This is not the typical work of diplomatic history, as it comprises a series of letters between George Kennan and historian John Lukacs in the mid-1990s. In his well-written and informative introduction Lucaks lays out his aim in writings the books, which is to chart Kennans's views on the Soviet Union prior to his writing of the Long Telegram and the Foreign Affairs article "Sources of Soviet Conduct."
They counter the New Left/revisionist thesis that the U.S. pushed the Soviet Union into the confrontation that would eventually become the Cold War. Rather, they believe that the U.S.'s response to Stalin was too little too late. Kennan criticizes the FDR Administration for playing up the cordial alliance with the Soviet Union, which had clearly being fighting for its own security and couldn't have cared a lick about democracy or friendly relations with the Western nations. Rather, as early as the middle of 1945 it was apparent that Stalin would not rest until the whole of Eastern Europe was led by people who were personally loyal to him, a loyalty that was enforced with violence and intimidation.
He then follows this thread discussing the difficulties of public sentiment, and how we transitioned--not very smoothly--from "friendship" with the USSR to being their rivals. While insisting that we should have taken a tougher line, however, Kennan also takes to task conservatives who turned containment into a domestic battle against supposed Communist infiltration. One of the reasons he wrote "Sources of Soviet Conduct", he states, was to "assure these people that even though it was impossible to collaborate extensively with Moscow, this did not mean that it was impossible to live without catastrophe in the same world with the Soviet Union" (56). Kennan then goes on to outline his view that negotiations should, at the very least, been attempted to hash out the future of Europe. He believed that Stalin was never in a position to risk his leadership of the Soviet Union by sending Russian and Warsaw Pact forces into Western Europe, and that this made a discussion of political issues a possibility.
All-in-all a very well organized and revealing look at the thinking of one of this country's superior diplomatic minds, especially in a time period that is not often the focus of Kennan studies. It is a very short work, and thus left me wanting to read more, which I suppose is a double-edged sword (more buying books I can't afford). A helpful and comprehensive bibliography of sources on the end of the Second World War and the origins of the Cold War is provided.