BJO – Greece and the Truman Doctrine

Since 1944, a civil war had ensued in Greece between the Communists and the Monarchists. The Monarchists were fighting to uphold the monarchy within the country while the Communists fought to destroy this structure and install a Communist government within the country. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, the British had helped the Greek restore the royal government to power, despite the resistance of the Communists who were seen as strong. Stalin and Churchill had agreed that Greece was in an area of British influence and so held off sending help to the Greek Communists. Stalin seemed to have kept his promise, but the Communist governments in Albania and Yugoslavia sent aid and the Greek Communists received moral support from the USSR in their efforts to overthrow the monarchy however the already paranoid West saw this as a Soviet sign of expansion.

By 1947, the draining impact of the Second World War on economic resources was felt. The British government owed £3000 million in debts which had arisen from the war against Germany, this meant that they could no longer continue with their foreign commitments, such as the troops sent to Greece to uphold the Monarchist government, In February 1947, they warned the USA that as of the 31st of March, they would withdraw all economic and military assistance towards the Greek government in its civil war.

In response to this, Truman issued the Truman Doctrine. He could not deal with the prospect of losing another nation of strategic importance to a Communist takeover. In March 1947, Truman issued a statement which declared that ‘it must be a policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures’. Truman asked congress to support the Greek government against the Communists. The Doctrine was designed to have a wider application than just protecting the Greek nation: the US would take action wherever Stalin was enforcing communism in Eastern or Western Europe.

Eventually the US sent aid and military advisers to support the Greek government and the communists were defeated. From the perspective of Stalin, this was US imperialism – a belief that the Americans had economic, military, and cultural influence of the on other countries, this influence leads to goes hand in hand with expansion into foreign territories. The US could argue that the Soviets were doing the same thing, but much more aggressively.

Europe after WW1 was in a state of ruins. It was described, in the word of Churchill as “a rubble heap, a charnel house, a breeding ground of hate”. There were great fears that those of Europe devastated by the war would give in to communism out of desperation. Not only this, the US were also self-interested, if the countries in Europe were devastated and owed massive amounts of debt, then the US would be economically affected as European countries would not be able to trade on the international market.

In the spring of 1947, the US Secretary of State, George Marshall travelled to Western Europe to investigate the economic suffering that was ongoing. Aligning with the Truman Doctrine, he launched the Marshall Plan.I946–1947, Congress passed the Economic Cooperation Act in March 1948 and approved funding that would eventually rise to over $12 billion for the rebuilding, reconstructing and eventual flourishing of Western Europe. The Europeans had made two promises to the United States if Marshall Plan help was forthcoming. The first promise was maximum self-help on the part of every country; and second, maximum mutual aid.” –  Paul Hoffman.

Marshall aid went on to be given to countries such as France, Britain as the Western zones of Germany. Ultimately, the Soviet Union would have seen it as an attack from the US. The plan successfully caused economic recovery, meeting its aim of ‘restoring the confidence of the European people in the economic future of their own countries and of Europe as a whole.’ The plan in conclusion promoted a more European integrration and some historians even argue that it was a bid to create a European economy almost in the image of the Americans. Questions can be raised over the ultimate aim of the Marshall Plan. It was to save the American economy from sliding into a depression as well as preventing Western European countries from becoming communist primarily, with the byproduct being the flourishing of the European countries. It was another self-interested scheme created by the US government which was successful in its aim.


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