Book Launch: A Kennan for Our Times
This event will address containment, the U.S.-Russian relationship, policy planning, and the international order in the 21st century via an analysis of the career and thinking of George Kennan.
George F. Kennan was the leading voice in shaping the U.S. foreign policy toward Russia for the majority of the 20th century. A Kennan for Our Times: Revisiting America's Greatest 20th Century Diplomat in the 21st Century, edited by Kennan Institute Director Matthew Rojansky and Catholic University Professor Michael Kimmage, highlights his enduring legacy. It is a collection of scholarly and personal essays as well as interviews with four previous directors of the Office of Policy Planning at the U.S. Department of State, which George F. Kennan established.
To celebrate the book’s launch, the Kennan Institute hosted a discussion with its editors, along with Jon Finer, a former director of the Office of Policy Planning at the U.S. Department of State, and American University professor James Goldgeier, moderated by Andrea Kendall-Taylor of the Center for a New American Security. This event addressed containment, the U.S.-Russian relationship, policy planning, and the international order in the 21st century via an analysis of the career and thinking of George Kennan.
This event was followed by a light reception.
“The thought coming out of the 2018 George F. Kennan conference was that the central question we posed to the participants – were Kennan’s ideas, such as containment, relevant in the 21st century? […] So we came away with a set of yes's, ands, and buts, a lot of which are explored at greater depth in the volume.”
“We do our best to distill what might have been Kennan’s thinking based on our reading of at least his early public work, principally the Long Telegram and the X article […] and the answer is you can contain, but you can do so only if you are setting the agenda and not handing it to the adversary to set.”
"I think that Kennan could be used to support both sides of the argument regarding American interventionism versus American isolationism. He’s often qualified as a realist […] and that’s not wrong because he was interested in limits [...] But his containment doctrine is an outward looking, internationalist doctrine. I think that he was very much a believer in American leadership […] I don’t know exactly where he would have stood in the 2019 phase of the debate, but certainly he would have been an internationalist of some kind."
“When you talk to people about policy planning, usually the first point of reference is George Kennan—in part because he established the office, but also because his stature and his role go beyond the level of seniority he was able to attain.”
“Policy planners can’t just be the generators of the best ideas in the room. They also have to be entrepreneurial about how to get those ideas implemented. It’s one thing to conceive of something like the Marshall Plan and quite another to get something of that scale and scope implemented by the U.S. government.”
“Kennan was an internationalist, but containment for him was about containing Soviet expansionism, not everywhere but just in areas critical to U.S. interests. For him, that was Western Europe, North East Asia, and the Persian Gulf. There’s no question that those like him, who were concerned about NATO’s expansion into Central and Eastern Europe, were concerned about the effect that it would have on Russia—a Russia that was newly democratizing [and] making noises about wanting to become part of the West."
Documents & Downloads
- "A Complex Man With a Simple Idea" (James Goldgeier)Download
- "Interview with Dennis Ross"Download
- "George Kennan: American Machiavelli" (Jeremi Suri)Download
- "Interview with Richard Haass"Download
- "Kennan in the 21st Century: Lessons From (and For) East Asia" (Paul Heer)Download
- "Interview with Anne-Marie Slaughter"Download
- "George Kennan's Impact on My Career as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer" (John Tefft)Download
- "Interview with Jake Sullivan"Download
- "George Frost Kennan and Russian-American Relations" (Ivan Kurilla)Download
- "George Kennan: The Diplomatic Legacy" (Jon Finer)Download
- Book Launch: A Kennan for Our TimesDownload
The Kennan Institute is the premier U.S. center for advanced research on Russia and Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, and the region through research and exchange. Read more