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The New Containment

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The New Containment

Handling Russia, China, and Iran

Foreign Affairs,

5 min read
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America’s Cold War containment strategy provides a blueprint for dealing with 21st-century revisionist powers. 

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In an essay for Foreign Affairs in 1947, writing under the pseudonym “Mr. X,” George F. Kennan, US Chargé d’Affaires in Moscow, outlined the pillars of what would become America’s Cold War policy of “containment.” Skillfully countering the threat of Soviet expansionism, Kennan argued, would lead to “either the break-up or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power.” Almost three-quarters of a century later, foreign policy scholar Michael Mandelbaum is calling for a new policy of containment on the pages of the very same foreign policy journal. Mandelbaum’s essay may not garner the same level of attention as Kennan’s “Long Telegram,” but it offers valuable contributions to the debate on the future direction of American foreign policy.


Almost three decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US-led global order is facing revisionist challenges from three different powers: Russia, which has captured parts of Ukraine and meddled in European politics; China, which has built islands in international waters and expanded its economic influence throughout Eurasia; and Iran, which has increased its military reach from neighboring Iraq to Syria and Yemen and seems intent on building nuclear weapons.

To counter the three-front challenge to American values and...

About the Author

Michael Mandelbaum is Christian A. Herter Professor and Director of the American Foreign Policy program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the author of The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth.

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