* Stalin’s speech in February 1946 wasn’t a declaration of war.
* It wasn’t anything that couldn’t have been said in the past.
* He issued no direct threats toward the United States, and emphasized above all else the security of the Soviet state and the communist experiment.
* Rather, Stalin showed, if his previous words and actions had been insufficient, that he regarded the postwar world as a continuing realm of competition in which the Soviet system would fight for its survival in the face of capitalist encroachment.
* Close ties with the West were not in the cards.
* The situation, as far as he was concerned, was the same as it had been before the Great Patriotic War: rivalry was inevitable, broad-ranging cooperation all but impossible.
* And that’s when George F. Kennan, counselor at the American embassy in Moscow, when asked to explain Stalin’s position, wrote his famous 5,500-word answer (not 8000 words, as it’s often referred to) in the form of a telegram he sent to the State Department.
* It’s known as the “Long Telegram”
* We’ve mentioned Kennan a few times in the past, but I think we should stop for a minute and do a small bio.
* After all, the man did more to shape United States policy during the cold war than any other person.
* George FROST Kennan was born in 1904
* His mother died two months later from a ruptured appendix.
* But for a long time Kennan thought she died giving birth to him.
* Which has to be some kind of burden as a kid.
* Growing up he wasn’t close to his father or stepmother.
* But at the age of 8 he went to Germany to stay with his stepmother in order to learn German.
* It was the first of numerous languages he would eventually master: Russian, French, Polish, Czech, Portuguese and Norwegian.
* So this would have been around 1912.
* Just before WWI.
* He eventually got a bachelor’s degree in History from Princeton in 1925 and went to work for the United Stated Foreign Service which had only been created the previous year.
* his first job was as a vice consul in Geneva, Switzerland
* Then he was transferred to a post in Hamburg, Germany where he was selected for a linguist training program that lasted three years.
* In 1929 Kennan began his program on history, politics, culture, and the Russian language at the University of Berlin’s Oriental Institute.
* He was following in the footsteps of his grandfather’s younger cousin, also called George Kennan,who was a major 19th century expert on Imperial Russia.
* And by 1931 he was in Latvia, where he worked on Soviet economic affairs.
* When the U.S. began formal diplomacy with the Soviet government during 1933, Kennan went to Moscow with the U.S.Ambassador, William C. Bullitt.
* Who of course Steve McQueen portrayed in the 1968 film BULLITT.
* Bullitt was actually fired from that job in 1936 when a journalist blew the whistle on him for being involved in the illegal money exchanges in Russia.
* He was briefly engaged to Roosevelt’s personal secretary and lifelong companion, Missy LeHand (Job), but she broke off the engagement after a trip to Moscow during which she reportedly discovered him to be having an affair with Olga Lepeshinskaya, who was Stalin’s favourite ballet dancer, and maybe mistress.
* Bullitt’s second wife, BTW, was Louise Bryant, author of Six Red Months in Russia, played by Diane Keaton in the 1981 film REDS.
* He divorced her when he found out she was having a lesbian affair with English sculptor Gwen Le Gallienne.
* Back to Kennan.
* Kennan served as deputy head of the mission in Moscow until April 1946.
* Near the end of that term, the Treasury Department requested that the State Department explain recent Soviet behavior, such as its disinclination to endorse the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
* Kennan wrote his long telegram to Secretary of State James Byrnes, outlining a new strategy for diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.
* In his “Long Telegram”, Kennan explained that at the “bottom of the Kremlin’s neurotic view of world affairs is the traditional and instinctive Russian sense of insecurity”.
* After the Russian Revolution, this sense of insecurity became mixed with communist ideology and “Oriental secretiveness and conspiracy”.
* So The Soviet Union’s relations with the West were merely the latest rendition of the long Russian tradition of diplomatic cynicism and duplicity.
* Russian statesmen regarded international cooperation as a ruse to lower the guard of the gullible.
* Only fools kept their word on the international stage.
* This had always been the attitude of Russian leaders, and such cynicism was only magnified and given ideological depth by the struggle between Soviet socialism and the imperialist West.
* Nothing the United States might do would earn Moscow’s trust, so irreducibly hardened were these views.
* according to Kennan, Stalin needed a hostile world in order to legitimize his autocratic rule.
* Stalin thus used Marxism-Leninism as a “justification for the Soviet Union’s instinctive fear of the outside world, for the dictatorship without which they did not know how to rule, for cruelties they did not dare not to inflict, for sacrifice they felt bound to demand … Today they cannot dispense with it. It is the fig leaf of their moral and intellectual respectability”.
* Now – you’re going to like this.
* Here’s the opening paragraph to the long telegram.
* Answer to Dept’s 284, Feb 3 involves questions so intricate, so delicate, so strange to our form of thought, and so important to analysis of our international environment that I cannot compress answers into single brief message without yielding to what I feel would be dangerous degree of over-simplification.
* Sound familiar?
* I want to read Part 1 of the telegram, because it does a pretty good job of setting out the worldview of Stalin.
* Part 1: Basic Features of Post War Soviet Outlook, as Put Forward by Official Propaganda Machine Are as Follows:
* (a) USSR still lives in antagonistic “capitalist encirclement” with which in the long run there can be no permanent peaceful coexistence. As stated by Stalin in 1927 to a delegation of American workers:
* “In course of further development of international revolution there will emerge two centers of world significance: a socialist center, drawing to itself the countries which tend toward socialism, and a capitalist center, drawing to itself the countries that incline toward capitalism. Battle between these two centers for command of world economy will decide fate of capitalism and of communism in entire world.”
* (b) Capitalist world is beset with internal conflicts, inherent in nature of capitalist society. These conflicts are insoluble by means of peaceful compromise. Greatest of them is that between England and US.
* (c) Internal conflicts of capitalism inevitably generate wars. Wars thus generated may be of two kinds: intra-capitalist wars between two capitalist states, and wars of intervention against socialist world. Smart capitalists, vainly seeking escape from inner conflicts of capitalism, incline toward latter.
* (d) Intervention against USSR, while it would be disastrous to those who undertook it, would cause renewed delay in progress of Soviet socialism and must therefore be forestalled at all costs.
* (e) Conflicts between capitalist states, though likewise fraught with danger for USSR, nevertheless hold out great possibilities for advancement of socialist cause, particularly if USSR remains militarily powerful, ideologically monolithic and faithful to its present brilliant leadership.
* (f) It must be borne in mind that capitalist world is not all bad. In addition to hopelessly reactionary and bourgeois elements, it includes (1) certain wholly enlightened and positive elements united in acceptable communistic parties and (2) certain other elements (now described for tactical reasons as progressive or democratic) whose reactions, aspirations and activities happen to be “objectively” favorable to interests of USSR These last must be encouraged and utilized for Soviet purposes.
* (g) Among negative elements of bourgeois-capitalist society, most dangerous of all are those whom Lenin called false friends of the people, namely moderate-socialist or social-democratic leaders (in other words, non-Communist left-wing). These are more dangerous than out-and-out reactionaries, for latter at least march under their true colors, whereas moderate left-wing leaders confuse people by employing devices of socialism to seine interests of reactionary capital.
* So much for premises. To what deductions do they lead from standpoint of Soviet policy? To following:
* (a) Everything must be done to advance relative strength of USSR as factor in international society. Conversely, no opportunity most be missed to reduce strength and influence, collectively as well as individually, of capitalist powers.
* (b) Soviet efforts, and those of Russia’s friends abroad, must be directed toward deepening and exploiting of differences and conflicts between capitalist powers. If these eventually deepen into an “imperialist” war, this war must be turned into revolutionary upheavals within the various capitalist countries.
* (c) “Democratic-progressive” elements abroad are to be utilized to maximum to bring pressure to bear on capitalist governments along lines agreeable to Soviet interests.
* (d) Relentless battle must be waged against socialist and social-democratic leaders abroad.
* The rest of the telegram makes for fascinating reading and his description of Stalin-era U.S.S.R. really sounds a LOT like the present United States.
* Take this, for example: The very disrespect of Russians for objective truth–indeed, their disbelief in its existence–leads them to view all stated facts as instruments for furtherance of one ulterior purpose or another. There is good reason to suspect that this Government is actually a conspiracy within a conspiracy; and I for one am reluctant to believe that Stalin himself receives anything like an objective picture of outside world.
* And let me finish by reading his conclusions:
* As to how this approach should be made, I only wish to advance, by way of conclusion, following comments:
* (1) Our first step must be to apprehend, and recognize for what it is, the nature of the movement with which we are dealing. We must study it with same courage, detachment, objectivity, and same determination not to be emotionally provoked or unseated by it, with which doctor studies unruly and unreasonable individual.
* (2) We must see that our public is educated to realities of Russian situation. I cannot over-emphasize importance of this. Press cannot do this alone. It must be done mainly by Government, which is necessarily more experienced and better informed on practical problems involved. In this we need not be deterred by [ugliness?] of picture. I am convinced that there would be far less hysterical anti-Sovietism in our country today if realities of this situation were better understood by our people. There is nothing as dangerous or as terrifying as the unknown. It may also be argued that to reveal more information on our difficulties with Russia would reflect unfavorably on Russian-American relations. I feel that if there is any real risk here involved, it is one which we should have courage to face, and sooner the better. But I cannot see what we would be risking. Our stake in this country, even coming on heels of tremendous demonstrations of our friendship for Russian people, is remarkably small. We have here no investments to guard, no actual trade to lose, virtually no citizens to protect, few cultural contacts to preserve. Our only stake lies in what we hope rather than what we have; and I am convinced we have better chance of realizing those hopes if our public is enlightened and if our dealings with Russians are placed entirely on realistic and matter-of-fact basis.
* (3) Much depends on health and vigor of our own society. World communism is like malignant parasite which feeds only on diseased tissue. This is point at which domestic and foreign policies meets Every courageous and incisive measure to solve internal problems of our own society, to improve self-confidence, discipline, morale and community spirit of our own people, is a diplomatic victory over Moscow worth a thousand diplomatic notes and joint communiqués. If we cannot abandon fatalism and indifference in face of deficiencies of our own society, Moscow will profit–Moscow cannot help profiting by them in its foreign policies.
* (4) We must formulate and put forward for other nations a much more positive and constructive picture of sort of world we would like to see than we have put forward in past. It is not enough to urge people to develop political processes similar to our own. Many foreign peoples, in Europe at least, are tired and frightened by experiences of past, and are less interested in abstract freedom than in security. They are seeking guidance rather than responsibilities. We should be better able than Russians to give them this. And unless we do, Russians certainly will.
* (5) Finally we must have courage and self-confidence to cling to our own methods and conceptions of human society. After Al, the greatest danger that can befall us in coping with this problem of Soviet communism, is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping.
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