The End of World War II
These two items, being separate in theory, were in fact two sides of a single event. Where the Truman Doctrine was the decision, The Marshall Plan was the action. These programs represent possibly the only time in history when this particular tactic has been successful. They have taught America a lesson that it has not yet been forgotten, but would be an advantageous thing to let go. This point in the Cold War seems to be the only time in history in which the desired results were achieved simply by throwing money at the problem.
After World War II counsels were held to determine how the remains of the war-torn Germany were to be divided among the victors. The Soviet Army was physically in occupation of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and half of East Germany|Germany]. Western forces controlled Greece, Turkey, Italy, France, Portugal, Belgium, Luxemburg, The Netherlands, Denmark, and the other half of Germany. The Soviet Union was set on installing Communist governments in the countries it controlled, and the U.S. was intent on allowing self determination, a measure which would invariably create pro-U.S. / Anti-Communist governments.
Meetings were held and many wonderful agreements were reached which were purely fictional in nature. The Soviet Union installed the Communist governments in its satellite nations creating a buffer of friendly governments around itself, defending it from Western aggression. Winston Churchill referred to this as "The Iron Curtain." The biggest issue in the situation was Germany itself. What had once been considered temporary lines of occupation became permanent political boundaries. Berlin itself had been divided between the West and the Soviet Union as an act to prevent a resurgence of German nationalism, and the city itself lay within the borders of Soviet controlled Germany. Agreements had originally called for Germany to remain independent, allowing the Soviet Union to demand reparations from it, but this idea was abandoned at the earliest convenient time.
As tome progressed, more countries within Soviet occupation became communist, but not through reconstruction. Revolutions overthrowing Democratic governments were occurring, strengthening the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union's hold on Europe. America viewed Stalin as another Hitler who was bent on world domination, and so in the wake of World War II, the seeds of the Cold war were planted.
The Cold War
Why did the Soviet Union demand reparations from the conquered Germany? It was known that this very action after World War I had been the cause of World War II. The reason is that the United States ceased all aid to the Soviet Union immediately after the war. The Soviet Union was left to fend for itself in attempting to reconstruct its economy, which had been significantly damaged in the war. They rebuilt by stripping their occupied territories of industrial facilities and liquidating the wealth of conquered nations, plunging them into poverty. These actions deepened anti U.S. sentiment in the satellite nations as well as the Soviet Union itself and fostered a lasting antagonism between the two nations as well as the two systems. What the United States' actions did not to was cripple the Soviet Union. Before another war could break out, the Soviet Union had begun its own Atomic Weapons Program, fed by information from spies present in the Manhattan Project and continuing American research. The mutual threat of nuclear war prevented anything in the way of a military campaign and lead to the peculiar nuances of the Cold War. A new philosophy of containment was dreamt. It was both unwise and unsafe to wage an outward war against the Soviet Union in the Wake of World War II as a result of Nuclear as well as economic factors, and an outward war was not likely to bring any good to anyone. A change in tactics was considered; if playing to win was not an option, then perhaps it would be prudent to play for a draw.
The Truman Doctrine
On February 21, 1947, the British government informed the United States that it would no longer be capable of supporting its aid to Greece and Turkey, two western controlled nations which geographically fall within the natural sphere of Soviet influence. Turkey was under heavy Soviet pressure, being a powerful place from which to gain influence over the Mediterranean Sea. The Soviet Union was not, however, responsible for the civil unrest in Greece, but this fact was either missed or simply overlooked. Fearing that Soviet power would expand, Marshal
, and Kennan
recommended to the President
that America pick up where Britain was leaving off. Yes, the Truman plan originated from Marshall, not Truman. Truman agreed, and the Truman Doctrine, which is covered verbatim from his speech here
, was put into place. In reality, the Truman Doctrine only covered Greece and Turkey, but the philosophy itself was enduring beyond only these two. The challenge with the Truman Doctrine was getting it passed through congress. The Republican party was in majority at the time and, as we know, they won't give ten cents to support American citizens; it was not expected that they would be willing to give $400,000,000 for foreign aid. Truman got his Doctrine passed the same way Bush got the USA PATRIOT act
passed in modern times, through terrorism
. Truman instilled the fear of communism in congress and the American people, and having done this his proposal was passed by a three-to-one margin. The Truman Doctrine might be considered the "declaration of cold war" that got the Cold War underway.
The Marshall Plan
Greece and Turkey were not the only countries faltering in the post World War II environment. It was because of Britain's decline that the Truman Doctrine was necessary, and not it was necessary to help Britain as well. Americans believed that all of Europe was susceptible to Soviet subversion, and that the problem was economic in nature. What did they do? They threw moooooooore money.
European workers were demoralized, food was scarce, equipment was out of repair, and the European economy was in the crapper. Inclement weather worsened the situation. As is the case in any country suffering from harsh economy from this point onward, the socialist party, at this time the Communist party, was growing in strength. The United States feared that if things continued as they were, Communism would spread throughout Europe, Northern Africa, and the World. The duty to contain Communism had just become more important. Marshall created a plan to offer aid to any European country that wanted it, including Russia, as a means to combat communism. Before it was ever taken to a vote in America, the Soviet Union withdrew from the deliberations and refused aid, correctly seeing that it was an attempt to undermine Soviet power. It was not easy to get through congress, but in 1948 civil unrest in Czechoslovakia sparked a war scare and the proposal was passed with a heavy majority. American money fostered the reindustrialization of Europe and effectively neutered Communist influence outside of the Soviet Union's sphere of control.
Now, move along and see NATO, The McCarthy Hearings, The Red Scare, The Berlin Airlift and, oddly enough, Dr. Strangelove.
Divine. America: Past and Present. Longman, New York: 2002.
Truman, Harry S. "The Truman Doctrine" US History Primary Document CD-Rom. Prentice Hall, NJ: 2002.