Galbraith, JK.



Nitze, Paul H

Tucker, R.


Interview with Prof. R Tucker


Q: What was Kennan like as a man to work with? What did he actually do and what were his relations with the Ambassador and with other members of staff?

A: One didn't at my modest level, know too much about his relations or almost anything about his relations with Ambassador Harriman. For all the - one could see they were perfectly proper, decorous relations. he was a truly fine man to work with and for. For me he was the beginning of my Russian studies. I had acquired a knowledge of the Russian language by taking an intensive course at Harvard where I'd been a graduate student. But I didn't know a great deal more about Russia at the beginning. And so my Russian studies really took place mainly in Moscow. And mainly under his guidance and supervision. For example, one of the strengths of Kennan as a person in charge of the interpretive work of the American embassy, was his awareness that the Russia in which we were living - Stalin's Soviet Russia - Communism people called it, actually drew in very many ways upon the Russian past. That if one didn't understand the Russian past, and this was something that he, a Princeton graduate had studied in the 19 - later 1920s and early 1930s when he had served in tour Consulate in Riga before its inclusion, in 1940 in the Soviet Union - it's forcible incorporation I should say. He had studied not simply what - the system that seemed to be prevailing in those times in Moscow, but Russia. Historic Russia. And he saw a great deal of historic Russia being replicated in Soviet Russia under Stalin, especially. And this came out in one's work with him. For example, at one point, in 1945, he asked me to spend some time in the Lenin Library, Which was within easy walking distance of our embassy, looking up what had happened in Poland after the the war (laughs) the wars of 1812 and after, what kind of Polish set up the Tsar, during the period of the partition established with Poland. And this was because one of the first and - and most difficult of all problems confronting the Americans and the British in the early period following the war in 1945 and 1946 was the Polish question. It was what was happening in Poland and what policy was Stalin following toward Poland that he seemed to be bringing into his sphere of influence with the setting up of a Polish regime or proto-regime called, originally, the Lublin Committee in 1945. And so, naturally but only naturally for him, Kennan thought it would be useful, it could throw some light on present possibilities or likelihoods if one would look back and learn something about the history of Russian attitudes and policies toward Poland in the 19th Century. So he sent this attaché down to the Lenin Library to look into that. And by that means conveyed to this young person the very great importance of knowing Russian history if you want to understand contemporary Soviet politics.

Q: Were there any analogies to be drawn between Russian behaviour in the 19th century and Russian behaviour in the middle of the 20th century?

A: Yes indeed, Russian be it- Russian behaviour in the in the 19th century toward Poland was the behaviour of a country that wanted to keep control of a powerful state that wanted to keep control over a great deal - not the whole of Poland - but a great deal of it. And the behaviour of Stalin, perhaps I could call him Tsar Stalin, in the 19 - later 1940s and into the 50s was the behaviour of a Russian ruler who insisted on bringing Poland into his system. Poland should become a part of this Soviet Russian sphere of influence that was going to embrace pretty well the whole of eastern and central eastern Europe. East central Europe. And Poland was the absolute hub of this entire sphere. Poland was the land between Russia and East Germany which was occupied by the Russian forces. Poland was crucial to the whole story and Poland, by virtue of its being Poland, even under Communist Rule, was quietly, underneath it all, not fully accepting of Russian hegemony. There was a bit of Polish resistance even among the Polish Communists. As came out later on.

Q: Can you remember the time of George Kennan writing the long telegram? Can you tell me what that meant. Do you remember it being written?

A: I do. I remember that day - or those days - because he - at that time the Kennans lived in an apartment up on, I believe, the 6th floor of that same building and my office which was next-door to the embassy library was on the floor below or two floors below. And for some reason he decided to use me as his research assistant. And as he mentions in his memoirs, he was not well at the time. He was suffering from a number of minor complaints. So he was actually in bed in his apartment. but nevertheless very able to work and to work energetically. But he needed to consult various books and journals that were available in the library and so he asked me to bring one thing and another or to suggest one thing and other that would be useful to him in the preparation of that telegram. So I have a vivid memory not of any specific things that he said to me or asked me to do, but nevertheless being a kind of research assistant to him on that rather significant day in his and our general lives.

Q: Were you aware whether that was an important communication or did George Kennan expect that it would slip into the mass of all the other papers that were around?

A: I can't answer. I'm not sure that he expected the kind of response that his long telegram received. In fact, judging by the lack of response to a number of other thoughtful, interpretive commentaries on Russian events in the Russian scene which he had written and dispatched to Washington since he himself had returned as Minister Councillor in the Spring of 1944. He had received no response whatsoever and some of these essays that he had written 'Russia 7 years later' was the title he gave to on, based in part on some travels that he was unable to make after coming back in 1944. These were of extraordinary interest but they didn't arouse any political interest in our Department of State. Or in our government. So against that background (coughs) I'm not sure that Kennan expected the response that would come. He was invited - evidently by this time the American government and the State Department in particular, were in need of some kind of assessment of the Russian situation. The developments that had been occurring in 1945 into early 1946, and among them are the reluctance of of the Kremlin to withdraw the military forces in northern Iran that had been sent there during the war when the Russians occupied the northern part and the British the southern part so that there could be a supply line from the Persian Gulf into Russia. The withdrawal was supposed to take place in 1945. The British withdrew the Russians did not. And there was a flurry of activity of supposedly revolutionary forces in northern Azerbaijan which was the Russian name for southern for southern Azerbaijan, was the Russian name for northern Iran, and it was a question of whether Stalin did indeed intto withdraw. Anthis was a lengthy process, as it turned out, that only finally got resolved in 1946 when, under pressure, he did withdraw. Stalin did withdraw his forces. But meanwhile in February no such withdrawal had occurred. Meanwhile Stalin, on February 9 had delivered his one major post war address. and the address was not a very...

Q: February 6th I believe the speech was. Can you tell me what was actually going on and what was Stalin actually doing in even making this speech?

A: Stalin spoke on February 9, 1946 in connection with a an election campaign. And a campaign for elections to a pseudo-parliament called the Supreme Soviet in which he was one of the candidates. So he, as well as other leaders spoke on those days prior to the election and he was a candidate in the Moscow borough at which he spoke. The speech that he gave was a very lengthy speech. And it was not a hopeful one from the standpoint of what it was saying about Russia after the war. And in particular also about the likely relations between Russia and the west after the war. I don't believe that it was specifically that speech which led the Department of State to send a query to Kennan and I believe if I am not mistaken, that Kennan at this moment was our charges d'affaires in the absence of Ambassador Harriman. In fact Ambassador Harriman departed Moscow - his term of office as Ambassador, I believe, ended in February 1946, so that Kennan was charges not on account of any specific absence, but because the ambassadorship of George - Averell Harriman had ended and the new Ambassador, Walter Bedell Smith had not yet arrived. So the department, seemingly in need of some kind of assessment of this Russia, not having expected the kinds of difficulties with Russia that were emerging, thought it would be advisable to get his opinion. And in response to the request that he interpret and assess the situation we faced in Russia, he wrote this lengthy document and sent it off to Washington. and that document turned out to be what Washington didn't have and Washington very much needed an overall interpretation of the Russia that we were increasingly having difficulties in dealing with. So the question was why are we having these difficulties? Why is it turning out this way? And the answer to this question was spelled out in the pages of the long telegram.