NHC-Council on Foreign Relations Series: John Lewis Gaddis on George Kennan

On June 4, the National History Center and the Council on Foreign Relations hosted a conversation with John Lewis Gaddis, the Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale University, on his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography George F. Kennan: An American Life. Council President Richard Haass interviewed Professor Gaddis on the personal and diplomatic legacy of George Kennan, former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union.

Gaddis discussed what he calls Kennan’s “edgy” decision to publish the “Long Telegram” analyzing Soviet policy in 1946, arguing for its “uncanny” ability to predict the long-term trajectory of the Soviet state. He also fleshed out the intellectual legacy of Kennan’s containment policy, his “impractical” approach to policy planning which led to a tenuous popularity within government, and Kennan the idealist who pined for the America of his youth against what he believed were dramatic cultural changes while he was frequently away in Europe. Gaddis also answered several questions from the audience.

The meeting, which took place at the CFR’s New York headquarters, is part of a series featuring prominent historians who examine the events, times, and individuals that shaped foreign policy as we know it today.


— Christine Kelly