Stalin was deemed to have a substantial amount of influence over Eastern Europe. The Red army was situated in different regions in order to spread communism and for Russian security. We can concisely see the effects of the imposition of communism as by the end of 1947, every state in Eastern Europe was controlled by a communist government apart from Czechoslovakia. Since 1944 there had been a civil war in Greece between the monarchists and the communists. Once the Nazis had been overthrown the British aided the restoration of their royal government. However Stalin did adhere to the agreement with the Brits to keep out and he demonstrated this by not directly aiding the communists who were resistant towards the monarchist regime.
The West were constantly looking to find another way to prove that Stalin was trying to have Soviet expansion and although (as mentioned above), Stalin did not directly aid the resistant communists, Yugoslavia and Albania’s communist governments did.
Britain was under a lot of economic strain and they owed £3000 million in debts as a result of the war against Germany. Britain was forced to admit that they could not commit to overseas commitments, as a result of the lack of funds. The USA then feared that because Britain could not maintain the Greek troops that it would lead to a communist takeover. This is why Truman issued the Truman Doctrine in 1947.
With the Truman Doctrine, President Truman established that the United States would provide political, military and economic aid to all democratic nations under threat from external or internal authoritarian forces. So for example if communist forces were attempting to overthrow a democratically elected government, the USA would actively intervene. This was clearly showing Stalin that the USA were not going to tolerate any attempts at the USSR trying to forcefully impose communism. This was demonstrated where USA aid and military advisers were sent to support the Greek government and the communists were defeated. The USA had now implemented something that would aid people that were being oppressed, even though Britain was unable to help them, due to lack of financial funds. Stalin believed this was evidence of US imperialism, which is the idea that America is trying to impose their economic, military and cultural influence on other countries. This view was reinforced by the launching of the Marshall Plan.
The Marshall Plan
George Marshall in the spring of 1947 travelled through Eastern Europe and was shocked by the devastation and economic suffering he saw. He realised that economic support was desperately needed and consequently developed the Marshall Plan. Europe was devastated by years of conflict during World War 2 (1939-1945). Millions of people had been killed or wounded. Industrial and residential centres in England, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Belgium and elsewhere were ruined. Much of Europe was on the brink of famine as agricultural production had been disrupted by war and they had little to eat. Transportation infrastructure was in shambles, making it hard to move around. The only major power in the world that was not significantly damaged was the United States. Therefore they utilised the fact that they were not in detrimental ruins by the war to aid Europe. The plan committed large sums of money if US financial assistance to Europe. It would help to reconstruct and build up economic problems. From 1945 through 1947, the United States was already assisting European economic recovery with direct financial aid. Military assistance to Greece and Turkey was being given. The newly formed United Nations was providing humanitarian assistance. However this gesture may have been to help Europe gradually build up their own economies so that it would not strongly affect the Americans and cause a recession.
There were however conditions in who they would help and it was mainly to a Western Europe. This why Stalin insisted that it was evidence of US imperialism as they did it for US Capitalist interests, to an extent. Unless communist states were willing to make radical changes then it would be impossible for them to receive any aid from the Marshall plan. The Soviet union simply saw a plan as an attack on communism and were extremely unhappy. In retaliation to the Marshall Plan they set up Cominform in 1947 which coordinated communist parties throughout Europe. They also set up Comecon in 1949, which was an organisation that coordinated the economies of communist countries. Therefore the implementation of the Truman Doctrine and Marshall aid , caused the Soviet Union to act back which deepened tensions.
More information on Cominform:
The Cominform’s activities consisted mainly of publishing propaganda to encourage international communist solidarity. The French and Italian parties were ineffective in carrying out the chief task assigned to them by the Cominform—to obstruct the implementation of the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine. Like the Third International (Comintern) in its later phases, the Cominform served more as a tool of Soviet policy than as an agent of international revolution.
More about Comecon:
Comecon was formed under the Soviet Union in 1949 in response to the formation of the Committee of European Economic Cooperation in western Europe in 1948. Between 1949 and 1953, however, Comecon’s activities were restricted predominantly to the registration of bilateral trade and credit agreements among member countries. After 1953 the Soviet Union and Comecon began to promote industrial specialisation among the member countries and thus reduce “parallelism” (redundant industrial production) in the economies of eastern Europe. In the late 1950s, after the formation of the European Economic Community in western Europe, Comecon undertook more systematic and intense efforts along these lines, though with only limited success.
Britain and France called a Conference of European Economic Cooperation, which convened in Paris on 12 July, 1947. Out of this conference was born the Committee of European Economic Cooperation (CEEC). The Soviet Union was invited to the conference, but declined. The Soviets pressured Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary, also invited, to stay away from the meeting. The 16 countries which attended were Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the UK. The task of the representatives at the Paris meeting was to estimate their national foreign exchange needs and come up with an estimate for the cost of the aid program to the US.