YLBM – Greece and the Truman Doctrine

On March 12, 1947, In 1946, Greece, a country which had recently been liberated of German occupation, began a new conflict in the form of the Greek Civil War. The Greek guerilla forces consisted of the monarchists: EDES, and the communists:EAM-ELAS, both of whom were within the parameters of a British sphere of influence, leading Britain to intervene and try to suppress Communist forces.This plan of action did not prevail as Britain was in masses of Post-war debt and therefore couldn’t afford military or economic expenditures. And so, fearful of losing Greece to Communist influence, they turned to America for help.

On March 12, 1947, Harry Truman, delighted at the chance to take a tough stance on Communism, declared his Truman Doctrin in response to Britain’s plea. The Doctrine was a policy advocating both humanitarian, and political policies and ideas. Politically, the doctrine aimed to help Greece“become a self-supporting and self-respecting democracy” by providing it with $400 million in military and economic aid. The humanitarian aspect of it aimed to guarantee every citizens individual freedom, or as Truman himself put it in the declaration of his doctrine, “it must be the policy of the United States to support free Peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures”.

Although the USA had this political and humanitarian rationale for offering aid, their intervention was also partly one based on a fear of communist spread, as can be seen in their policy of ‘containment’ which was being encouraged during the  same time as the implementation of the Truman Doctrine. ‘Containment’ was the American policy which aimed to restrict the territorial growth and ideological influence of Russia, fearing that otherwise a ‘domino effect’ would occur, where if Greece became communist, its surrounding countries would too. The USA’s response as a result of the Communist threat they perceived is therefore partly justified due to the fact that their intervention was ultimately because of Greece’s internal conflict between communists and democrats, in which communists were trying to run the Greek political system, inherently threatening capitalism as a result. However, the doctrine could also be perceived to be an aggressive threat towards the Soviet Union ,shown by members such as Molotov instead accusing the West of seeking to divide Eastern Europe into two hostile camps. This stance would undoubtedly have been provoked by the very idea of the USA’s divisive opposition to Communism which was clearly reflected in the Truman Doctrine, but also by the physical threat the Doctrine now proposed to Russia. This physical part of Russia’s opposition to the Doctrine stemmed from fearing a repetition of an enemies use of Greece’s strategic waterway to attack Russia, such as the Nazis had done during World War II.

However, it would be foolish to say that the Truman Doctrine was the main cause of tensions between communists and capitalists. Each side had always held their suspicions and were always opposed to the other, the Truman Doctrine simply brought into the open what each camp was already thinking and passively doing, establishing the start of the USA’S physical involvement in the prevention of their enemies’ ideologies.



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