Will Putin Use Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine? nationalinterest.org

Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of The National Interest.

In 1994, George F. Kennan spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday. His remarks, which were excerpted in the New York Times, continue to make for fascinating reading. They focused on the abiding preoccupation of his career—American relations with Russia. He recalled that he had originally argued for a containment policy of the Soviet Union after World War II, which the Truman administration largely implemented. But Kennan also observed that after the West had made it clear that it would not permit Stalin to make any further inroads into Europe, he was disappointed to discover that neither Washington nor the Western allies had any real interest in entering into discussions with Moscow. “What they and the others wanted,” Kennan said, “from Moscow, with respect to the future of Europe, was essentially ‘unconditional surrender.’ They were prepared to wait for it. And this was the beginning of the forty years of cold war.” […]

AS AMERICA, Europe, and Russia engage in a tense stand-off over Ukraine, Kennan’s reflections have acquired a new relevance. Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is provoking a fresh debate about America’s purpose abroad. Should it function as a world policeman, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested in his address to Congress? Or might overreach result in the kind of global disaster that Kennan feared during the Cold War? Läs artikel