It is clear that the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.

— George F. Kennan

The most relaxing George F. Kennan quotes to discover and learn by heart

We should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.


Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.


Heroism is endurance for one moment more.


A doctrine is something that pins you down to a given mode of conduct and dozens of situations which you cannot foresee, which is a great mistake in principle. When the word 'containment' was used in my 'X' article, it was used with relation to a certain situation then prevailing, and as a response to it.


The very concept of history implies the scholar and the reader.

Without a generation of civilized people to study history, to preserve its records, to absorb its lessons and relate them to its own problems, history, too, would lose its meaning.


World communism is like [a] malignant parasite which feeds on diseased tissue


The nuclear bomb is the most useless weapon ever invented.

It can be employed to no rational purpose. It is not even an effective defense against itself.


Instruments of coercion, once created, have a tendency to find their own natural masters.


There is more respect to be won in the opinion of this world by a resolute and courageous liquidation of unsound positions than by the most stubborn pursuit of extravagant or unpromising objectives.


A political society does not live to conduct foreign policy;

it would be more correct to say that it conducts foreign policy in order to live.


War is a highly overrated tool of foreign policy.


Popular revolt against a ruthless, experienced modern dictatorship, which enjoys a monopoly over weapons and communications, ... is simply not a possibility in the modern age.


About George F. Kennan

Quotes 43 sayings
Nationality American
Profession Historian
Birthday October 16

The Russian leaders are keen judges of human psychology, and as such they are highly conscious that loss of temper and of self-control is never a source of strength in political affairs.


There will be no room, here, for the smug myopia which views American civilization as the final solution to all world problems; which recommends our institutions for universal adoption and turns away with contempt from the serious study of the institutions of peoples whose civilizations may seem to us to be materially less advanced.


The best an American can look forward to is the lonely pleasure of one who stands at long last on a chilly and inhospitable mountaintop where few have been before, where few can follow and where few will consent to believe he has been.


Above all, it behooves us to repress, and if possible to extinguish once and for all, our inveterate tendency to judge others by the extent to which they contrive to be like ourselves.


Not only the studying and writing of history but also the honoring of it both represent affirmations of a certain defiant faith - a desperate, unreasoning faith, if you will - but faith nevertheless in the endurance of this threatened world - faith in the total essentiality of historical continuity.


...there is an optimal balance, depending on the manner of man's life, between the density of human population and the tolerances of nature. This balance, in the case of the United States would seem to me to have been surpassed when the American population reached, at a very maximum, two hundred million people, and perhaps a good deal less.


Do people ever reflect, one wonders, that the best way to protect against the penetration of one's secrets by others is to have the minimum of secrets to conceal?


We should not lose ourselves in vainglorious sohemes for changing human nature all over the planet. Rather, we should learn to view ourselves with a sense of proportion and Christian humility before the enormous complexity of the world in which it has been given us to live.


A foreign policy aimed at the achievement of total security is the one thing I can think of that is entirely capable of bringing this country to a point where it will have no security at all.


Forms of government are forged mainly in the fire of practice, not in the vacuum of theory. They respond to national character and to national realities.


The truth is sometimes a poor competitor in the market place of ideas – complicated, unsatisfying, full of dilemmas, always vulnerable to misinterpretation and abuse.


War has a momentum of its own and it carries you away from all thoughtful intentions when you get into it. Today, if we went into Iraq, like the president would like us to do, you know where you begin. You never know where you are going to end.


The jealous and intolerant eye of the Kremlin can distinguish, in the end, only vassals and enemies, and the neighbors of Russia, if they do not wish to be one, must reconcile themselves to being the other.


Perfect discipline requires recognition of infallibility.

Infallibility requires the observance of discipline.


Bearing all this in mind, we see that there is no Russian national understanding which would permit the early establishment in Russia of anything resembling the private enterprise system as we know it.


Russia, Russia - unwashed, backward, appealing Russia, so ashamed of your own backwardness, so orientally determined to conceal it from us by clever deceit.


A guest of one's time and not a member of the household.


The United States cannot reshape other countries in its own image and that, with a few exceptions, its efforts to police the world are neither in its interests nor within the scope of its resources. This whole tendency to see ourselves as the center of political enlightenment and as teachers to a great part of the rest of the world strikes me as unthought-through, vainglorious and undesirable.


The accords were fig leaves of democratic procedure to hide the nakedness of Stalinist dictatorship.


This is a big world. Billions - rapidly increasing billions - of people live outside our borders. Obviously, a great number of them, being much poorer than they think most of us are, look enviously over those borders and would like, if they could, to come here.


The Red Army... swept the native population clean in a manner that has no parallel since the days of the Asiatic hordes.


The best thing we can do if we want the Russians to let us be Americans is to let the Russians be Russian.


One sometimes feels a guest of one's time and not a member of its household.


Actually, the inability of any society to resist immigration, the inability to find other solutions to the problem of employment at the lower, more physical, and menial levels of the economic process, is a serious weakness, and possibly even a fatal one, in any national society. The fully healthy society would find ways to meet those needs out of its own resources.


The United States should not jump around like an elephant frightened by a mouse.


It is an undeniable privilege of every man to prove himself right in the thesis that the world is his enemy; for if he reiterates it frequently enough and makes it the background of his conduct he is bound eventually to be right.


Whenever you have a possibility of going in two ways, either for peace or for war, for peaceful methods of for military methods, in the present age there is a strong prejudice for the peaceful ones. War seldom ever leads to good results.


Public opinion, or what passes for public opinion, is not invariably a moderating force in the jungle of politics.


We are, if territory and population be looked at together, one of the great countries of the world - a monster country, one might say, along with others such as China, India, the recent Soviet Union, and Brazil. And there is a real question as to whether "bigness" in a body politic is not an evil in itself, quite aside from the policies pursued in its name.


Like a graceful vase, a cat, even when motionless, seems to flow.