Since 1944 there had been a civil war in Greece between the monarchists and the communists. After Nazi Germany had been defeated the Greek royal government returned to power with the assistance of the British, although there was some resistance from communists who were strongly situated in the countryside. Greece was under the British sphere of influence and Stalin knew this and kept his agreement to not interfere with Greece, as long as Britain did not interfere with Poland, and so he did nothing to directly support and encourage the Greek communists, however, the communist governments of Yugoslavia and Albania did send aid. This indirect help from Stalin helped to convince the West that this was a plan in order to help Stalin expand the Soviet Union as a result the British needed firm action against Stalin which the British were finding difficult to maintain.
By 1947, the devastating effects of World War Two was impacting Britain. Debts accumulated by the British government over the period of the war against Germany amounted to £3000 million. The British was economy was in crisis and was further affected by the harsh weather of 1946-1947. In February 1947, Britain announced to the US that they could maintain troops in Greece which meant the US was faced with the prospect of a British withdrawal consequently leading to a communist takeover in another country which held strategic importance. As a result, the President of the United States issued the Truman Doctrine.
President Truman issued a statement in March 1947 which declared “it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting subjugation (to bring under complete control or subjection; conquer; master) by armed minorities or by outside pressures”. The Truman Doctrine was a policy statement issued by the President which stated that the US would aid any country or government that was under attack by armed minorities. The Doctrine was aimed at prohibiting the spread of communism and this was going to be achieved by sending aid and military advisers to Greece to help the monarchist government against the communists.
The Truman Doctrine was a response to Greece and the outcomes that came of it, although, it was very clear to everyone that it was designed to have wider application. To Truman there was only two clear outcomes: communism and democracy so, wherever there were communist forces attempting to overthrow a democratically elected government the USA would intervene and take action. In reality, Truman was prepared to support and government that was anti-communist.
Truman’s aid and military advisers sent to support the Greek government led to the defeat of the communists. From Stalin’s perspective Truman’s involvement was seen as evidence of US imperialism (a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through colonization, use of military force, or other means), this view was then reinforced by the Marshall Plan.
George C. Marshall (1880-1959) was the US Secretary of State from 1947-1949. He was responsible for the launch of the Marshall aid programme, which involved financial help being given to Europe. (Later, George C. Marshall served as the US Secretary of Defence). During the spring of 1947 George Marshall (the new Secretary of State) travelled through western Europe and was shocked to witness the devastation and economic suffering he encountered. Consequently, he recognised that economic support and assistance were urgently needed which formed the idea of the Marshall Plan. The Marshall plan included committing substantial sums of US financial assistance to Europe, which Churchill says was “the most unselfish act in history”.
As well as providing extremely useful aid for economy recovery and reconstruction, the agendas behind the Marshall aid were more than merely humanitarian. Concerns arose over the economies of Europe and whether the continent was going to recover or not, if they failed to recover the USA would be in danger of experiencing an economic recession. Without financial assistance from the US, Europe would not be able to be a market for America’s goods. Furthermore, apart from the economic motive for the Marshall Plan, political agendas are also considered as factors. The US saw poverty as a convinient ‘breeding ground’ for communism and they believed a prosperous Europe was far less likely to fall under the rule of communism.
In theory, Marshall aid was available for any European country to be able to apply to, but in practice help was only received by western Europe. In addition, the aid came with attachments which included providing economic records and the country ha dot open up economy to US capitalist interests. This made it impossible for communists states to do so without a fundamental amendment to their system.
Through the perspective of the Soviet Union, the Marshall Plan was just an attack on communism. Molotov condemned the aid as foreign interference in the countries of Europe and he labelled the plan a dollar imperialism. The term ‘dollar imperialism’ was used by Molotov used to describe Marshall aid. He saw the financial aid given by America as a step towards the USA gaining control over Europe and exploiting it for the their own economic interests. Due to Stalin and the Soviet’s pressure, countries in eastern Europe declined the offer of receiving financial aid.
The USSR effectively declared war on the Marshall Plan by reinforcing their power over Eastern Europe through the creation of the Cominform (an organisation controlled by USSR, set up in 1947 to organise parties throughout Europe) and the Comecon (an organisation controlled by the USSR, set up in 1947 to co-oridinate the economies of communist countries). Due to the the Truman Doctrine, Marshall aid and Stalin’s response to this, the division of Europe became even greater.
The Czechoslovakian Crisis, 1948
At the beginning 0f 1948, Czechoslovakia was the only remaining democratic country is eastern Europe. The elections were due to be held in May and the communists were expected to badly. Czechoslovakia didn’t receive Marshall aid and this was blamed on the communists in the coalition government. Prior to this the communists staged a coup d’eat (a violent or illegal take over of government), which led to the police force being taken over communists. Representatives of political parties other than communists were removed from government in February. The last non-communist person in government was Jan Masaryk, who eventually was thrown from a window (probably by the members of the security police). The President Benes was forced to resign and was replaced by the communist government Gottwald.
The Czech communists managed to successfully tae over the country with little lives lost and o direct support from the Soviet Union. This crisis had impacted the West, mostly psychologically. The crisis helped to instil more fear of communist expansion and it made the British feel guilty as they did nothing to prevent Hitler taking Czechoslovakia during 1938-1939.