HM – Truman Doctrine and Greece

Truman Doctrine and Greece

Germany were forced to withdraw from Greece in October 1944, as Britain liberated the country. The victorious British forces united a communist group and a democratic group to form a coalition government, yet this government quickly collapsed as the Communist Liberation Front refused to disband their guerrilla forces in spite of much request to do so. This led to a civil war breaking out on December 3, between the communists and democrats. Despite the democrats securing the capital and Salonika, the National Liberation Front took control of most of Greece and gained great power. Although fighting stopped temporarily, when a plebiscite in September 1945 elected the Greek King back to his throne, the communists resumed their fighting.

The Western allies worst fears were confirmed through events In Greece in 1947. Since 1944 the civil war between the Communist forces and the monarchists had intensified, and as Greece was an area of British influence (agreed between Churchill and Stalin)this was a cause of mass tension between the East and the West.  Although Stalin appeared to be upholding this agreement as he did not directly help the Greek communists, the Communist governments of Yugoslavia and Albania did send aid. The Western powers viewed this another  example of soviet expansion, and henceforth decided that decisive actions were necessary.

The Truman Doctrine was issued by Harry S Truman, partially as a response to the prospect of Britain withdrawing from Greece and the country ‘falling’ to Communism. The Second World War had left a massive toll on the British economy as they borrowed vast amounts to sustain the war effort. This led to the British government owing £3000 million in debts, and the drastic winter conditions of 1946-7 only added to their problems. Not only did the large drifts of snow halt transportation by blocking roads and railway lines and so reducing economic activity, but the consequent thawing of the snow led to severe flooding. The British Army and foreign aid agencies were forced to provide Humanitarian aid to the 100,000 properties that were effected. Evidently, the dire situation at home meant that the British government could no longer sustain its overseas commitments.

In March 1947 Truman told congress ‘assistance is imperative if Greece is to survive as a free nation”.  He continued  ‘Greece must have assistance if it is to become a self-supporting and self-respecting democracy.’ This was a bold statement of intent from the US president as it clearly outlined his intentions to stray away from the policy of isolation and get involved in European affairs. During this period, the American government believed that the Soviet Union supported the Greek Communists in an attempt to expand the soviet sphere of influence. However, in reality Josef Stalin deliberately did not provide any aid and In fact encouraged Josip Tito (leader of Yugoslavia) to follow suit. Truman asked congress to provide $400 million in emergency assistance for the war effort in Greece. His justification was to “assist free peoples to work out their destinies in their own way” and in doing so prevent communism.

This principle of economically supporting Greece soon spread to Western Europe as a whole. Secretary George Marshall proposed the further expansion of the economic assistance to the countries devastated by war. Marshall stated that the policy was not “against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos”. It was believed however that Communism was born out of “hunger, poverty and desperation” as people looked to extremists for change and although the policy was not directly presented to combat the soviet ideology, its application did so anyway. The European Recovery Programme (ERP) or Marshall Plan, channeled over $13bn to finance recovery between the years of 1948 and 1951. Americans saw the plan as generous, yet the soviet union viewed the proposals as threatening and an attempt to interfere in European affairs. The vast scale of investment from the US at first appears as act of generosity, however, America were set to benefit from the plan massively. An increase in trade from Europe would not only bolster the American economy but establish the long desired global market. Whilst A crippled Europe would not be able to purchase American goods and so the US had massive intent behind the plan. Stalin prohibited any of Eastern Europe to apply for Marshall aid, which included preventing economic assistance to Germany, a country that had recently devastated the Soviet Union. US officials argued that this was another example of the Soviets isolating Eastern Europe and imposing its Communist doctrines. However, from a Soviet perspective they were resisting the domination and imperialism from America that the Marshall Plain carried.


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