Date of Award

Spring 3-8-2019

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of arts (BA)

First Advisor

Julie Nicoletta


This paper discusses the development of American foreign policy during the first few years of the Cold War through the containment doctrine. This doctrine, which in modern times has come to mean aggressive military action against any perceived communist threat, is not at all what the architect of containment George Kennan had in mind when he first pitched the idea to the Truman Administration in 1946. The reason that the definition shifted in the course of a few short years is because of the communist coup d’état that occurred in Czechoslovakia in February 1948. Scholars have traditionally assigned more importance to the Berlin Blockade as the reason for America’s aggressive shift in relations with the Soviet Union, but my research establishes that the coup was far and away the most important event that changed the definition of containment to this military focus.

The Truman Administration began to believe that direct military deterrence was the best solution to this new aggressive Soviet threat in the aftermath of the coup. Economic containment was considered to be ineffective in comparison to this threat and in the subsequent months the U.S. began acting aggressively to any potential attempts at communist expansion in both Italy and Germany as a result of this shift in mentality. The end of economic containment was found in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as it directly tied the United States to the military defense of Europe and marked the end to any meaningful Soviet American rapprochement.