What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Identities

America’s Relationship With Russia Has Always Been Complicated

As Ambassador to St. Petersburg, John Quincy Adams Impressed the Tsar, But Kept His Ideological Distance

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By James Traub

A statue of John Quincy Adams stands outside of Spaso House, the residence of the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow. In 1809 President James Madison asked Adams, at age 42 already one of America’s most seasoned diplomats, to serve as the first American ambassador to Russia. The President needed a man with the prudence and the tenacity necessary to persuade the young Tsar Alexander to respect the interests of the United States, a neutral in the colossal battle between England and

Identities

The Man Who Explained the Soviets to America

How George F. Kennan's Passion for Russia Colored Our Cold War Strategy

George Kennan

By David Milne

The enduring irony of George F. Kennan’s life was just how much the architect of America’s Cold War “containment” strategy—aimed at stopping Soviet expansionism—loved Russia.

Kennan arguably played a larger role in shaping the U.S.’s view of a major foreign power, and thus our relations with that power, than any other American in modern history. That the power in question was the Soviet Union, and the time in question the crucial period after World War II, made his outsized