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Understanding George Kennan

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 September 2018

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On February 16, 1984, George Frost Kennan, the eminent historian, Russianologist, and antinuclear gadfly, reached eighty, that milestone at which former high-ranking American diplomats are customarily canonized as "elder statesman." Mr. Kennan is now a certified elder, but the nature of his statesmanship raises interesting questions—not simply because of Kennan's great notoriety but because any serious attempt to answer them cuts to the very core of the most profound issues facing the nation in the final quarter of the twentieth century.

For over thirty years now Kennan has been one of the most controversial public figures in the West. His critique of American diplomacy, especially in the areas of Soviet-American relations and strategic arms control, has had an ironic edge, emanating as it does from the architect of containment—America's historic response to the Soviet challenge.

Copyright © Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs 1984

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