George F. Kennan writes to the Secretary of State with a lengthy analysis of Soviet policy in an attempt to explain their recent uncooperative behavior. This message would later become famous as the "long telegram."
September 27, 1946
Telegram from Nikolai Novikov, Soviet Ambassador to the US, to the Soviet Leadership
[Note at the bottom of the first page: "The orthography and style of the original have been preserved in the document."]
Reflecting the imperialistic tendency of American monopoly capital, US foreign policy has been characterized in the postwar period by a desire for world domination*. This is the real meaning of repeated statements by President Truman and other representatives of American ruling circles that the US has a right to world leadership [rukovodstvo]. All the forces of American diplomacy, the Army, Navy, and Air Force, industry, and science have been placed at the service of this policy. With this objective in mind broad plans for expansion have been developed, to be realized both diplomatically and through the creation of a system of naval and air bases far from the US, an arms race, and the creation of newer and newer weapons.
* Emphasis here and from this point on indicates where V. M. Molotov underlined the original document.
1. a) US foreign policy is being pursued right now in a situation quite different from that which existed in the prewar period.
This situation does not completely match the expectations of those reactionary circles who hoped during the Second World War that they would be able to remain apart from the main battles in Europe and Asia for a long time. Their expectation was that the United States of America, if it was not able to completely avoid participation in the war, would enter it only at the last moment when it might be able to influence its outcome without great effort, completely securing its own interests. It was intended thereby that the main rivals of the US would be crushed in this war or to weakened to a great degree and that due to this circumstance the US would be the most powerful factor in deciding the main issues of the postwar world. These expectations also were based on the assumption quite widespread in the US during the first period of the war that the Soviet Union, which had been attacked by German fascism in June 1941, would be weakened as a result of the war or even completely destroyed.
Reality has not borne out all the expectations of the American imperialists.
b) The two main aggressor powers, fascist Germany and militarist Japan, at the same time the main rivals of the US both in the economic and in foreign policy fields, were defeated as a result of the war. A third great power, Great Britain, having been dealt strong blows from the war, is now faced with enormous economic and political difficulties. The political foundations of the British Empire have been noticeably undermined, in some cases having taken on the nature of a crisis, for example in India, Palestine, and Egypt.
Europe came out of the war with a thoroughly shattered economy, and the economic devastation which resulted during the war cannot soon be repaired. All the countries of Europe and Asia are feeling an enormous need for consumer goods, industrial and transportation equipment, etc. Such a situation opens up a vista for American monopoly capital of enormous deliveries of goods and the importation of capital to these countries, which would allow it [American monopoly capital] to be introduced into their economies.
The realization of this opportunity would mean a serious strengthening of the economic position of the US throughout the entire world and would be one of the stages in the path toward establishing American world supremacy.
c) On the other hand, the expectations of those American circles have not been justified which were based on the Soviet Union being destroyed during the war or coming out of it so weakened that it was forced to bow to the US for economic aid. In this event it could have dictated such conditions which would provide the US with an opportunity to carry out its expansion in Europe and Asia without hindrance from the USSR.
In reality, in spite of all the economic difficulties of the postwar period associated with the enormous damage caused by the war and the German fascist occupation the Soviet Union continues to remain economically independent from the outside world and is restoring its economy by its own means.
In addition, at the present time the USSR has a considerably stronger international position than in the prewar period. Thanks to the historic victories of Soviet arms the Soviet armed forces are on the territory of Germany and other former enemy countries, a guarantee that these countries will not be used again to attack the USSR. As a result of their reorganization on democratic principles, in such former enemy countries as Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, and Romania regimes have been created which have set themselves the task of strengthening and maintaining friendly relations with the Soviet Union. In the Slavic countries - Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia - liberated by the Red Army or with its help, democratic regimes have also been created and are consolidating which maintain relations with the Soviet Union on the basis of friendship and mutual aid agreements.
The enormous relative importance of the USSR in international affairs in general and in European affairs in particular, the independence of its foreign policy, and the economic and political aid which it gives neighboring countries, both allies and former enemies, is leading to a growth in the influence of the Soviet Union in these countries and a continuing strengthening in them of democratic trends.
Such a situation in eastern and southeastern Europe cannot fail to be viewed by the American imperialists as an obstacle in the path of an expansionist American foreign policy.
2. a) Right now US foreign policy is not being determined by those circles of the Democratic Party which (as when Roosevelt was alive) try to strengthen cooperation between the three great powers which composed the basis of the anti-Hitler coalition during the war. When President Truman, a politically unstable person with certain conservative tendencies, came to power followed by the appointment of Byrnes as Secretary of State it meant the strengthening of the influence of the most reactionary circles of the Democratic Party on foreign policy. The constantly increasing reactionary nature of US foreign policy, which as a consequence of this approached the policy advocated by the Republican Party, has created a foundation for close cooperation in this area between the extreme right wing of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. This cooperation of the two parties, formalized in both houses of Congress in the form of an unofficial bloc of reactionary Southern Democrats and the old guard of the Republicans headed by Vandenberg and Taft, is especially clearly demonstrated in the fact that in their statements about foreign policy issues the leaders of both parties are essentially advocating the same policy. In Congress and at international conferences where as a rule prominent Republicans are represented in American delegations the latter actively support the foreign policy of the government, and often due to this the above [policy], moreover even in official statements of "bipartisan" foreign policy.
b) At the same time the influence on foreign policy of the followers of the Roosevelt policy of cooperation with peaceloving powers has been sharply reduced. The corresponding circles in the government, in Congress, and in the leadership of the Democratic Party are more and more being pushed to the background. The differences in the area of foreign policy which exist between Wallace and Pepper supporters on the one hand and the partisans of the reactionary "bilateral" policy on the other were recently displayed with great bitterness in Wallace's speech which led to his resignation as Secretary of Commerce. Wallace's resignation signifies the victory of the reactionary forces of the Democratic Party and the foreign policy which Byrnes is pursuing in cooperation with Vandenberg and Taft.
3. The increase in peacetime military potential and the organization of a large number of naval and air bases both in the US and beyond its borders are clear indicators of the US desire to establish world domination.
For the first time in the country's history in the summer of 1946 Congress adopted a law to form a peacetime army not of volunteers but on the basis of universal military conscription. The size of the Army, which is to reach 1 million men as of 1 July 1947, has been considerably increased. At the end of the war the size of the US Navy was reduced quite insignificantly compared to wartime. At the present time the US Navy occupies first place in the world, leaving the British Royal Navy far behind, not to mention other powers.
The colossal growth of expenditures for the Army and Navy, comprising $13 billion in the 1946-1947 budget (about 40% of the entire budget of $36 billion) and is more than 10 times the corresponding expenditures in the 1938 budget, when it did not even reach $1 billion.
These enormous budget sums are being spent along with the maintenance of a large Army, Navy, and Air Force and also the creation of a vast system of naval and air bases in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. According to available official plans, in the coming years 228 bases, support bases, and radio stations are to be built in the Atlantic Ocean and 258 in the Pacific Ocean. The majority of these bases and support bases are located outside the United States. The following bases exist or are to be built on islands in the Atlantic Ocean: Newfoundland, Iceland, Cuba, Trinidad, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Azores, and many others; in the Pacific: former Japanese mandated possessions - the Marianas, and the Caroline and Marshall Islands, Bonin, Ryukyu, the Philippines, the Galapagos Islands (which belong to Ecuador).
The situating of American bases on islands often 10-12,000 kilometers from US territory and located on the other side of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans clearly shows the aggressive nature of the strategic designs of the US Army and Navy. The fact that the US Navy is studying the naval approaches to European shores in a concentrated manner is also confirmation of this. During 1946 US Navy ships visited Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Turkey, and Greece with this purpose in mind. In addition the US Navy constantly cruises the Mediterranean Sea.
All these facts clearly show that their armed forces are designed to play a decisive role in the realization of plans to establish American world domination.
4. a) One of the stages in the establishment of American world domination is their agreement with Britain about a partial division of the world on the basis of mutual concessions. The main lines of the clandestine agreement between the US and Britain about the division of the world, as the facts indicate, are that they have agreed that the United States include Japan and China in the sphere of its influence in the Far East whereas for its part the US has agreed not to hinder Britain in solving the Indian problem or the strengthening of [British] influence in Thailand and Indonesia.
b) in connection with this division at the present time the US is dominant in China and Japan without any interference from Britain.
American policy in China strives for its complete economic and political subordination to control by American monopoly capital. In the pursuit of this policy the American government does not even stop at interference in the internal affairs of China. At the present time there are more than 50,000 American soldiers in China. In a number of cases US Marines have directly participated in combat operations against the people's liberation forces. The so-called "mediation" mission of General Marshall is only a cover for actual interference in the internal affairs of China.
How far the policy of the American government has gone with respect to China is witnessed by the fact that it is now trying to exercise control over its army. Recently the US government introduced a bill for congressional discussion concerning military aid to China which provides for the complete reorganization of the Chinese army, its training with the aid of American military instructors, and supply with American weapons and equipment. An American consulting mission of Army and Navy officers will be sent to China in order to implement this program.
China is gradually being turned into a base of the American armed forces. American air bases are situated throughout its entire territory. Their main ones are located in Beijing, Qingdao, Tianjin, Nanking, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, and Kunming. The main American Navy base in China is located in Qingdao. The headquarters of the 7th Fleet is also located there. In addition, more than 30,000 American Marines are concentrated in Qingdao and its outskirts. The measures taken by the American Army in northern China show that it is calculating on remaining there for a long time.
In Japan, control is in the hands of the Americans in spite of the presence of the small contingent of American troops there. Although British capital has substantial interests in the Japanese economy British foreign policy with respect to Japan is being pursued so as not to interfere with the Americans' penetration of the Japanese economy and the subordination to its influence. In the Far East Commission in Washington and in the Allied Council in Tokyo the British representatives as a rule are in solidarity with American representatives who pursue this policy.
The measures of the American occupation authorities in the area of domestic policy and directed at supporting reactionary classes and groups which the US is counting on using in the struggle against the Soviet Union also encounter a sympathetic attitude from Britain.
c) A similar policy is also being pursued in the United States with respect to the British sphere of influence in the Far East. The US recently halted its attempts which it had been making during the recent war to influence the solution of Indian problems. Now there are often cases when the mainstream American press, which more or less reliably reflects official American government policy, speaks favorably of the British policy in India. American foreign policy is also not hindering British troops from suppressing the national liberation movement in Indonesia together with the Dutch Army. In addition, even instances are known of assistance from the United States to this British imperialist policy by sending American weapons and supplies to the British and Dutch troops in Indonesia, the sending of Dutch Navy sailors from the US, etc.
5. a) If the division of the world in the Far East between the US and Britain can be considered a fait accompli then it cannot be said that a similar situation exists in the Mediterranean and the countries adjacent to it. The facts rather say that such an agreement in the Middle East and Mediterranean region has not yet been reached. The difficulty of an agreement between Britain and the US in this region is that British concessions to the United States in the Mediterranean would be fraught with serious consequences for the entire British Empire, for which it has exceptional strategic and economic importance. Britain would not be averse to using the American armed forces and influence in this region, directing them to the north against the Soviet Union. However, the United States is not interested in helping and supporting the British Empire in this point where it is vulnerable but in penetrating the Mediterranean and Middle East more thoroughly itself, which attracts them with its natural resources, primarily oil.
b) In recent years American capital has been being introduced into the economies of Middle Eastern countries quite intensively, particularly in the oil industry. At the present time there are American oil concessions in all the Middle East countries which have sources of oil (Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia). American capital, which first appeared in the Middle East oil industry only in 1927, now controls about 42% of the total proven reserves of the Middle East (less Iran). Of the total proven reserves of 26.8 billion barrels of oil 11 billion belong to US concessions. In striving to guarantee the further development of its concessions in individual countries, which are often the largest (as is the case in Saudi Arabia, for example), American oil companies are planning to build a trans-Arabian pipeline which is to pump oil from the American concession in Saudi Arabia and in other countries to the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean, ports in Palestine and Egypt.
In pursuing expansion in the Middle East American capital has British capital as its competition, which is stubbornly resisting this expansion. The fierce nature of the competition between them is the main factor which prevents Britain and the United States from achieving an agreement about the division of spheres of influence in the Middle East, which might only take place at the expense of direct British interests in this region.
Palestine, where the US has recently displayed great interest, creating many difficulties for Britain, can be cited as an example of the quite sharp differences in US and British policy in the Middle East as is occurring in the case of the demand of the US government to allow 100,000 European Jews into Palestine. American interest in Palestine, outwardly expressed in sympathy for the Zionist cause, actually only means that American capital is expecting to become rooted in the economy of Palestine by interfering in Palestinian affairs. The choice of a Palestinian port as one of the terminal points of the American oil pipeline explains a lot about American foreign policy on the issue of Palestine.
c) The lack of agreement between Britain and the US on the Middle East is also often displayed in the great activity of the US Navy in the eastern Mediterranean, which cannot fail to run counter to the main interests of the British Empire. This activity of the US Navy is undoubtedly also in connection with American oil and other economic interests in the Middle East.
However, it ought to be borne in mind that such facts as the visit of the American battleship Missouri to the Black Sea Straits, the visit of an American fleet to Greece, and the great interest which American diplomacy shows in the problem of the Straits have a dual meaning. On the one hand, it means that the US has decided to consolidate its position in the Mediterranean to support its interests in the countries of the Middle East and that it has chosen the Navy as the tool of this policy. On the other hand, these facts are a military and political demonstration against the Soviet Union. The strengthening of the US position in the Middle East and the creation of the conditions to base the US Navy at one or several places in the Mediterranean (Trieste, Palestine, Greece, Turkey) will therefore mean the appearance of a new threat to the security of the southern regions of the Soviet Union.
6. a) The US attitude toward Britain is determined by two circumstances. On the one hand, the US views Britain as its greatest potential competitor and, on the other, Britain seems to view the United States as a possible ally. The division of several regions of the world into American and British spheres of influence has created the possibility, if not to avoid competition between them, which is impossible, then at least of reducing it somewhat. At the same time such a division makes it easier for them to achieve economic and political cooperation.
b) Britain needs American credits to reorganize its economy which was ruined by the war and it has been forced to make significant concessions to get them. This is the importance of the loan which the US recently gave Britain. With the help of the loan Britain will be able to strengthen its economy. At the same time this loan opens the door for the penetration of American capital into the British Empire. The narrow scope within which trade in the countries of the so-called sterling bloc has been found in recent years has been expanded at the present time and gives the Americans an opportunity to trade with British dominions, India, and the other countries of the sterling bloc (Egypt, Iraq, and Palestine).
c) The political support which the United States gives Britain is quite often manifested in the international events of the postwar period. At recent international conferences the US and Britain have closely coordinated their policies, especially in those instances when it was necessary to oppose the policy of the Soviet Union. The US gives Britain moral and political aid in its reactionary policy in Greece, India, and Indonesia. Complete coordination of American and British policy can be observed with respect to the Slavic and other countries bordering the Soviet Union. The most important American and British demarches in these countries after the war have had a quite similar and parallel nature. American and British policy in the United Nations Security Council has the same features of coordination (especially in questions about Iran, Spain, Greece, the withdrawal of foreign troops from Syria and Lebanon, etc.).
d) US ruling circles evidently have a sympathetic attitude toward the idea of a military alliance with Britain, but at the present time the matter has still not reached the point of concluding an official alliance. Churchill's speech in Fulton [Missouri] calling for the conclusion of an Anglo-American military alliance in order to establish joint world domination was consequently not officially supported by Truman or Byrnes, although Truman indirectly sanctioned Churchill's call by his presence.
But if the US is not now seeking to conclude a military alliance with Britain then all the same in practice it supports the closest contact with it on military issues. The Joint Anglo-American staff in Washington still continues to exist in spite of the fact that it has been over a year since the war ended. Frequent personal contact between British and American military leaders also continues. The recent trip of Field Marshal Montgomery to America is one indication of this contact. It is characteristic that as a result of his meetings with American military leaders Montgomery said that the British Army would be patterned after the American model. Cooperation is also being conducted between the navies of these two countries. It is sufficient to mention in this connection the participation of the Royal Navy in the recent maneuvers of the American fleet in the Mediterranean and the participation of the US fleet in the North Sea this autumn.
e) In spite of the temporary achievement of agreements about very important issues, current relations between Britain and the United States are quite conflictive and cannot be long-term.
In many respects American economic aid holds a danger for Britain. Not to mention that by virtue of receiving the loan Britain will fall into a certain economic dependence on the US from which it will not be easy to free itself, it ought to be kept in mind that the conditions created by the loan for the penetration of American capital into the British Empire might entail serious political consequences. The countries in the British Empire or those dependent on it might reorient themselves to the United States under economic influence from powerful American capital, following the example of Canada in this respect, which is more and more escaping British influence and in the process orienting itself to the US. The strengthening of the American position in the Far East might stimulate a similar process in Australia and New Zealand. In the Arab countries of the Middle East which are trying to emancipate themselves from the British Empire there are also groups among the ruling classes which have no objection to trading with the United States. It is entirely possible that it is the Middle East that will become the focal point of Anglo-American conflicts where the agreements currently reached between the US and Britain will be destroyed.
7. a) The "hard-line" policy with respect to the USSR proclaimed by Byrnes after the rapprochement between reactionary Democrats and the Republicans is right now the main impediment in the way to cooperation between the great powers. It is mainly that in the postwar period the US has no longer been pursuing a policy of strengthening the cooperation of the Big Three (or Four) and, on the contrary, is trying to undermine the unity of these powers. The goal which is being set in the process is to impose the will of other countries on the Soviet Union. The attempt being made by several powers to undermine or completely eliminate the veto principle in the United Nations Security Council with the blessing of the United States is a move in this direction. This would give the United States an opportunity to create narrow groups and blocs among the great powers directed primarily against the Soviet Union and thereby split the united front of the United Nations. The renunciation of the veto by the great powers would turn the United Nations into an Anglo-American private domain in which the United States would have the leading role.
b) The current policy of the American government with respect to the USSR is also directed at limiting or displacing Soviet influence from neighboring countries. While implementing it the US is trying to take steps at various international conferences or directly in these very same countries which, on the one hand, manifest themselves in the support of reactionary forces in former enemy or allied countries bordering the USSR with the object of creating obstacles to the processes of democratizing these countries but, on the other, in providing positions for the penetration of American capital into their economies. Such a policy relies on weakening and disbanding [razlozhit'] the democratic governments in power there which are friendly to the USSR and then replacing them with new governments which would obediently carry out a policy dictated from the US. In this policy the US receives full support from British diplomacy.
c) One of the most important links of overall US policy directed at limiting the international role of the USSR in the postwar world is policy with regard to Germany. The US is taking steps in Germany with special persistence to strengthen reactionary forces in order to counteract democratic restructuring, accompanied by completely insufficient steps regarding demilitarization.
American occupation policy is not setting as its goal the elimination of the remnants of German fascism and the reorganization of German political life on democratic principles in order that Germany ceases to be an aggressive force. The US is not taking steps to eliminate the monopolistic associations of German industrialists on which German fascism relied in preparing aggression and waging war. An agrarian policy with the elimination of large landholders who were formerly a reliable bulwark of fascism is also not being pursued. Moreover, the US is providing for the possibility of ending the Allied occupation of German territory even before the main tasks of the occupation, consisting of the demilitarization and democratization of Germany, are finished. The preconditions would thereby be created for a revival of an imperialist Germany which the US is counting on using on its side in a future war. One cannot fail to see that such a policy has a clearly defined anti-Soviet focus and represents a serious danger to the cause of peace.
d) The numerous statements by American government, political, and military leaders about the Soviet Union and its foreign policy in an exceptionally hostile spirit are quite typical of the current attitude of American ruling circles toward the USSR. These statements are echoed in an ever more unbridled tone by the overwhelming majority of the American press. Discussions about a "third war", meaning a war against the Soviet Union, even a direct call for this war with a threat to use the atomic bomb, this is the substance of statements about relations with the Soviet Union by reactionaries at public meetings and in the press. At the present time the advocacy of a war against the Soviet Union is not just the monopoly of the extreme right and the yellow American press which is represented by the Hearst and McCormick newspaper syndicates. This anti-Soviet campaign also includes such more "serious" and "respectable" publications of the conservative press like the New York Times and New York Herald Tribune. The numerous articles by Walter Lippmann in which he almost undisguisedly calls on the US to launch a strike on the Soviet Union in the most vulnerable places of the south and southeast of the USSR are characteristic of such publications of the conservative press.
The primary goal of this anti-Soviet campaign of American "public opinion" consists of exerting political pressure on the Soviet Union and forcing it to make concessions. Another, no less important goal of the campaign is a desire to create an atmosphere of a fear of war among the broad masses who are tired of war, which would make it easier for the government to take steps to maintain the great military potential in the US. It is in such an atmosphere that the law was passed in Congress about introducing peacetime military conscription, an enormous military budget was adopted, and plans are being developed to build a far-flung system of naval and air bases.
e) All these steps to preserve the great military potential are not an end in itself, of course. They are intended only to prepare conditions to win world domination in a new war being planned by the most warlike circles of American imperialism, the timeframe for which, needless to say, no one can determine right now.
It ought to be fully realized that American preparations for a future war are being conducted with the idea of war against the Soviet Union, which in the eyes of American imperialists is the chief obstacle in the American path to world domination. Such facts as the tactical training of the US Army for war with the USSR as a future enemy, the situating of American strategic bases in regions from which strikes can be launched on Soviet territory, the intensified training and reinforcement of Arctic regions as tactical approaches to the USSR, and attempts to pave the way in Germany and Japan to use them in a war against the USSR testify to this.
Soviet Ambassador to the US, Nikolai Novikov, describes the advent of a more assertive US foreign policy. Novikov cautions the Soviet leadership that the Truman administration is bent on imposing US political, military and economic domination around the world. This telegram has, since its discovery in the Russian archives, been labelled the Soviet equivalent of US Ambassador to the Soviet Union George Kennan's "Long telegram."
February 22, 1946
George Kennan's 'Long Telegram'
The History and Public Policy Program welcomes reuse of Digital Archive materials for research and educational purposes. Some documents may be subject to copyright, which is retained by the rights holders in accordance with US and international copyright laws. When possible, rights holders have been contacted for permission to reproduce their materials.
To enquire about this document's rights status or request permission for commercial use, please contact the History and Public Policy Program at [email protected].