How important was the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall plan to the crystallization of Cold War Tensions in Europe in the years 1945-1951?
When considering the crystallization of Cold War tensions in Europe one can not overlook the impact of both the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. Although events were often ‘a cycle of action and reaction which makes the identification of ultimate causes difficult and probably impossible’ both the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall plan signaled a turning point in relations between east and west Europe. The solidification of Cold War tensions in Europe is, for the sake of this essay, the point at which it was clear that relations between the United Sates and the Soviet Union were unsalvageable as their ideological differences became increasingly polarized. Although the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan were considered by the American administration as ‘two halves of the same walnut’ to fully explore the consequences of the American policies one must look at them separately. The Truman Doctrine hailed in a new era for the US’s foreign policy through the definition of containment and the introduction of formal institutions such as the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence agency and the Department of Defense. This showed a move towards a more assertive foreign policy, arguably provoking the Soviet Union and escalating tensions between the two powers. Similarly the Marshall Plan’s encroachment on what the USSR saw as their sphere of influence through their offer of financial aid triggered a threatened Soviet Russia to intensify their authority over satellite states. Their dramatic actions in Czechoslovakia can be seen as evidence of the importance of the role the Marshall Plan played in escalating tensions in Europe as these events can be viewed as a direct consequence of changing US foreign policy. However to fully appreciate the complexities of the issues covered when looking at the development of Cold War tensions in Europe one must place these events in a wider contextual framework. To ignore the political, social or economic issues which form the background of this timeframe would be to oversimplify the issue. It is therefore imperative to look as the situation from both US and Soviet viewpoints whilst considering the issues the nations were dealing with domestically. By 1951 Europe was undeniably divided, with two power blocs emerging, east and west. Whilst the formulation of these tensions had originated from a shared history dating back to before the war, the culmination of these tensions is undeniably linked to both the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall plan as they ‘solidified divisions of Europe’. The Truman Doctrine, through the role it played in outlining the Soviet Union as the enemy and defining the American policy of containment, was a hugely significant step towards the crystallization of Cold War Tensions in Europe. The Truman Doctrine argued that, after Britain’s need to reduce its participation in aiding Greece, congress must ‘immediately extend financial aid’ because of the threat of ‘communist domination’. However, far from solely asking for economic and military aid for Greece and Turkey the doctrine took on the role of calling for the ‘global containment of communism’. The combination of a definition of the United States’ foreign policy towards communism and the demonstration of their commitment through action did help the move towards a divided Europe. Furthermore it solidified and defined the ideology upon which US foreign policy was made. A key consequence of the Truman Doctrine was the changes it caused in the United States’ decision-making process. As Painter explains, the support elicited for the strategy of containment meant that American administrations were ‘able to act on their beliefs about the relationship between politics, economics and US security’. This signaled an era in which the US would base their foreign policy around their...
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