George F. Kennan (1904–2005) was an American diplomat, political scientist and historian. He is best known for his role in shaping US foreign policy during the Cold War and, in particular, for the doctrine of containment. Kennan was Professor Emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and served as Ambassador to the USSR in 1952 and as Ambassador to Yugoslavia from 1961 to 1963. His books include At a Century’s Ending and An American Family.

Memorandum for the Minister

The document that follows is an analysis of the Soviet Union written in August 1932 by George F. Kennan, then a twenty-eight-year-old member of the Foreign Service, stationed in Riga, Latvia. Mr. Kennan has supplied the background to the document in the following note written for The New York Review.

Witness to the Fall

“Blest is the man who has visited this world in its fateful moments…” —F.I. Tyutchev (1803–1873) Reviewing the history of international affairs in the modern era, which might be considered to extend from the middle of the seventeenth century to the present, I find it hard to …

In Defense of Oppenheimer

The excellent review in these pages by Thomas Powers of the book entitled Special Tasks by Pavel Sudoplatov and his son gives so thorough and searching an appraisal of the book as a whole that there is hardly any need for me or anyone else to attempt to add anything …

The Balkan Crisis: 1913 and 1993

At the outset of the present century there emerged in the United States, England, and other parts of northern Europe a vigorous movement for strengthening and consolidating world peace, primarily by the developing of new legal codes of international behavior. The movement was given a significant fillip when Tsar Nicholas …

Keeping the Faith

Václav Havel, the courageous leading dissident in the years of Communist control of Czechoslovakia, and more recently president of that country, needs no introduction to the readers of The New York Review. His name has appeared on the pages of the Review in a number of capacities. Known originally primarily …

Witness

In the course of the 1980s the small coterie of Anglo-American writers who had been addressing themselves to the movement of life in Eastern Europe in the years since 1948 found itself somewhat abruptly enhanced by the accession to its ranks of a remarkable young English scholar, Mr. Timothy Garton …

On the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe

(The following is the introductory statement presented by Mr. Kennan in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 17.) The situation in the Soviet Union is, at this moment, unstable in high degree. The extensive failure, to date, of perestroika to meet even the normal demands of …

The History of Arnold Toynbee

The following essay was given as an address accepting The Toynbee Prize for 1988–1989 at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, on November 13, 1988. I knew Arnold Toynbee only slightly, many years ago, when he was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Studies; but I then …

The Buried Past

Before me, as I write these words, lie the two handsome volumes of the official Russian-language version of the memoirs of Andrei Andreyevich Gromyko, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, as published in 1988 in Moscow by the Publishing Company for Political Literature. In …

The Gorbachev Prospect

More than a month after the first advance publicity by the publishers, and half a month after the appearance of the Russian edition in Moscow, the English edition of Mr. Gorbachev’s book has finally appeared in American bookshops and become available to the American reviewer. It is, as such books …

In the American Mirror

The author of this book requires no introduction to the readers of The New York Review. The name of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., historian, essayist, lifelong student of American political institutions, has appeared too often in this journal, as that of either reviewer or reviewed, to need further identification here. The …

A New Philosophy of Defense

Professor Gene Sharp of Southeastern Massachusetts University has given several years of study to the possibilities of deterrence and resistance by civilians as a conceivable alternative, or partial alternative, to the traditional, purely military concepts of national defense that have so long prevailed and continue to prevail in European countries.

Zero Options

Any consideration of the problem of the stationing of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe must depart from the recognition that the nuclear weapon is, for war-fighting purposes, an unusable one. This is now so widely recognized in both East and West that the assertion needs little substantiation. This weapon is …

On Nuclear War

Nearly a quarter of a century ago Grenville Clark and Louis B. Sohn put forward, in a monumental work entitled World Peace Through World Law, their ideas for a program of universal disarmament and for a system of world law to replace the chaotic and dangerous institution of unlimited national …

A Modest Proposal

Adequate words are lacking to express the full seriousness of our present situation. It is not just that our government and the Soviet government are for the moment on a collision course politically; it is not just that the process of direct communication between them seems to have broken down …

A Different Approach to the World: An Interview

(The following interview by Martin Agronsky took place on December 16.) MARTIN AGRONSKY: Mr. Kennan, I think you are uniquely qualified to deal with the initiative of the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, who recently, you know, sent indirectly a very important message to President-elect Jimmy Carter and said Carter need …

A Special Supplement: The Meaning of Vietnam

In early May, The New York Review asked some of its contributors to write on the meaning of the Vietnam war and its ending. They were asked to consider the questions of the responsibility for the war; its effect on American life, politics, and culture, and the US position in …

Between Earth and Hell

The nineteenth-century traveler and writer, George Kennan (1848-1924), whose namesake and relative I happen to be, on arriving at the 400th page of his well-known study of Siberia and the Exile System (first published in 1888), tells of sitting “on one cold raw autumnal day, in a dirty post-station on …

Noble Man

In the Western-liberal historical assessment of the German resistance to Nazism there has been one tendency which holds in barely concealed contempt, or makes light of, what might be called the upper-class oppositionists, usually pictured as people whose activities centered around the July 20 plot. So strong is the unwillingness …

Dead Souls

The temptation to resort to deliberate obfuscation as a means of promoting one’s political fortunes has been present everywhere and in all times, but nowhere has its appeal been greater than in the murky and dangerous mists of Russian internal political intrigue. The annals of Russian political life are replete …

Introducing Eugene McCarthy

The following remarks were made at a dinner for Senator Eugene McCarthy, in Newark, New Jersey, February 29, 1968. It is now several years that our country has been heavily involved in the war in Vietnam. During most of this time, it has been inescapably evident that the entire venture …