Saturday, 12 March 1977

Truman Doctrine (Speech Before Joint Session of Congress, March 12 1947)

To a joint session of Congress Truman addressed US and Western concerns about the USSR and its ambitions in the post-war world.  The USSR, emerging from WWII as a great power, was involved with the US and Britain in the decisions that reorganized Europe.  The USSR had been in a very strong position for these conferences.  The USSR had done more to defeat the Germans than any other nation.  The USSR had suffered more human loss than any other nation.  The USSR had fought as an ally against Japan and was granted satellite states accountable to Moscow.  The leader of the USSR, Stalin, made great impressions on the other leaders, which influenced their treatment and trust of him for a time until each leader was forced by Stalin's actions to reappraise him.  The USSR had not acted on several deadlined promises it had made, and had made clear their intentions to pull into their control any other country they could, using discreditable means.

The policy called the "Truman Doctrine" was devised by Dean Acheson, as was the "Marshall Plan."  This speech was written by Acheson, who believed the best method of containing communism was strengthening Western Europe, its cooperative ties, and its trade with the US.

Here follows Truman's "Truman Doctrine" speech in full.  The plain text is his speech; the italics are explanations of the matter referred to in the preceding paragraph.

"Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Congress of the United States:

     The gravity of the situation which confronts the world today necessitates my appearance before a joint session of the Congress. The foreign policy and the national security of this country are involved. One aspect of the present situation, which I present to you at this time for your consideration and decision, concerns Greece and Turkey. The United States has received from the Greek Government an urgent appeal for financial and economic assistance. Preliminary reports from the American Economic Mission now in Greece and reports from the American Ambassador in Greece corroborate the statement of the Greek Government that assistance is imperative if Greece is to survive as a free nation.

A civil war had begun in Greece in 1946.  In 1943 a vacuum of power resulted from the German-Italian occupation.  Fighting had begun in December 1944 between the Greek government (who were themselves corrupt and undemocratic), backed by Britain and the US, and the Greek communist party, which was backed in the civil war by its northern neighbors Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Albania.

     I do not believe that the American people and the Congress wish to turn a deaf ear to the appeal of the Greek Government. Greece is not a rich country. Lack of  sufficient natural resources has always forced the Greek people to work hard to make both ends meet. Since 1940, this industrious, peace loving country has suffered invasion, four years of cruel enemy occupation, and bitter internal strife.

Greece had resisted the Germans vigorously, and the Germans had paid them violent returns for their resistance.  Greece, a country dependent on imports, suffered famine during the war when Britain blocked off shipping lanes to Germany and when Germany transported Greek produce to Germany.  The Greek population was down 7% after the war and it was experiencing extreme hyperinflation.  

     When forces of liberation entered Greece they found that the retreating Germans had destroyed virtually all the railways, roads, port facilities, communications, and merchant marine. More than a thousand villages had been burned. Eighty-five percent of the children were tubercular. Livestock, poultry, and draft animals had almost disappeared. Inflation had wiped out practically all savings. As a result of these tragic conditions, a militant minority, exploiting human want and misery, was able to create political chaos which, until now, has made economic recovery impossible.

The militant minority referred to is a military branch of the KKE, the Greek Communist Party.  During the occupation, when the Greek government was in exile and was unable to govern the occupation situation in Greece, the EAM (National Liberation Front) dominated the various resistance groups that arose in Greece.  1944 an agreement among the groups for a national unity government was reached.  That year at a pro-EAM rally against the impunity of Nazi collaborators and the general disarmament ultimatum, Greek gendarmes killed 28 demonstrators.  A battle ensued between the two forces.  Britain backed the Greek government, and that government defeated the EAM after 33 days.  The peace treaty disarmed the ELAS, and the EAM became dominated by KKE.  

In the 1946 elections inaugurated an internationally recognized government.  The KKE decided there were no more political means to use and formed a provisional government and were backed by Albania, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria.

     Greece is today without funds to finance the importation of those goods which are essential to bare subsistence. Under these circumstances, the people of Greece cannot make progress in solving their problems of reconstruction. Greece is in desperate need of financial and economic assistance to enable it to resume purchases of food, clothing, fuel, and seeds. These are indispensable for the subsistence of its people and are obtainable only from abroad. Greece must have help to import the goods necessary to restore internal order and security, so essential for economic and political recovery. The Greek Government has also asked for the assistance of experienced American administrators, economists, and technicians to insure that the financial and other aid given to Greece shall be used effectively in creating a stable and self-sustaining economy and in improving its public administration.

Britain, who had helped Greece from becoming communist at the end of the war, had been funding the Greek government in the civil war, but in Feb. 1947 Britain announced that it could no longer afford this.  America was the only country that could fund the Greek government.

      The very existence of the Greek state is today threatened by the terrorist activities of several thousand armed men, led by Communists, who defy the government's authority at a number of points, particularly along the northern boundaries. A Commission appointed by the United Nations security Council is at present investigating disturbed conditions in northern Greece and alleged border violations along the frontiers between Greece on the one hand and Albania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia on the other.

The northern boundaries, which bordered the Soviet satellite states People's Rep. of Albania and People's Rep. of Bulgaria, were the regions where the communist forces in Greece had the most support.  

     Meanwhile, the Greek Government is unable to cope with the situation. The Greek army is small and poorly equipped. It needs supplies and equipment if it is to restore authority of the government throughout Greek territory. Greece must have assistance if it is to become a self-supporting and self-respecting democracy. The United States must supply this assistance. We have already extended to Greece certain types of relief and economic aid. But these are inadequate. There is no other country to which democratic Greece can turn. No other nation is willing and able to provide the necessary support for a democratic Greek government.

Truman had taken a hard line against the USSR, which matched American public opinion.  His advisers had urged him to immediately take steps to counter the Soviet Union, which was viewed as intent upon world domination, and had shown itself not willing to relinquish control of the areas it had liberated from Germany.  Britain and the US variously agreed to several of these annexations in what was considered the Soviet Bloc, but was less willing to allow the Soviets control in areas outside the Bloq.

One area of Soviet ambition Truman had in mind was Iran.  The deadline for the withdrawal from the post-war preventative occupation of Iran by Britain and the USSR was March 2 1946.  Britain began to withdraw from the south, but the Soviets, despite repeated assurances that they would withdraw, did not withdraw from the north, citing "threats to Soviet security."  During the 3 year occupation, the Soviets had supported a communist political party and engaged in creating class tension.  In Dec. 12 1945 a Soviet-backed People's Rep. of Azerbaijan was founded in northern Iran.  Red Army troops blocked troops sent by the Iranian government to the region to reestablish control.  Soviet troops withdrew May 1946 due to negotiation with the Iranian premier and diplomatic pressure from the US.

After the Long Telegram and Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech of 1946, Western powers were beginning to ally against the Soviets in a competition for control of other nations.

     The British Government, which has been helping Greece, can give no further financial or economic aid after March 31st. Great Britain finds itself under the necessity of reducing or liquidating its commitments in several parts of the world, including Greece.

Britain was the recipient of more American aid than any other country.

     We have considered how the United Nations might assist in this crisis. But the situation is an urgent one, requiring immediate action, and the United Nations and its related organizations are not in a position to extend help of the kind that is required.

The UN had been formed in 1946.  A relevant example of the impotence of the UN was the first complaint to its Security Council, from Iran, over the Red Army blockages of its troops sent to the Rep. of Azerbaijan.  The affluent nations belonging to the UN in 1847 were in recovery, besides the US.

     It is important to note that the Greek Government has asked for our aid in utilizing effectively the financial and other assistance we may give to Greece, and in improving its public administration. It is of the utmost importance that we supervise the use of any funds made available to Greece (some applause) in such a manner that each dollar spent will count toward making Greece self-supporting, and will help to build an economy in which a healthy democracy can flourish.

The competition between the West and the Soviets manifested in the form of government which smaller nations would have.  The US wanted to see democratic governments and the Soviets wanted totalitarian Soviet satellites.  This was important also because, in the global economy, Soviet-aligned nations would feed Soviet power elusively, contributing to their ambition of progressive, active world domination.

An example of Soviet manipulation of democracy in the nations it held was Poland, where Soviets had recently been seen to have drawn out the period of the elections long enough for their favored party to consolidate power, using Soviet consolidation tactics.  The fraudulent Polish elections on Jan 16 1947 transformed Poland into an officially communist state by 1949.

Soviet interest in Greece looked to Americans like a "pincer movement" aimed at the oil-rich Middle East and Mediterranean ports.  

     No government is perfect. One of the chief virtues of a democracy, however, is that its defects are always visible and under democratic processes can be pointed out and corrected. The Government of Greece is not perfect. Nevertheless it represents eighty-five percent of the members of the Greek Parliament who were chosen in an election last year. Foreign observers, including 692 Americans, considered this election to be a fair expression of the views of the Greek people.

The Greek Government has been operating in an atmosphere of chaos and extremism. It has made mistakes. The extension of aid by this country does not mean that the United States condones everything that the Greek Government has done or will do. We have condemned in the past, and we condemn now, extremist measures of the right or the left. We have in the past advised tolerance, and we advise tolerance now.

      Greek's [sic] neighbor, Turkey, also deserves our attention. The future of Turkey, as an independent and economically sound state, is clearly no less important to the freedom-loving peoples of the world than the future of Greece. The circumstances in which Turkey finds itself today are considerably different from those of Greece. Turkey has been spared the disasters that have beset Greece. And during the war, the United States and Great Britain furnished Turkey with material aid.

Turkey, which had remained neutral throughout most of the war, was not as bad off as Greece.  However, given that the two nations had historical tensions, America felt that it needed treat them equally regarding aid and perceived support.  Also, Greece and Turkey were linked in the "domino theory" of Soviet takeover which Acheson had explained to Truman 2 weeks before this speech.  The US believe that if one were lost, the other would not last long.  Greece and Turkey were also geographically strategic allies; allied supply lines (if there were another war) depended on this region.

      Nevertheless, Turkey now needs our support. Since the war, Turkey has sought additional financial assistance from Great Britain and the United States for the purpose of effecting that modernization necessary for the maintenance of its national integrity. That integrity is essential to the preservation of order in the Middle East. The British government has informed us that, owing to its own difficulties, it can no longer extend financial or economic aid to Turkey. As in the case of Greece, if Turkey is to have the assistance it needs, the United States must supply it. We are the only country able to provide that help.

After the war, the Soviets demanded partial control of the Dardanelles.  The Turkish government refused.  Without British money, Turkey might not have been able to retain control of the passage.  After Potsdam, the US firmly decided it did not want the Dardanelles to fall to the Soviets.  Aug. 20 1946 Undersecretary Acheson met with 15 journalists to explain the urgency of the situation and make the US opinion public.  Shortly thereafter, the Soviets displayed their navy in the Black Sea and performed maneuvers near Turkish shores.  Soviet troops were dispatched to the Balkans.  Days later Turkey appealed to the US.

     I am fully aware of the broad implications involved if the United States extends assistance to Greece and Turkey, and I shall discuss these implications with you at this time. One of the primary objectives of the foreign policy of the United States is the creation of conditions in which we and other nations will be able to work out a way of life free from coercion. This was a fundamental issue in the war with Germany and Japan. Our victory was won over countries which sought to impose their will, and their way of life, upon other nations.

Truman was "fully aware" that many Americans believed that the US should not get involved in European affairs, a sentiment in keeping with the prevailing Monroe Doctrine, and would not favor involvement in Greece and Turkey.

     To ensure the peaceful development of nations, free from coercion, the United States has taken a leading part in establishing the United Nations. The United Nations is designed to make possible lasting freedom and independence for all its members. We shall not realize our objectives, however, unless we are willing to help free peoples to maintain their free institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes. This is no more than a frank recognition that totalitarian regimes imposed upon free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace, and hence the security of the United States.

The UN began with declarations at Allied conferences in 1943.  In 1944 representatives of interested nations met in Washington to elaborate plans and define purposes and organization.  At Yalta it was agreed all Allies would be eligible for membership.  The first Conference was held in April 1945 in San Francisco.

Some of the UN objectives Truman mentions include Article 1:1 " take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace..."; 1:2 "To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples..."; and Ch. VII Article 39 "The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security."

      The peoples of a number of countries of the world have recently had totalitarian regimes forced upon them against their will. The Government of the United States has made frequent protests against coercion and intimidation in violation of the Yalta agreement in Poland, Rumania, and Bulgaria. I must also state that in a number of other countries there have been similar developments.

The countries referred to are the Eastern European countries Yugoslavia, Albania, Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania.  This list is in addition to the Baltic states incorporated into the USSR in the 1940 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Germany.  Besides the Baltic states, the USSR had annexed or expanded territory in the Belorussian SSR, Ukrainian SSR, Moldavian SSR, Chechoslovak Rep, and Rep. of Hungary.

The Yalta conference, the second Big Three conference, attended by Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin discussed Europe's post-war reorganization. stipulated that the Soviet-installed Provisional Government of the Rep. of Poland would be reorganized "on a broader democratic basis."  Poland and all other liberated former Axis satellite countries were to hold free elections "to create democratic institutions of their own choice" at "the earliest possible" date.

At the end of the war, some Romanian northeastern territory was occupied by the USSR.  1947 the Communist-dominated government called for new elections, employing intimidation, fraud, and assassination, and won a falsified 84% majority.  They forced the King to abdicate and leave Romania and proclaimed a people's republic, and remained under the direct military occupation and control of the USSR.  1946-47 after show trials opposing politicians were jailed.

1944 Bulgaria Red Army backed coup d'etat installed a Communist government.  The next two years saw repression of non-Communist oppostion, which increased when the US and UK showe no interest.  1945 elections resulted in a large majority for the Communists.  A Sept. 1946 referendum resulted in a 95.6% vote in favor of making Bulgaria a republic rather than monarchy.  The country was declared a people's republic and the monarchy was required to leave the country.  

     At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one. One way of life is based upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions, representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from political oppression. The second way of life is based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio, fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms.

     I believe 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.

This is the policy that the US adopted as the Truman Doctrine of Soviet containment by US resistance to any spread of Communism around the world.

     I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.

     I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes.

     The world is not static, and the status quo is not sacred. But we cannot allow changes in the status quo in violation of the Charter of the United Nations by such methods as coercion, or by such subterfuges as political infiltration. In helping free and independent nations to maintain their freedom, the United States will be giving effect to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

     It is necessary only to glance at a map to realize that the survival and integrity of the Greek nation are of grave importance in a much wider situation. If Greece should fall under the control of an armed minority, the effect upon its neighbor, Turkey, would be immediate and serious. Confusion and disorder might well spread throughout the entire Middle East. Moreover, the disappearance of Greece as an independent state would have a profound effect upon those countries in Europe whose peoples are struggling against great difficulties to maintain their freedoms and their independence while they repair the damages of war.

US advisers had theorized that the fall of Turkey and Greece could lead to Soviet expansion all the way to India.

     It would be an unspeakable tragedy if these countries, which have struggled so long against overwhelming odds, should lose that victory for which they sacrificed so much. Collapse of free institutions and loss of independence would be disastrous not only for them but for the world. Discouragement and possibly failure would quickly be the lot of neighboring peoples striving to maintain their freedom and independence.

The balance of power between the two competing countries, the imperialist USSR and the opposing US, would decide the fate of capitalism and of communism in the entire world, according to the prevailing US government theory, which saw the Soviet Communists as inherently expansionist, necessarily and courtingly belligerent, and parasitic.  

     Should we fail to aid Greece and Turkey in this fateful hour, the effect will be far reaching to the West as well as to the East.

     We must take immediate and resolute action. I therefore ask the Congress to provide authority for assistance to Greece and Turkey in the amount of $400,000,000 for the period ending June 30, 1948. In requesting these funds, I have taken into consideration the maximum amount of relief assistance which would be furnished to Greece out of the $350,000,000 which I recently requested that the Congress authorize for the prevention of starvation and suffering in countries devastated by the war.

      In addition to funds, I ask the Congress to authorize the detail of American civilian and military personnel to Greece and Turkey, at the request of those countries, to assist in the tasks of reconstruction, and for the purpose of supervising the use of such financial and material assistance as may be furnished. I recommend that authority also be provided for the instruction and training of selected Greek and Turkish personnel. Finally, I ask that the Congress provide authority which will permit the speediest and most effective use, in terms of needed commodities, supplies, and equipment, of such funds as may be authorized. If further funds, or further authority, should be needed for the purposes indicated in this message, I shall not hesitate to bring the situation before the Congress. On this subject the Executive and Legislative branches of the Government must work together.

     This is a serious course upon which we embark. I would not recommend it except that the alternative is much more serious (some applause).  The United States contributed $341,000,000,000 toward winning World War II. This is an investment in world freedom and world peace. The assistance that I am recommending for Greece and Turkey amounts to little more than 1 tenth of 1 percent of this investment. It is only common sense that we should safeguard this investment and make sure that it was not in vain. The seeds of totalitarian regimes are nurtured by misery and want. They spread and grow in the evil soil of poverty and strife. They reach their full growth when the hope of a people for a better life has died.

It was US government theory that Communism took root best in impoverished, desperate countries.

     We must keep that hope alive.

     The free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms. If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world. And we shall surely endanger the welfare of this nation.

     Great responsibilities have been placed upon us by the swift movement of events.

     I am confident that the Congress will face these responsibilities squarely (applause)."

Truman gained bipartisan support for both the Truman Doctrine policy of Soviet containment and the Marshall Plan for rebuilding Europe.

Greece received $338 000 000 in the next year.  Half was spent on military aid and equipment, and a quarter on food and a quarter on economic aid.  The Greek government, funded by the US (combined with the communists inability to recruit and the effects of the Tito-Stalin split), won power in 1949.  This led to Greece's participation in NATO and defined a predominantly anti-communist balance of power in the Aegean for the entire Cold War.  

Faced with Soviet demands and military displays, Turkey abandoned its neutral stance began receiving what would amount to $100 000 000 in economic and military aid from the US.  $80 000 000 was spent on military aid and 4.5 million on roads.  Truman sent a naval task force to Turkey.  The US and UK reaffirmed their support for Turkey.  The USSR withdrew its request for a new summit on control of the Turkish Straits the same month and shortly thereafter withdrew its intimidatory military installments.  Turkey also joined NATO in 1952, which granted them protection.