan’s original February 22, 1946 telegram is part of the historic holdings at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.

“We must have the courage and confidence to cling to our own conceptions of human society. The greatest danger that can befall us in coping with this problem of Soviet communism is that we allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping.”

– George Kennan, The Long Telegram

 

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Explore the Truman Library archives.