Struggling with the Truman Doctrine? What was it? How did it come about? And what did it cause? These questions can be very daunting, especially with the exaggerated amount of content- names, dates, events- that you must know for your exam!
But fret no more! Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will be able to understand the key events, dates and people involved in the Truman Doctrine and its aftermath.
After WW2, Stalin had created an “iron curtain”- where Eastern Europe was under Soviet control (with the exception of Czechoslovakia). The Red Army was situated in many parts of Europe for Soviet security, by imposing communist ideas. However, Stalin stayed true to the agreement with Churchill to keep Greece under British influence- by not giving direct aid to resistant communists, who were against monarchists. Yet, the West believed that Stalin seeked expansion as they claimed that Yugoslavia and Albania, who sent aid to Greek communists, indirectly came from the Soviets.
Unfortunately, by 1947, Britain faced an economic crisis due to their £3000 million debt from war. Inevitably, the were forced to remove their troops from Greece. Both the UK and USA feared Greece’s potential to fall under Soviet control. And so, the Truman Doctrine emerged the same year.
This policy stated that the US would aid any country or government under attack by armed minorities. Essentially, it prevented communist expansion, which was a direct threat to the Soviet government and their sphere of influence. In fact, the US sent aid and military advisers to defeat the communists in Greece. As a result, Stalin believed this was evidence of US imperialism, which was a view exacerbated by the launch of the Marshall Plan in the spring of 1947.
George Marshall, the US Secretary of State, travelled around western Europe and was appalled by the misery and economic suffering of the people. Therefore, the Marshall Plan was launched to provide US financial aid to Europe; it aimed to help European countries reconstruct and recover from the economic crisis. Contrary to its humanitarian image, the Marshall Plan also had an economic and political motive. If Europe faced an economic crisis, it would not be a viable market for US goods, which could lead to recession in the US. Furthermore, USA saw poverty as a breeding ground for communism. Thus, helping Europe would mean it was less likely to fall under its control.
Despite the intention of aiding any European country, in practice, help was only available to western Europe. This was a result of the conditions attached to the aid, which demanded economic records and open economy to US capitalist interests- meaning communist nations would have to change their core ideologies.
It’s no surprise that the USSR viewed this as an attack on communism. In fact, Molotov described the plan as dollar imperialism- claiming that the USA used this mechanism to gain control over Europe and exploit it for their own interests. Consequently, the USSR set up the Cominform, in 1947, and Comecon in 1949. These were organisations that would coordinate communist parties and economies of communist states respectively, throughout Europe.
One can easily sympathise with both Molotov’s view and the USA’s. Both parties were dominated by fear. Communism posed a great threat to American values and its control over Europe’s reformation after WW2-and vice versa. Thus, the Soviet Union and the US acted accordingly, essentially declaring war on each other.