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'X' Article


"X" ARTICLE. This influential essay in the July 1947 issue of Foreign Affairs, "The Sources of Soviet Conduct," was written by State Department official George F. Kennan, using the pseudonym "Mr. X." Kennan, an experienced diplomat and senior advisor to U.S. ambassadors in Moscow, sent the State Department an 8,000 word report in February 1946 known as the "long telegram," urging the United States to view the Soviet leadership as an implacable, expansionist foe. In the "X" article, Kennan amplified his call for a strategy of "patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies" through the "adroit application of counterforce at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points."

The article was widely circulated among the foreign policy bureaucracy, and won Kennan a position as head of the State Department Policy Planning Staff from 1947 to 1950 as well as the reputation of the father of containment. Soon, however, Kennan began to criticize containment policies, insisting that his vigorous language had been misunderstood. American foreign policy should not rely so heavily on military confrontation but on "counterforce," applying economic and political pressure while awaiting the Soviet Union's inevitable demise.


Hixson, Walter L. George F. Kennan: Cold War Iconoclast. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.

Miscamble, Wilson D. George F. Kennan and the Making of American Foreign Policy, 1947–1950. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992.

Stephanson, Anders. Kennan and the Art of Foreign Policy. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989.

Max PaulFriedman

See alsoCold War ; Foreign Policy ; Russia, Relations with andvol. 9:American Diplomacy .

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