- Editor’s Note
This issue begins with an article by Robert Frazier regarding the 1947 Truman Doctrine and its connection with George Kennan. Kennan claimed in his memoirs, published in 1967, that he had opposed Harry Truman’s March 1947 speech from the outset and had sought to get a draft of it changed to remove what he saw as its “universalist” thrust. Frazier shows that these assertions are at variance with what actually happened. Kennan at the time approved of both the policy and the speech, apart from some relatively minor changes he proposed in the speech, nearly all of which were incorporated. As for his criticism that the doctrine was too ambitious, a comparison of Truman’s speech with Kennan’s own celebrated X article, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” published in the July 1947 issue of Foreign Affairs, makes clear that Kennan’s prescriptions for U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union—calling for “unalterable counter-force at every point where [Soviet-backed forces] show signs of encroaching upon the interests of a peaceful and stable world”—were a good deal more open-ended than anything in Truman’s speech. Frazier attributes Kennan’s inaccurate account in his memoirs to honest failings of memory, but other observers might be less charitable. It is notable, for example, that Kennan makes no mention in his memoirs (or anywhere else) of his unstinting support in 1947–1948 of an aggressive covert warfare program against the Soviet bloc, including the use of “preventive direct action” such as paramilitary operations, demolition, and sabotage.
The next article, by Mao Lin, focuses on the Johnson administration’s decision in the mid-1960s to escalate U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Numerous scholars have dealt with this topic in recent years, but Mao Lin contends that not enough emphasis has been given to the interaction among the United States, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Vietnam, and the Soviet Union. U.S. officials, he argues, were worried that if China appeared to be successful in its “wars of national liberation” strategy in Vietnam, the Soviet Union would respond by competing more forcefully with the PRC for revolutionary leadership in the Communist world, a shift that would inevitably come at the expense of relations with the United States. The expectation of these adverse international consequences reinforced the Johnson administration’s general concerns about a Communist victory in Vietnam. Thus, the intensification of the Sino-Soviet split at a time when U.S.-Soviet ties were beginning to improve gave the U.S. government an even greater incentive to try to thwart the PRC’s ambitions in Vietnam. This case is an interesting illustration of how foreign policy decisions can be shaped by the expected outcomes of multiple bilateral relationships.
The third article, by Hua-yu Li, describes the reactions of ordinary Chinese citizens to the death of Iosif Stalin in March 1953. Drawing on a collection of formerly secret reports compiled by Xinhua officials for the leaders of the Chinese Communist [End Page 1] Party (CCP), Li finds that reactions varied a great deal. Some people, especially those who had benefited from CCP rule, were genuinely mournful and shocked by Stalin’s death, whereas others were indifferent or even happy. Mao Zedong had ordered a period of official morning and a 5-minute silent tribute to Stalin all around the PRC, but some Chinese opposed these measures, believing that they infringed on China’s sovereignty and showed undue deference to a foreign leader. Some people worried that the demise of Stalin might lead to instability and violence in the Soviet Union. The reactions of people generally corresponded closely to their views of the CCP.
The fourth article, by Evanthis Hatzivassiliou, examines how the analytical teams set up by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) assessed the Soviet Union during the years of Nikita Khrushchev, from 1953 to 1964. The analysts were supposed to provide a comprehensive assessment of the USSR, looking not only at military capabilities and planning but also at economic, political, ideological, and social factors. The aim was to understand internal developments in the USSR as well as Soviet foreign policy. The assessments provided...