The Truman Doctrine according to the Office of the Historian was a foreign policy by America that aimed at curbing the geographical and political expansion of the Soviet Union during the Cold War (Office of the Historian: Milestones, 2014). The doctrine came into existence in 1947, March when the then U.S. president Harry Truman, went before the Congress and pledged to contain the rising threats by the Soviet Union to Greece and Turkey to overcome the threat of communism (McGhee, 2016, pp 19-20). The Truman Doctrine that served as the foundation of American foreign policy outlined that America would offer political, financial and military aid to all self-governing countries who were facing threats both internally and externally by getting involved in the conflict. The Truman Doctrine occasioned due to various reasons that resulted in various consequences as discussed in the essay.
What caused the Truman Doctrine?
The inability of the British government to continue offering support to these countries was the primarily informed the advent of the Truman Doctrine. The Truman Speech came in the midst of the Greek Civil War that occurred in 1946 to 1949. During this period, the National Liberation Front with the help of the Greek Communist Party clashed with the British and the Greek national government to take control of Athens and the entire country. Deaths of unarmed National Liberation Front movement supporters characterized the fighting who were outgunned by the national government. As a result, the Civil War broke, which saw guerilla forces financing the communist party to attain power and oust the Greek government backed by the British (McGhee, 2016, pp22-23). However, during the war, the British’s economy suffered immensely resulting in its weakening. Consequently, they could not offer the necessary financial and military aid to the Greek government thus, paving the way for the United States to come in and provide the required support. Truman’s administration observed the war as resulting from the Soviet Union’s attempt to capture the regions that were the source of oil for the country and the water harbors within the Mediterranean.
Similarly, the Soviet Union’s pressure on Turkey also informed the advent of Truman Doctrine. After the World War II, the Russian government attempted to adopt trade routes within the Mediterranean Sea. However, the routes necessitated their passing through the Turkish Strains. However, the Turkish government was reluctant to allow Russian ships to cross through their territory as they considered this an attempt at colonizing them (McGhee, 2016, pp. 7). Accordingly, they denied them the access and instead sought the British assistance to control the passage. Due to this, the Russian government employed stiff resistance that only heightened military support and aid could empower it. When the British government withdrew its support due to deficiencies of resources, the United States government came in to support their economic efforts and providing military support.
President Truman believed that the U.S had the responsibility of protecting country’s freedom and independence. According to him, the primary role of American foreign policy was to foster an environment where they and other nations would freely work with each other free from intimidation. Therefore, by establishing the United Nations, America believed that their willingness to help other people preserve their freedom and integrity and would ensure the promotion of international peace and security, which President Truman wanted to achieve. Further, Truman argued that the imposing of force by the Soviet Union in an attempt to expand to other countries was unacceptable as it threatened the security of America, and in protecting themselves, they had to defend Greece and Turkey territories (Office of the Historian: Milestones 2014).
President Truman argued that the communist power was expanding and threatened the stability of the countries and the Middle East. For years, different countries suffered in the hands of a forced power that employed coercion and intimidation to enforce their will. However, the United States believed that this was the opportune moment for every country to choose a substitute way of life (Office of the Historian: Milestones 2014). One follows either the wishes of the majority exercised through free institutions and political representation while the other follows the will of the minority that utilizes force and terror and enforced through the clampdown of fundamental freedoms and controlled information. Thus, choosing the good meant helping countries to get off under the authority of totalitarian regimes, as it would result in depression of peace worldwide, consequently affecting the American security.
Impacts of Truman Doctrine
First, the Doctrine led to the assistance of both Greece and Turkey, paving the way for the Marshall Plan. President Truman urged the Congress to take an immediate and unwavering decision of assisting the two countries. As a result, the Congress approved four hundred million dollars aid in 1948 to alleviate starvation and support their economies. By helping them, the U.S developed the Marshall Plan. According to Fredrik Bolinder, the Marshall Plan, formulated by the then US Secretary of State named George Marshal was containment plan for communism (Bolinder, 2017). According to Marshal’s assessment of Europe, the World War II devastated the countries putting them on the verge of starvation. Hence, since the Communist parties including the Soviet Union, had interests in expanding to these countries, the famine and economic devastation were likely to make them accept their help and promises to turn them into communists. Thus, in the bid to prevent the spread of communism into Europe, the United States committed twenty-two billion dollars in fuel, raw materials, foodstuff, machinery, loans and technical expertise to jump-start the European economy afresh hence, successfully stopped the spread of communism (Hatzivassiliou, 2010, pp. 1-4).
Second, it led to the buildup of collective security. The global threat of communism created a hysteria among European countries and the United States of possible attacks and infiltration by the communists notably the Soviet Union. Thus, providing military aid to various countries in Europe brought together these nations to form a network of like-minded countries and allies to establish a mutually benefiting defense response to any future attacks from external parties. Thus, the countries founded the Military Assistance Program, which eventually led to the inception in 1949 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) (Hatzivassiliou, 2010, pp. 2-5). The alliance brought together twenty-nine countries among them America, France, United Kingdom, Greece, Turkey, and Belgium.
In conclusion, the Truman Doctrine was a de facto announcement of the cold war as his speech ushered the United States’ foreign policy all over the world. Through this Doctrine, America made known their commitment towards enabling countries remain free people by providing them with financial and military aid that would allow them to resist any attempts to suppress their freedom and be under the control of others. Also, he believed in providing financial assistance to countries that needed it to stop the forceful expansion of communism into independent countries. In doing so, it solved the concern of communism expansion, it facilitated bipartisan support of its objectives, mobilized America in offering support that economically stabilized Europe and led to the creation of a mutually benefiting military outfit known as NATO.
- Bolinder, F. (2017). The Legacy of the Truman Doctrine. Truman National Security Project. McGhee, G. (2016). The US-Turkish-NATO Middle East connection: How the Truman doctrine and Turkey’s NATO entry contained the soviets. Springer.
- Milestones, Office of the Historian. (2014). The Truman Doctrine, 1947. Department of States, United States. Retrieved December 25, 2017, from https://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/truman-doctrine
- Hatzivassiliou, E. (2010). Greek reformism and its models: The impact of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. Journal of Modern Greek Studies, 28(1), 1-25.