Greece, being in the Soviet sphere of influence, was a target of Stalin’s communist expansion further into Europe. Since 1944, a civil war had broken out in Greece, and was fought between the monarchists who wanted to restore the Greek royal government and were supported by Britain, and Greek communists. After the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, the Greek royal government had been restored despite strong resistance from the communists in the countryside. Stalin denied doing anything to directly support the Greek communists, however, Yugoslavia and Albania sent aid and the West became convinced that the civil war was another sign of communist expansion. Britain, having fought in the Second World War was now suffering from a state of economic crisis. The British government owed £3000 million in debts incurred during the war, and by 1947, it announced that it could no longer maintain its troops overseas in Greece. This came as terrible news to the U.S. as a British withdrawal would essentially mean that Greece would be another country to fall to communism, faced with this, President Truman issued the Truman Doctrine which stated that “it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures”. The Truman Doctrine was therefore aimed to stop the spread of communism, although the Soviet Union was never specifically mentioned. The USA sent aid and military advisers to support the government of Greece, leading to the defeat of the communists, and this was to be the beginning of the Marshall Plan. In the spring of 1947, Secretary of State George Marshall travelled through war-torn western Europe and was met with mass economic suffering. He saw a level of devastation that made him draw the conclusion that some form of economic support was needed from the U.S. in order to help the countries regain economic stability. On the surface, the Marshall Plan seemed like an act of humanitarian aid, it provided the equivalent of $130 billion today and Churchill even called it “the most unselfish act in history”. However the U.S’s motived went beyond this, a rebuilt Europe would be of great economic interest to the United States as it would act as a market for American goods. The U.S. also saw that western Europe could potentially fall to communism, as the level of destruction was so bad that they would turn to communism for help. The Marshall Plan was very capitalist, and would therefore give hope to the suffering people in Europe in the form of capitalism. Stalin saw Marshall Aid as an attack on communism, and did not allow any eastern European countries to receive it. President Truman and Secretary of State Marshall asked Congress for $17 billion and they hesitated at first, however when Czechoslovakian communists staged a coup d’état before the election was due to take place in 1948, the money was distributed across all countries in western Europe. Soviet foreign minister Molotov condemned Marshall Aid, accusing the U.S. of interfering in the states of Europe and calling it ‘Dollar Imperialism’. The Soviet Union tightened their hold over eastern Europe by setting up Cominform, an organisation designed to coordinate communist groups and parties throughout eastern Europe. The setting up of Cominform was a response to Marshall Aid, and made it very clear that Stalin did not want the countries under Soviet control to receive Marshall aid as in order to accept it, they would have to entirely change the communist systems on which the countries ran. In some ways, Molotov’s views could be justified. As a communist, he would’ve viewed interference from the west as imperialist. He may have also seen that the money provided to the countries was huge and therefore would’ve been a possible threat to the spread of communism throughout Europe, as after receiving Marshall aid, the recovering countries would have been of economic interest to the United States. Although Molotov can be sympathised with, Marshall aid was the best thing to do. The U.S., being the richest and most powerful country in the world, would’ve had enough money to support the devastated European countries until they had regained economic stability. It would be wrong not to intervene after seeing the mass economic crises of the war torn European countries. By comparison, capitalist countries compared to communist countries were much better economically, and this can be seen in the divide of Germany into East and West. Not only did lots of young people move from east to west, but after the split, Stalin ran East Germany into the ground, taking all of its resources. The poverty rate was also 20% in the Soviet Union which was much more than the poverty rate of 14% in the United States.
image JH – Truman Doctrine