Kennan, George F.

Kennan, George F. (Frost)

(1904–  ) diplomat, historian; born in Milwaukee, Wis. Educated at Princeton (B.A. 1925) and at the Berlin Seminary for Oriental Languages (diploma, 1930), he served as U.S. foreign service officer (1926–53) in Geneva, Hamburg, Berlin, Estonia, Latvia, Moscow, Vienna, Prague, Lisbon, and London; he also served as U.S. ambassador to the U.S.S.R. (1952) and Yugoslavia (1961–63). In 1947, using the pen name “Mr. X” (because he was then with the State Department), he wrote a famous article in Foreign Policy, "The Sources of Soviet Conduct," that effectively spelled out what would be the West's policy of "containment" toward Soviet Communism for the next 40 years. His first book, American Diplomacy, 1900–1950 (1951), was praised on both literary and historiographical grounds and he won Pulitzer Prizes for two later works, Russia Leaves the War (1956) and Memoirs: 1925–1950 (1967). His subsequent publications continued to stir interest because his views, if sometimes out of step with official U.S. policy—including his prediction of the demise of the U.S.S.R.—were often vindicated by history; even when events contradicted his views, he was recognized for having raised the level of public debate. He opposed the division of Germany after World War II, the development of the H-bomb, American participation in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and reliance on nuclear weapons for national defense. His campaign against instruments of mass destruction made him a hero of the antinuclear movement; his 1980 plea to the great powers to abolish such weapons articulated the fears and frustrations of an era. In 1956 he became a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.