Truman Doctrine

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The Truman Doctrine was a policy set forth by U.S. President Harry S Truman on March 12, 1947 stating that the U.S. would support Greece and Turkey with economic and military aid to prevent their falling into the Soviet sphere.[1]

Truman stated the Doctrine would be "the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." Truman reasoned, because these "totalitarian regimes" coerced "free peoples," they represented a threat to international peace and the national security of the United States. Truman made the plea amid the crisis of the Greek Civil War (1946–1949). He argued that if Greece and Turkey did not receive the aid that they urgently needed, they would inevitably fall to communism with grave consequences throughout the region.

For years Britain had supported Greece, but was now near bankruptcy and was forced to radically reduce its involvement. In February 1947, Great Britain formally requested the United States take over its role in supporting the Greek government.[2]

The policy won the support of Republicans who controlled Congress and involved sending $400 million in American money, but no military forces, to the region. The effect was to end the Communist threat, and in 1952 both countries joined NATO, a military alliance that guaranteed their protection.[3]

The Doctrine was informally extended to become the basis of American Cold War policy throughout Europe and around the world.[4] It shifted American foreign policy toward the Soviet Union from détente (friendship) to, as George F. Kennan phrased it, a policy of containment of Soviet expansion. Historians often use its announcement to mark the starting date of the Cold War.


Regional crisis

In the year following the end of WWII, the United States and the Soviet Union moved from being wartime allies to Cold War adversaries. During that time, Soviet imperialism in Eastern Europe, its delayed withdrawal from Iran, and the breakdown of Allied cooperation in Germany provide the backdrop of escalating tensions for the Truman Doctrine; the U.S. response has been much debated by historians.[5] Truman himself had first become suspicious in dealing with the Soviets at the Potsdam Conference,[6] the Soviet reluctance to withdraw from Iran on schedule in early March 1946, reinforced his concern. A few days later, Churchill delivered his “Iron Curtain” speech about developments in Europe. To Truman, with growing unrest in Greece, it began to look like a pincer movement against the oil-rich areas of the Middle East and the warm-water ports of the Mediterranean. Truman was critical of Secretary of State Byrnes, both over being "left in the dark" about the Moscow conference, and that Iran had not been on the agenda. In a subsequent letter to him, Truman wrote "I think we ought to protest with all vigor... against the Russian program in Iran. ... Unless Russia is faced with an iron fist and strong language another war is in the making. Only one language do they understand...I do not think we should play compromise any longer...I am tired of babying the Soviets."[7] On 30 January 1946 the UN Security Council approved Resolution 2 concerning the Soviet withdrawal from Iran; Resolutions 3 and 5 were also approved in April and May.

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