Category: Diplomacy

George Kennan on U.S.-Russia Relations

KennanThe great diplomat George Kennan, a major architect of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War, wrote the following reflection which impresses by how, though written more than 40 years ago and before the fall of the Berlin Wall, it remains about as true today as when it was first penned. He died in 2005, but one can almost see Kennan nodding, not surprised but disappointed, at the crisis in Ukraine and the general state of U.S.-Russia relations today. Also note the exacting requirements he lays out for American Foreign Service personnel serving in Russia. From his Memoirs: 1925-1945 (Little, Brown, 1967):

“The results of these investigations made me skeptical of any momentous future for Russian-American relations within our time. I did not despair of the possibility of a limited and unsensational measure of profitable cooperation between the two countries. But I was convinced that even this could be effectively realized only if our part in it was borne by persons who had the understanding and the qualifications necessary for the task: a gift for self-effacement, a decent educational background, an intellectual humility before the complexities of the Russian world, and, above all, an exceptional capacity for patience. Barring the enlistment of such persons on our part, I could see little future for Russian-American relations other than a long series of misunderstandings, disappointments, and recriminations on both sides.”