The Long Telegrams

The Novikov telegram was written by a Soviet diplomat at the close of the Second World War. In the telegraph Novikov gives his interpretations of the United States’ international policies. He sees America’s policies as being imperialistic and driven by purely monopolistic capital interests. Novikov saw signs of this in the replacement of Roosevelt with the much more conservative Truman, as well as the general political shift toward reactionary “bi-partisan” policy. Novikov believed that the US entered the world war late in order to look after its financial interests, and was attempting to take advantage of the perceived power void left by the after the second world war. Since all the former world powers were physically destroyed and in financially pre- carious positions, the capitalists in the United States would be able to expand by selling their goods in rebuilding countries. They would then be able to establish further ownership of capital in those areas. Further evidence of the capitalistic nature of the motives was that the US was working with German industrialists that made the war possible rather than limiting their influence.

A threat to America’s intentions would be the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was not weakened as much as the world believed that it would be by the war and was gaining influence with its neighbors. To bolster its position against the Soviet Union and protect its international interests the US was building up its military, which was not expected of a nation unless they expected war. There were strong indications of this in the number of bases that the US was constructing well outside of its border. In retrospect Novikov’s interpretations were quite prescient. Since then the United States has worked diligently to both contain socialist powers and expand free-market democracies in the years since his telegram.

Around the same time Novikov was forming his opinion of the United states Kennan was likewise forming a view of the Soviet Union. Kennan saw the Soviet Union as a nation who was paranoid about being surrounded by capitalistic nations and intent on causing conflict between those competing capitalist nations. Kennan asserted that the Soviet leadership was neurotic, partially due to their lack of understanding of the outside world and partially due to Russia’s traditional sense of insecurity. Ironically, Kennan suggests that the Soviet Union will covertly work to establish Soviet-friendly governments through national associations such as: labor unions, youth organizations, and women’s clubs. Kennan also claims that the Soviet Union will work to destroy personal independence in foreign countries since he believed that communism could only work when people are completely dependent on higher power. Yet, ironically, he claims that the communists will attempt to destroy hierarchical international organizations where followers are de- pendent upon higher authority, such as the Catholic Church, aristocracies, and monarchies.

Both Novikov and Kennan made some insightful statements about the other side, but each of them showed a certain lack of empathy for the other side. It would appear that, at least in some regards, these two men are describing two nations with the same goals, but two drastically different ways of achieving it. Novikov describes the United States as seeking security of their ideology through military force, whereas Kennan describes the Soviet Union as seeking security of their ideology through ideological force.

Originally written April 19, 2010
Published: 2010-07-24