RLH – Truman Doctrine

Greece was in an area of British influence, however there was a civil war taking place there between the monarchists, supported by the Britain, and the communists from 1944. Stalin did not directly help the communists in Greece because of an agreement he had made stating that he would leave Greece alone on the condition that Britain left Poland alone. However this did not prevent the communist governments in Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia from helping them by providing the Greek communists with money, soldiers and equipment. Britain could not sustain the support they were giving to the monarchists due to the debts of £3000 million owed after World War Two, as well as the extreme weather during the winter from 1946-47. Therefore in February 1947 the British government told the USA that they would have to withdraw their troops from Greece, which would ultimately lead to the communists winning the civil war and taking over another European country if no other countries took their place.

Truman responded to this with the Truman Doctrine, declaring on the 12th of March 1947 in a speech given to Congress that the United States must “support free peoples who are resisting subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures”, and consequently sending aid and military advisers to Greece, resulting in the defeat of the communists. This policy was aimed at preventing the spread of communism, which was America’s belief in containment, and demonstrated that Truman was prepared to give support or aid to any anti-communist government who needed it.

There were two blocs established across the world at this time, as more countries became divided: The Western bloc, which was an alliance between the Western European states and the USA, and the Soviet bloc, the alliance between Eastern European countries and the USSR. Truman and Marshall both hoped to be able to reduce the size of the Soviet bloc by encouraging or helping Eastern European states to leave it.

The Marshall Plan was set up by George Marshall, who had just been appointed as the US Secretary of State in 1947, after Marshall had travelled through Europe observing the economic problems faced by many of the western countries and it began being enforced in 1948. The Secretary of State proposed this plan in June, asking for a large amount of financial support to be given to these countries by America. Initially he asked for $17 billion to be invested in the recovery and reconstruction of Europe, however Congress only agreed to $13 billion. The humanitarian purpose of the Marshall plan was to support western countries in their recovery after the damage of the second world war, and Churchill described it as “the most unselfish act in history”. However there were also political and economic motivations behind the plan: while Europe was so damaged they were unable to trade with the USA which could lead to a recession if they had no market for goods. Moreover America believed that if these European countries were unable to get out of poverty they would be much more susceptible to communist influences, and were likely to vote the communists into power themselves.

Theoretically Marshall aid could have been given to any country within Europe but eastern European countries were pressured into denying the aid, meaning only western Europe benefited from the plan. This was due in part to the conditions of receiving the aid: countries must provide economic records and open their economy to the capitalist interests of the USA. Consequently this meant that communist countries would have had to hugely change their political and economic policies in order to have been eligible.

On the 2nd of July 1947 Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister, left a conference with Britain and France on Stalin’s orders after objecting to the conditions of receiving financial aid, as they wanted each state to agree to a joint programme for spending the money while the Soviet Union wanted to be able to use the aid however they wanted to without agreeing to trade increasingly with America. Representatives from 16 European countries met in Paris beginning on the 16th of July to discuss how to rebuild Europe and accept the US aid. Stalin ensured that Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia did not attend the conference. Despite the absence of these Eastern European countries the negotiations were still difficult and by August they only had a list of requests for each country for the use of the aid. Furthermore the European countries  were asking for $29 billion which the US Congress was unwilling to give them. US officials set up the Advisory Steering Committee  which would advise on the priorities and the key decisions to try and help the Europeans and Americans to cooperate with their requirements. The countries had to find a way to work together with and liberalise trade while also managing to maintain their own independence and sovereignty.

Stalin set up  the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) in September 1947 in response to the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan. He did this when he invited leaders of Communist parties in France and Italy as well as the Eastern European communists to Szelarska Poreba in Poland for a conference. Cominform aimed to unite the communist parties internationally, in satellite states and also Western Europe. This demonstrated the end of the co-operation and Grand Alliance between the Western countries and the Soviet Union.

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