Containment and the Marshall Plan

When the Communist Red Army marched on Germany, it quickly absorbed the nearby nations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Bulgaria into the Soviet Union. By the fall of 1945, the Soviets had complete control of Poland, violating the Yalta promise of free elections there. Then Hungary and Czechoslovakia fell into the Soviet orbit and Yugoslavia had an independent communist leader.

United States diplomats saw a continent ravaged by war looking for strong leadership and aid of any sort, ready for revolution.

Both Greece and Turkey were on the verge of takeover by Soviet-backed guerrilla movements. In March 1947, Truman asked Congress to appropriate $400 million to send military and economic assistance to these countries. Within two years the communist threat had passed, and both nations remained in the western sphere of influence.

The State Department proposed the policy of containment, known as the Truman Doctrine. In places where communism threatened to expand, American aid might prevent a takeover. This policy enabled the United States to contain communism within its current borders.

The war left most of Western Europe in dire need. In 1947, Secretary of State George Marshall announced the European Recovery Program. To avoid antagonizing the Soviet Union, Marshall said that the purpose of sending aid to Western Europe was completely humanitarian, and even offered aid to the communist states in the east. Congress approved Truman's request of $17 billion over four years for aid to Western Europe.

This Marshall Plan created an economic miracle. Four years later, Western European industries were producing twice as much as they had the year before the war began. The aid led to increased trade with American firms and a postwar economic boom in the United States.

None of these nations of Western Europe faced a serious threat of communist takeover for the duration of the Cold War.

Source: Containment and the Marshall Plan
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