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Truman Doctrine

Truman Doctrine. In 1947, Soviet‐American tensions developed along the “northern tier” of the Mediterranean and culminated in the Truman Doctrine. The Soviet Union, recently rebuffed in Iran, seemed determined to stage a Communist takeover in Greece and wrest the Dardenelles Straits—connecting the Black Sea with the Mediterranean—from Turkey. Although it is doubtful that the Soviets were either directly involved in the Greek troubles or actually prepared to take military action against Turkey, the perception of danger distorted reality. The Truman administration feared that the Soviets sought access to the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean, and ultimately the entire Middle East. Soviet hegemony in this oil‐rich region could promote the collapse of Western Europe.

The immediate concern was Greece. The British supported the restoration of the monarchy after World War II, but opposition came from numerous groups, including the Greek Communist Party. Fighting had broken out in Athens in late 1944, which resulted in an uneasy truce in February 1946; but in August, Greek guerrillas raided a number of villages and towns, and soon received assistance from the Communist regimes in Yugoslavia, Albania, and Bulgaria. By the spring of 1947, the U.S. government regarded Greece as the supreme test of the free world.

Turkey was also crucial. Located along the Soviet border, it controlled the Dardanelles and was vital to the Soviets' push for a warm‐water link to the Middle East. By early 1947, Soviet troops had amassed along the common border, causing a war of nerves that forced the Turkish government into military preparations.

The crisis in the Mediterranean became an American problem in February 1947, when the British government declared itself financially incapable of maintaining long‐standing commitments in Greece and Turkey. Secretary of State George C. Marshall had already instructed his undersecretary, Dean Acheson, to prepare an economic and military assistance plan for Greece. Congressional members from both parties received invitations to the White House to join the administration in halting a Communist drive allegedly engineered by the Kremlin. Because of traditional American isolationism, what lay ahead, President Harry S. Truman remarked, was “the greatest selling job ever facing a President.”

The result was the Truman Doctrine. Before a joint session of Congress on 12 March 1947, the president outlined the dangers in Greece and Turkey. “I believe,” he emphasized, “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.” To save Greece and Turkey, he called on Congress to authorize a military and economic aid program of $400 million.

Widespread resistance arose against this policy. Marshall and State Department adviser George F. Kennan thought the anti‐Communist tone of the message too severe. Isolationist Republican senator Robert Taft argued against assuming Britain's responsibilities, and columnist Walter Lippmann warned that the administration had not distinguished which areas were vital to U.S. interests and was heading toward a worldwide ideological crusade. Containment, Lippmann asserted, was a “strategic monstrosity.” Acheson insisted that the Truman Doctrine applied specifically to Greece and Turkey, and that the administration would consider aid to other countries only on their “individual merits.”

The arguments continued for weeks, but in May 1947 Congress approved the Greek‐Turkish aid bills by a wide, bipartisan margin, and American aid was soon en route to both countries.

The Truman Doctrine stabilized Greece and Turkey, thereby appearing to establish the credibility of containment. Nearly 300 U.S. military and civilian personnel provided advisory assistance to the Greek Army in its war against the guerrillas. American weaponry also proved essential to the government's victory, although the growing rift between Yugoslav leader Marshal Tito (Josip Broz) and the Soviet Union played an important role. A year after his defection from the Cominform in July 1948, Tito closed the border and effectively denied the Greek guerrillas further refuge and assistance. In October 1949, the royalist army scattered them into the northern mountains of Greece and into Albania, and the fighting came to an end. The crisis in Turkey likewise passed as America's military assistance and advice bolstered the country against Soviet pressure.

Containment brought mixed results. It yielded a monumental triumph in the Near East, and hence in the Cold War. Yet the administration's rhetoric and emergency tactics encouraged a Red Scare during the 1950s, known as McCarthyism. More far‐reaching, American policymakers later ignored the restraints implanted in the Truman Doctrine to launch the global crusade Lippmann had warned against. Indeed, containment became heavily military in orientation, as exemplified by the establishment of NATO in 1949 and the later U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
[See also Cold War: External Course; Cold War: Domestic Course.]

Bibliography

John L. Gaddis , The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941–1947, 1972.
Bruce R. Kuniholm , The Origins of the Cold War in the Near East: Great Power Conflict and Diplomacy in Iran, Turkey, and Greece, 1980.
Lawrence S. Wittner , American Intervention in Greece, 1943–1949, 1982.
Howard Jones , “A New Kind of War”: America's Global Strategy and the Truman Doctrine in Greece, 1989.
Peter J. Stavrakis , Moscow and Greek Communism, 1944–1949, 1989.
Melvyn P. Leffler , A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War, 1992.
Randall B. Woods and and Howard Jones , Dawning of the Cold War: The United States' Quest for Order, 1991.

Howard Jones

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Truman Doctrine

TRUMAN DOCTRINE

TRUMAN DOCTRINE. The 12 March 1947 announcement of the Truman Doctrine marked the beginning of a new, aggressive American posture toward the Soviet Union. The administration of President Harry S. Truman abandoned efforts to accommodate the Soviet Union, which had emerged as America's principal rival after World War II. Now the two superpowers engaged in the Cold War. The doctrine called on Congress to approve $400 million in military assistance for Greece, which was fighting communist insurgents, and neighboring Turkey, also believed to be threatened by Soviet subversion. The doctrine was formulated after Britain indicated it no longer had the wherewithal to support the royalist Greek government. But during the previous year, the Truman administration had grown increasingly suspicious of Soviet intentions as the nations of Eastern Europe disappeared behind what the former British prime minister Winston Churchill had termed the "iron curtain."

Although it was specifically targeted to Greece, the Truman Doctrine was envisioned to have a much broader reach. Truman made this clear when he framed his request as part of a general policy to "support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." The doctrine was to be the first step in a strategy of containment of the Soviet Union, designed to prevent communist influence throughout Western Europe. The United States subsequently agreed to launch the massive recovery plan for Europe known as the Marshall Plan and entered its first peacetime military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The eruption of the Korean War in 1950 prompted a further expansion of the Truman Doctrine and the containment policy. The United States was committed to fighting communism in Asia and around the world.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Gaddis, John Lewis. The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941–1947. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972.

Harbutt, Fraser J. The Iron Curtain: Churchill, America, and the Origins of the Cold War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Ellen G.Rafshoon

See alsoCold War ; Greece, Relations with ; Iron Curtain ; Marshall Plan .

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Truman Doctrine

Truman Doctrine Principle of US foreign policy under President Harry S. Truman. It promised US support for any democratic country threatened by foreign domination. In practice, application of the Truman Doctrine was limited. The USA did not act against communist takeovers in Eastern Europe, although it did resist the invasion of South Korea.

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Truman doctrine

Truman doctrine the principle that the US should give support to countries or peoples threatened by Soviet forces or Communist insurrection. First expressed in 1947 by US President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972), the doctrine was seen by the Communists as an open declaration of the cold war.

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