AL – The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, 1947

Commencing in 1944, a civil war between the monarchists and the communists had gripped the nation of Greece. With the aid of the British, Greece’s royal government was successfully reinstated into a position of power after the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 that concluded the Second World War. This occurred despite the attempts of resistance from the communists located in the Greek countryside. Whilst Joseph Stalin refrained from opposing his agreement with Churchill that said Greece to be an area of solely British influence in exchange for the British not meddling in Polish affairs, the communist nations of Yugoslavia and Albania did send aid. However the West deemed these actions to be a sign of Soviet influence, leading them to think it prudent to establish firm action.

The Second World War, despite providing the US with economic prosperity, left Britain a far weaker version of its pre-war self. The British government owed £3000 million in debts as a result of the events of the war against Germany, the economy was in an alarming state of crisis – this was further heightened by the severity of the winter weather if 1946-7. The government of Britain were forced to admit that it was no longer viable for them to sustain their overseas commitments. Subsequently, in February 1947, they informed the USA that the financial and military aid being provided to Turkey and Greece would have to cease. This British withdrawal added to Truman’s fears of yet another country being forced to abide by the laws of communism, and he thus issued the Truman Doctrine. The Truman Doctrine was an American foreign policy statement that stated that the USA would provide the necessary aid to any country under attack by armed minorities; essentially it was aimed at preventing the spread of communists. While this initially a response to the troublesome situation in Greece, the wider applications of it became clear. Wherever there existed communist forces who were attempting a coup against a democratically-elected government, the US would intervene. Stalin viewed the defeat of the Greek communists as stark evidence of US imperialism, a view that was further heightened by the launching of the Marshall Plan.

During the spring of 1947 the new US Secretary of State, George Marshall, witnessed and was shocked by the socio-economic suffering in Western Europe. The result was the launching of the Marshall Plan, a plan that aimed to provide financial support to war-torn European states, provided that they were not communist. This plan was proposed in June, when he initially requested $17 billion to be invested in the rebuilding of post-war Europe, however only $13 billion was agreed by Congress. The Marshall Plan was described as “the most unselfish act in history” by Winston Churchill. Nevertheless the US did have economic motivations to carry out this plan as well. The economies of European nations were so severely damaged that they were unable to trade with the USA which would have had detrimental consequences on the US economy. Moreover the state of poverty across Europe made it more susceptible to communist influences.

In September 1947 Stalin set up the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) in response to the combined anti-communist power of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. Cominform aimed to unite the communist parties across the globe. The establishing of this bureau strongly highlighted the differences in ideologies between the USSR and the west and therefore led to the official breakdown in the Grand Wartime Alliance.

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