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Trumans Historical Presidency

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With reference to sources 1 and 2 and your understanding of the historical context, which of these two sources is more valuable in explaining Truman’s attitude to the Soviet Union?

Both sources demonstrate the different attitudes that Truman attained in the mid 1940s. Source 2, known as “The Long Telegram”, was written by George Kennan, and aimed to give Truman advice on how to handle communist policy. Kennan’s advice was well justified due to the fact he was a diplomat in Eastern Europe and Moscow during the 1920’s and 30’s, and was considered the leading expert on the USSR.  The first source is an extract from Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech; it persuades the audience of both world leaders and individual citizens to unite as one Western Democracy to overcome the “catastrophe” that would be communistic leadership. The Long Telegram sparked the main idea of Containment, and provided a conceptual framework for a series of successful initiatives undertaken from 1947 to 1950 to blunt Soviet expansion. However, Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech influenced the Truman administration’s emerging thinking on how to deal with Moscow, arguing that the Soviets could not be won over with promises and concessions. Both were detrimental to provoking an attitude adjustment in the American government, and ultimately Harry Truman.

George Kennan is often credited as being the architect of the U.S Policy of containment. I feel that Kennan’s words simply assisted Truman’s anti-communist ideology to develop and form into a policy. This is evident through the introduction of the Truman Doctrine, and the Marshall Plan in 1948.  The Marshall Plan was a direct counter to the assumed Soviet plan, which Kennan wrote about in the telegram. This shows how Truman adopted a whole-hearted and forceful approach; much like the approach recommended in the Telegram – “highly sensitive to the logic of force…if the adversary has sufficient force and males clear his readiness to use it, he rarely has to do so”. Furthermore, the introduction of the Atomic Bomb into the US’s arsenal shows an increase in aggression and “force”. Kennan was strongly anti-communist and therefore his Telegram was bound to inflict an aggressive attitude to Truman.  Clearly George Kennan manages to instill confidence into Truman when he focuses on the USA’s economic and nuclear strength. Kennan states “the Soviets are still by far the weaker force” but only when “gauged against the Western World as a whole”, this is where I feel the two sources value becomes at an equilibrium, as they both carry the same underlying message; the West must Unite.

Similarly, Churchill’s speech aimed to provide a platform for the Western nations to unite. Clearly the speech had an impact on the Nations of Europe, and obviously America and Truman. . The creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949 sought to tie the United State to Britain and Euroope, and to avoid American detachment as happened after World War I. Personally I feel this alone shows that Source 1 is invaluable to moulding Truman’s attitude towards unification. And although Kennan talked of unifying, he mainly provides the point of view to attack, through the use of words such as “force” and “resistance”, whilst not providing a tactical method of defense (in my opinion).



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