America and the Russian Future (1951)

Editor's Note: As the Cold War intensified after the invasion of Korea in 1950, a few political thinkers sought to examine the kind of Soviet Union that might emerge from a general war, or even the overthrow of the communist regime. George F. Kennan, then on leave from the State Department, warned against a preoccupation with military solutions in addressing the broad question of "America and the Russian Future" in the April 1951 issue of Foreign Affairs. Ambassador Kennan's point of departure was the Russia that existed before the Bolshevik Revolution; the collapse of that revolution in 1989 confronts the United States with the need to consider once again the long-term characteristics and traditions of the Russian state. Finding that Kennan's observations from 1951 hold perhaps even greater interest for current readers, we now republish excerpts from the original article.

The very virulence with which Americans reject the outlook and practice of those who now hold power in the Kremlin implies in the strongest possible way the belief in, and desire for, an alternative-for some other Russian outlook and some other set of practices in Russia to take the place of those we know today. Yet we may be permitted to ask whether there is any clear image in our minds of what that outlook and those practices might be, and of the ways by which Americans might promote progress toward them.

What sort of Russia would we like to see before us, as our partner in the world community?

Perhaps the first thing to get straight here is the sort of Russia there is no use looking for. And such a Russia-the kind we may not look for-is easy to describe and envisage, for it would be a capitalistic and liberal-democratic one, with institutions closely resembling those of our own republic.

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