Truman Doctrine



Harry S. Truman (1884-1972), 33rd president of the United States (1945-1953). Truman initiated the foreign policy of containing Communism, a policy that was the hallmark of the Cold War. He continued the welfare policies established under his predecessor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Truman helped to centralize power in the executive branch, a trend begun under Roosevelt.


By proposing a program of $400 million in military and economic aid to back anti-Communist forces in Turkey and Greece, United States President Harry Truman created a prime model for Cold War containment of Communism. Truman’s critics claimed that he was being unduly alarmist for suggesting that the effect of failure would be “far reaching to the West as well as to the East,” and some also blamed his words for promoting anti-Communist hysteria in the United States.
Although the United States and the USSR had been allies against Germany during the war, this alliance began to dissolve after the end of the war, when Stalin, seeking Soviet security, began using the Soviet Army to control much of Eastern Europe. Truman opposed Stalin’s moves. Mistrust grew as both sides broke wartime agreements. Stalin failed to honor pledges to hold free elections in Eastern Europe. Truman refused to honor promises to send reparations from the defeated Germany to help rebuild the war-devastated USSR. This hostility became known as the Cold War.



In 1947 British Prime Minister Attlee told Truman that a British financial crisis was forcing the United Kingdom to end its aid to Greece. At the time the USSR was demanding naval stations on the Bosporus from Turkey, and Greece was engaged in a civil war with Communist-dominated rebels. The president proposed what was called the Truman Doctrine, which had two objectives: to send U.S. aid to anti-Communist forces in Greece and Turkey, and to create a public consensus so Americans would be willing to fight the Cold War. Truman told Congress that “it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” Congress fulfilled his request for $250 million for Greece and $150 million for Turkey.
Truman’s trip to Potsdam and reports from former President Herbert Hoover (1929-1933), who headed a postwar food commission, gave him an intimate knowledge of the problems of war-torn Europe. With General George C. Marshall, who was now secretary of state, Truman drew up the European Recovery Plan for the economic rehabilitation of free Europe. This act, also known as the Marshall Plan, was designed to rebuild the European market, which would benefit U.S. trade, and to strengthen democratic governments in Western Europe. The United States wanted to counter the influence of the USSR, which it was beginning to see as its main rival. The U.S. government also believed that West Germany, the zone occupied by U.S., British, and French forces, would have to be rebuilt and integrated into a larger Europe.
After careful planning, Marshall announced in June 1947 that if Europe devised a cooperative, long-term rebuilding program, the United States would provide funds. When the USSR learned that the United States insisted on Soviet cooperation with the capitalist societies of Western Europe and an open accounting of how funds were used, the USSR established its own plan to integrate Communist states in Eastern Europe. Under the Marshall Plan, the United States spent more than $13 billion over a four-year period.