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CONTAINMENT: 40 Years Later: The Sources of Soviet Conduct

Courtesy Reuters

Editor's Note: "The Sources of Soviet Conduct," written by George F. Kennan under the pseudonym "X," was originally published in Foreign Affairs in July 1947.

The political personality of Soviet power as we know it today is the product of ideology and circumstances: ideology inherited by the present Soviet leaders from the movement in which they had their political origin, and circumstances of the power which they now have exercised for nearly three decades in Russia. There can be few tasks of psychological analysis more difficult than to try to trace the interaction of these two forces and the relative role of each in the determination of official Soviet conduct. Yet the attempt must be made if that conduct is to be understood and effectively countered.

It is difficult to summarize the set of ideological concepts with which the Soviet leaders came into power. Marxian ideology, in its Russian-Communist projection, has

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