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The containment policy is known in history to be applied by the USA during the Cold War to the Soviet Union. Despite the enormous criticism of this foreign political course, it was effective during the long historical period, although modified by each American President until the collapse of the USSR. This paper seeks to give a definition to containment policy, its origin, and prove the idea that on the initial stages it was an effective course, which de-facto helped the United Stated win the Cold War, despite some of its limitations.
It is the general idea that the U.S. containment policy was a political course aimed to prevent the communism spread in the world after World War II. As the main ideological background of the U.S. during the Cold War, the policy was established in response to the political move of the Soviet Union, which targeted in spreading its influence to China, Eastern Europe, Africa, Korea, and Vietnam. The main ideas of the doctrine were established by George F. Kennan, a U.S. diplomat, in 1946. The word “containment” as a description of the foreign policy course originated from Kennan’s report, which was submitted to James Forrestal, the U.S. Defense Secretary in 1947, and was titled “The Sources of Soviet Conduct”. The report was later used in the “X-Article” in the journal “Foreign Affairs”, after publication of which it became the center of public attention. As a matter of fact, this political course became the basis of Truman’s foreign political course. Moreover, the containment policy is strongly associated with Harry Truman’s (1945-1953) foreign political course, as well as with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) establishment.
In the article, Kennan wrote that the most crucial element of the U.S. policy towards the USSR was the long-term, vigilant, and firm containment of their expansive tendencies. He believed that such policy would eventually promote tendencies which would decrease the Soviet power. Kennan’s article implied that the U.S. should face down the USSR and their allies wherever and whenever they posed any risk of gaining influence. He also advocated for defending all the main centers of industrial power from the Soviet expansion.
The containment policy had been rather successful in the initial stages. Politically, it was to provide weapons, funding, and supplies to counties which were fighting against communism (Truman doctrine). Consequently, it successfully helped Turkey and Greece in resisting communism. Economically, it influenced the idea of the Marshall Plan, as it was perceived that poverty in Europe would result in more communism supporters. It assisted European countries in fighting economic crises after World War II. In fact, the Marshall plan was successful as, in the end, Western Europe regained its economic prosperity, and communism did not spread to that region. The NATO formation was also influenced by the containment policy, as it created a form of deterrence against the possible Soviet aggression. Consequently, the Berlin Airlift also proves the success of the containment policy.
Unfortunately, this foreign policy course had some limitations. In fact, it was successful only on the European continent. The policy was not extended to Asia, which resulted in communization of China and Vietnam. Moreover, no assistance in the Marshall Plan was suggested to any country outside Europe.
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In conclusion, despite all the criticism and different policy defeats that Kennan faced in the early 1950’s, the containment in its sense of blocking the Soviet expansion and influence remained the main strategy of the USA during all the period of the Cold War, and therefore, was successful in Europe and some other countries. One can say that each succeeding of the U.S. administrations after Truman’s one adopted a variation of the essential containment policy presented by Kennan until the collapse of communism.
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